Unfinished Busyness

I finally finished knitting a super cute Eastern Market Bag. With scant yarn left, I made the strap two-toned. I ran out of yarn altogether before I completed the bottom, so I substituted a muti-colored cotton, which I think “makes” the bag. I rarely exactly follow a pattern. Now I’ll have to figure out how to carry the bag upside-down.

In my June, July, October, and November 2020 journal entries, I mentioned needing to finish knitting this bag.

In my mid-March 2021 journal entry, I mentioned needing to finish it and three other projects before starting the “red hearts scarf” or the “selkie wrap.”

How many unfinished knitting projects do I have, anyway, I wondered? Also, how boring is my journal?

I tallied 24 (two dozen!) incomplete knitting projects, including the red hearts scarf I had vowed not to begin until the tote bag and the three other projects were finished—all of which were still not finished. I had just started two new projects, one of which is extremely challenging. Along with the knitting heap are a crochet blanket, a woven felted bag, and two rag rugs, plus my needle felting projects, horse hair, and five complete sheep fleeces (don’t even ask about the goat, rabbit, and alpaca floof). Considering that I’ve only been knitting for less than five years, I’d amassed an impressive mountain of petered-out effort.

I vowed to reduce the pile of languishing knitting. The dark energy of the pulsing projects weighed my psyche down.

Within one week I’d finished four projects and unraveled three—finally accepting that it’s okay to give up on projects that aren’t working out. This isn’t a NASA launch that can’t be scrapped halfway to Mars; it’s just a feather and fan scarf that’s way too wide. Still, it’s hard to “lose” that invested time, to have nothing to show for it when time feels so short to begin with. It shouldn’t be as hard to give up on a chevron-edged poncho as it is to give up on your own child.

I finished an infinity cowl for the Man I Married that was finished a year ago except for blocking and seaming the two ends together. I finished a long scarf and a short one, both already nearly done. And I finished the tote bag, eliminating one of four pattern repeats to finish it more quickly, justifying it by saying I liked a shorter bag.

In another half week I unraveled two more and completed another three: I felted a wall-hanging and turned it into a bag. I finished an art yarn cowl, one of my first ever knitting projects in 2017, that had always been too snug in the neck. Oops, I made it worse. I tore it apart and tried again, this time with success.

I also realized that an unfinished scarf had actually been finished all along. I’d been unsatisfied with its garishness two years ago and thought to add some subtlety with bland colors: either that or tear it apart. JT was in the slammer for the moment, and who knew what was to come next, and the scarf felt loud and feral. If I wore it, I feared I’d look like the Crazy Lady that I already felt myself to be. Inspired by the moa kane (roosters) on Kauai, where my mother was born and to where we’d traveled earlier in the year, I’d adapted a pattern to reflect this proud and pervasive bird. I used yarn I’d bought there in the rooster colorway and added ruffles in thrift store yarn. Now it seems to me to be just right as a scarf mimicking a rooster. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I no longer feel crazy.

So in a mere ten days I’d halved the pile. I reclaimed eighteen pairs of knitting needles; no wonder I couldn’t find the right-size needle when beginning yet another new project.

Clearly these projects were all abandoned when almost complete. What makes me stop when I’m so close to finishing? I must fall under a heading in a Psych 101 textbook.

It makes sense to me that I’d knit a mindless project alongside the arduous Alice Starmore pattern that seems unnecessarily complicated, just like it’s calming to do dishes as well as reading about a nuclear power plant being bombed. Demanding, focused craftwork provides a break from all of the outside “stuff”: 2,000 emails in my inbox, the IRS letter about my incorrect 2020 taxes, the mailbox that leaks so my mail is all wet, the fact that none of it matters when compared to your country being invaded. And the mindless project provides a break from a pattern that I suspect the designer wrote to make herself look smarter than the rest of us. A few projects going at once seems appropriate, even essential.

But two dozen projects? The pile murmured at me: Incomplete. Withdrew. Failure.

The bag that thought it was a wall hanging. Unimpressed cat.

My pile of unfinished writing is even worse. It’s hard not to feel pathetic (especially after a year of 100% rejected submissions). Somehow my out-of-control knitting pile has brought this to light in a new way. When I was living in daily chaos and had no control over the arc of my days, this was understandable. It’s not lost on me that I started and then stopped the Market Bag around the time JT was sprung from Juvie, and that I felt the weight of its incompletion while considering an out-of-state move as the only solution to our family dynamics, and then while buying and selling houses and moving (during a global pandemic). That I began and continued a conveyor belt of projects during a few long years of upheaval, when it was much nicer to fantasize about a new pattern rather than prepare for another juvenile court hearing. Better to write in my journals about lamentable knitting progress rather than the broken juvenile justice system and the boy we’ve failed to help.

But I no longer have that excuse, worldwide plague and war notwithstanding.

I have a bad case of Shiny Object Syndrome. Move onto the next distraction before getting to the point of accepting that I’ve just baked and polished either a diamond or a turd. Until I finish, I won’t have to decide which one it is. All of the projects remain perfect in their potential.

I vow to continue whittling away at the knitting pile and the bulging unfinished essay folder.

I’m close to finishing an eighth project from the knitting pile: I’m turning yet another wall hanging into a (wait for it) wall hanging.

Meanwhile, I found yet another box of knitting projects, all finished, and all turds. Let me know if you need a felted glove that fits Sasquatch.

12-pound cat and my glove for size comparison.

5 thoughts on “Unfinished Busyness

  1. I am super impressed with all the knitting that your done in less than five years. That’s phenomenal, whether or not the projects are finished is beside the point. You Rock!

    I love the frilly scarf/shawl-like beauty. Great colors!

    A friend of mine used to call knitting “mindless Productivity” and that always makes me feel good when I start to knit. Which isn’t all that often.

    Your finishing so many projects dwarves some sort of prize! Congratulations! 🎉🍾🎈🎊


    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Thank you, Patrice! I found the rooster colorway yarn because Mom wanted to stop at a gallery that was going to show your work. We’d been searching everywhere for yarn, and here it was in an art gallery. Lovely kismet!

  3. Oh, I feel this. Unfinished writing, unsubmitted writing. I even put away a half-finished puzzle when we started packing to move. I think I’m supposed to be embracing messiness, unfinishedness, and the reality that I have little control over anything, but I don’t know how. LOL about the boring journal. The scarf is gorgeous.

  4. I love the multi-coloured bottom of the bag. Also, I think any creative person can relate to unfinished projects and learning how to let go if one isn’t working. How inspiring, though, to have a finished project in your hands. How satisfying. Even if it doesn’t look like the vision in our heads (when does it?).

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