Confession time. How many projects do you have on the go at the same time? If you knit or sew, if you write or quilt or draw, make furniture or compose music, do you do just one thing at a time or are you like me, juggling with numerous projects, the one you do always dependant on your mood?
I didn’t knit or crochet for years and years. I didn’t have enough time and the results were too slow. I did make clothes for my children when they were very young on my trusty sewing machine and later curtains and cushion covers and blinds but knitting went by the board in my early twenties. But I have always been grateful for my ability to make things, which is mainly down to having spent my adolescence in New Zealand. I am not sure whether I would have learned had I spent that time living in the UK. My mother is a fabulous cook and she taught me to cook and bake but sewing and knitting were not her things. I suspect that had I spent the late sixties and early seventies in England as a teenager I might never have learnt. Feminism was in the air and domestic crafts were seen as evidence of female shackles. It is perhaps only over the last ten years or so that they have come to be regarded as an art form of their own. The academically bright girl in the seventies read and wrote and dreamed of university and independence. She didn’t crochet granny squares or knit dishcloths.
But in New Zealand at that time everyone made things as a matter of course. There was, and I hope still is, a deep tradition of making and mending and an unspoken assumption that practical competence was a sign of adulthood. Not to able to make a dress or mend a car was faintly risible, at least in the circles I grew up in. So I acquired a certain level of skill simply because everyone I knew had it and though that skill lay fallow for years when all my time was consumed by juggling work and family I found that, when I chose to downsize my life three years ago and had more time, it was all still there, filed away with riding a bike and parsing a sentence in the drawer marked “Things I can do but no longer bother with”.
So I took up knitting and crochet again in the winter months when I couldn’t be outside gardening and found a great satisfaction in making things. But the thing I feel faintly shamefaced about is that I can’t seem to stick to one project and see it through to the end before embarking on another. I always seem to have quite a few on the go.
At the moment for example there is a pair of fingerless gloves emerging on the needles.
This is a wonderfully simple pattern from Melanie Fallick’s book “Weekend Knitting”. It arose because a friend kindly gave me a ball of Noro wool, not quite sure which one, and a pattern to make a hat.
Inevitably there wasn’t quite enough wool to make the hat so I had to buy another ball. Inevitably again there was then quite a bit left over so I thought I would make the gloves to go with the hat. Neither the gloves nor the hat were on my knitting schedule. They just crept in.
There are two things which are on my work in progress list: one is a cardigan knitted on circular needles from the top down which I started last spring and really intended to finish this winter. It’s lovely wool, a Debbie Bliss yarn. It is a great pattern.
I don’t really know why it is languishing upstairs in my knitting bag except that it is so long since I did it I need to really look and read the pattern and engage with it. It is not something I can just pick up and do in front of the TV so I keep on not doing it. The wool also comes in skeins and therefore needs to be wound and for some reason this is a job I do not like.
The other project on the list is one I can pick up anytime: a king size crocheted blanket which I started in October 2010 when my father in law was in hospital as something to occupy my hands in the hours we spent at hospital bedsides.
Now this one is mindlessly easy and in fact that is its problem. I do get bored quite readily and the blanket, lovely though it is, is mind numbingly boring to do. I can do an evening or so while watching “River Cottage” or “Grand Designs” but quite soon the very idea of picking it up again makes me want to beat my head against the wall. It works best when I can take it with me somewhere and while away time in a waiting room or on a train. I will finish it, if only because I have done so much now it would be a dreadful waste not to, but it might not be soon.
This wool has sneaked in and jumped the queue too. I have a commission to make some fingerless gloves for my father who has trouble now managing the narrowing at the wrists of commercially produced gloves and mittens. That won’t take long, a couple of evenings I think, so I might even get those done this week.
And then there is this. I bought this in the summer on a trip to the Colinette factory down in Powys. It is a lovely complex wool and I have a lovely elegant jacket pattern to go with it but clearly I can’t start that one until I have finished the green one. And so it goes… These are only the knitting and crochet projects. I haven’t even touched on the sewing ones although there are not so many. It’s not that I never finish anything as the curtains for the shepherd’s hut and the blanket prove!
Years ago when I worked as an inspector of taxes I was on a development programme with a number of bright young things which included two days of personality profiling by an occupational psychologist. Not too surprisingly I was told I was good at change, good at initiating and innovating and good at problem solving. I was not good at routine or tying off loose ends, at dotting i’s and crossing t’s and putting all my papers away. I knew that too! Too much routine drives me nuts. I suspect this multiplicity of tasks is my way of stopping myself getting bored but I often hear a voice in my head telling me I should finish one thing before I start another. But I don’t.