Sunday, 16 December 2012

One thing at a time?



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.

Do you?

47 comments:

  1. I had tolaugh, I do try to finish things but... something new comes along and off I go on a new thing, Knitting in particular as here in Oz it is such a winter thing to do, too hot in summer to knit.
    Merry Christmas.

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    1. I do finish things, honest! I just keep starting things too, and I don't necessarily finish things in order!

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  2. Your lovely grey patchwork blanket has inspired me, I could just about manage that! I remember I used too find knitting therapeutic. I can manage plain (and purl) knitting but cannot pick up stitches!
    I do have several things I like doing: writing, reading, photography, people-finding and genealogy, listening to music (a must). I watch TV too (!) and love Radio 4. Blogging and reading blogs (obviously). Walking, daydreaming, cloudwatching and gardening of ocurse..... in fair weather. Thinking - all the time. I can cook well but have spells of enjoying it and spells of not being bothered. Unfortunately I am not good with my hands and don't make anything. Have had a go at rag rugs as I love those and I could manage that. Am tempted to try my hand at painting,I will one day. I wonder, do you paint Elizabeth?
    Trouble is deciding what to do each day and balancing my interests, which ties in with your earlier excellent post about time.

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    1. I don't paint and have been wondering whether to join a class. I have always felt that I couldn't draw or paint but had a very interesting talk with an artist in the summer who questioned my on what I could do and eventually said that if I could knit, sew etc then I had the necessary manual dexterity to be taught to draw, even if I didn't know it!

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  3. I love making and creating and doing - but for me it's the ideas that are the most exciting. I worked with someone who analysed the minutiae of a project - for him the detail was everything. Perhaps the combination of my butterfly mind and his attention to detail were a good combination. These days I do try to finish things but the lure of wool, seeds, plants, fabric, kit and caboodle is always calling.

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    1. I know what you mean about the combination of people working together. When I did the programme which I mentioned in the post I worked with someone who was extraordinarily good at the detail but very uncomfortable with initiating things. Between us we were a great team!

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  5. The trouble is that new tasks seem so much more interesting than the one you are doing at the time.I finished refurbishing our business kitchen three years ago - but there's a strip of worktop edging still not fixed on. Still, it's on my list - which is very, very long. Working on completing a business inventory list at the moment, but the lure of re labelling the fuse boxes is getting to be too strong - and then there's that pipe lagging in the cylinder cupboard which is looking increasingly tempting. Not exactly arts and crafts to hand on to your children - but I like them.

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    1. Ah Ian too has a list which is very,very long! I sympathise with the worktop edging. If something has waited that long it is very hard to feel that it matters!

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  6. I am so glad you posted this - I don't feel *quite* so guilty now! I am one of those who sees a delicious yarn and buys it with a vague idea of knitting or crocheting something when I find the right pattern (which is a terrible and expensive habit, I know) which means that I am constantly haunted by unused -but lovely- skeins of wool. On the other hand, I also find patterns, buy wool, and start projects with the best of intentions which then fall by the wayside. I actually hadn't knitted for years - living in hot places tended to dull my interest - but started again during our first winter in Seoul, when it was really just too cold to do anything but sit inside and knit. Of course, I lost interest when April rolled around - still not having completed a single project! You've gotten me all revved up again, though - not sure whether or not I should thank you!

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    1. Ah a kindred spirit! I lose interest in April too, completely, but am knitting obsessively again by November.

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  8. That's me - to a T. At present I have three cross stitch projects underway (and that's just beside my chair!). There is a dress for a baby girl on the needles in my bag. The baby girl is now two years old and has a baby brother who doesn't need the dress.

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    1. I thought you would be super efficient Pondside! What a relief to find you are just like me.

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  9. Snap! I scored zero for Completer Finisher during my personality profiling ;)

    I remember my nan being completely surprised I'd managed to finish a patchwork duvet cover because I was notorious for having '3 day enthusiasms'. I've been tidying out cupboards lately and came across a jumper I started 20 years ago!

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    1. I had forgotten the phrase "completer/finisher"! Yes, that was not me at all.

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  10. I often have one or two overlapping projects... although generally I do complete what I started, just not in the sequence that I began them.
    But there is a cardigan that I knit about 4 years ago, which I even sewed up, it just needs me to pick up stitches along the front to add on button bands ... but it hangs forlornly in a cupboard, and somehow I haven't picked it up to finish this. Perhaps I should make a resolution for the new year!

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    1. I do generally complete what I start but it can take me a long time if a particular project becomes one I go off!

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  11. This could be me - I often have many projects on the go - knitting, papercrafting, quilting and patchwork and silversmithing and jewellery making. Also gardening and foraging nut who likes to make things from produce. Also keep bees and hens . These all help to distract me from my unemployable status and feelings of redundancy. Some make me a little income - some challenge my physical skills - but as yet I have found nothing that challenges intellectually apart from my addiction to playing Scrabble and Words with friends online.


    Like you I tend to do crafts in the winter evenings which is daft really as I struggle to see properly! The garden and the bees demands on my time are seasonal. Sometimes I think I should write a book but then I know that I am just getting way ahead of myself.

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    1. I am always rather stunned by the amount of different things you have on the go! And you do them all with more than a modicum of skill. I suspect you could write that book if you wanted to!

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  12. Egads, I always have too many things going at once - like yours, mine just "creep in". Right now I've got three cake stands looming over my head. I should just rev up the drill and start doing them, but I'm procrastinating. They will obviously not get to their intended recipients in time for Christmas. You know, if I didn't have to work for a living I'd have so much more time for crafting! 8-)

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    1. Well now that I do less work and theoretically have more time, I do achieve a lot more I suppose, but I also have a lot more projects on the go! Cake stands? That sounds interesting!

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  13. Oh yes, Elizabeth, I always have many, many projects underway, and continue to surprise myself by finishing some of them. If I crochet or knit, I cannot be drawing or painting or baking. While knitting, I can manage to read without dropping stitches. Nowadays, I do most of my reading while on my subway ride to and from work...it's found time!

    All the knitting and crochet projects in your photos are quite lovely. The yarns that you are using would also definitely appeal to me. It's quite fun to discover a new yarn that you just somehow naturally love using, isn't it?

    xo

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    1. Yarn has a real fascination. I am not an artist at all but am very drawn to the colours and mixes you can achieve in wool. It is all consuming when you get into the zone in a project!

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  14. I don't suppose, Elizabeth, you would fancy a knitted three-quarter length coat made from the spun combings (washed) of a Newfoundland dog? It isn't quite finished. There remain the facings of the coat to do. But the wool is, if you see what I mean. The dog (Henry) was black but the combings are brown - and very soft, like angora. Of course you could unpick the coat and makes something smaller. It is already fifteen years old or so and may simply be thrown away unless I can raise some interest. Newfoundlands are bred for the Arctic wastes and they are sailors' dogs so the coat would be waterproof and warm enough to sleep outdoors in, even in winter. And nobody else would have one. And you could wear it with you knitted hat.

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    1. I am overwhelmed by your offer Fennie! It would certainly be unique although whether it would be my style is a bit more questionable. It is the fact that the dog is called henry which is close to irresistible!

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  15. I only ever have one thing one the go at a time
    (Walks away whistling with her fingers crossed behind her back)
    K

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    1. You forget I have seen your life and your studio! No chance of getting away with that then!

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  16. At least you make great progress and actually finish your projects! They all look so lovely. I am a great starter-upper but I run out of steam pretty quickly. I either need to pare down my projects and concentrate on one at a time or just accept my nature!

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    1. I am a starter upper by nature too! I do find that it works best for me to go with the flow and not insist on finishing one thing before I start another. If I try to do that I just get cross and don't do anything at all!

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  17. Oops - my last knitting project was a little jumper for my toddler (now 28)! It's still sitting there in a chest waiting to be picked up again one of these days. Maybe a grandchild?
    True liberation is being able to do the things you enjoy without feeling guilty about it and I think that is something that has now evolved from the rather restrictive feminist era.

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    1. I agree with you about the evolution into doing things you enjoy! I would still describe myself as a feminist but these days I am as interested in the impact of things like celebrity culture on both boys and girls, and consumerism and the pressure to look a certain way. Oh look, you got me started on a rant! Mind you, doesn't take much!

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    2. Not at all, Elizabeth! Enjoying your rant.
      For myself, I finally realised in my late forties that I actually like wearing pink! It suits me, so what's the big deal. Maybe it's just getting older and becoming more confident in who you are but it was a real issue when I was younger.
      Like you I worry about the pressures on the young now, especially as I used to work in a senior school and witnessed the effects on impressionable young people at first hand.

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  18. I've got three knitting projects going anc finally finished one. Trying to complete another today. I look like I'm sitting in a yarn nest. It gets bigger and bigger. I should be painting but I just love yarn, at the moment. It is comforting. Love your projects. xo Jenny

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    1. I can envisage you sitting in your yarn nest! I have something similar here.

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  19. What a lovely post. I usually have several projects on the go. I was one of those girls in the 1970's studying and reading and working and raising a daughter -- but I also always sewed (mostly because I'm so tall and nothing ever fits so I've had to learn to do alterations if nothing else). I also made stuff for the house: curtains, cushion covers, tablecloths, serviettes. I've also knitted for charity, making over 800 ski hats in a ten year period for a local homeless outreach. My son-in-law said, "Mom, it's official -- you are obsessed!" Lately I've been knitting sweaters -- for myself, as my skill level (though improving) still needs work and I don't want to foist my efforts off on anyone else. (The hats, on circular needles, were easy peasy.) But if I had to sit and do nothing in the evening while my husband watches the telly, I'd go nuts.

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    1. I do find the action of knitting with its repetitive rhythm very calming (when things are going well obviously!)

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  20. I am to the point now where I have to start a project as soon as I finish one. Sometimes I have two going at once, and I have a couple of UFO's that have been around for a long time, but my habit is to finish one before beginning another.

    As for disliking winding a skein, perhaps a worthwhile investment for you would be a ball winder....

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    1. Must look into the ball winder idea, thank you!

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  21. there are endless unfinished projects here, and endless unstarted ones too.... I think I am too fickle and flit from thing to thing.........

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    1. Ah yes, I too have unstarted projects as well as the unfinished ones!

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  22. What an absolute beauty of a post! My daughter learnt how to knit a couple of years ago and hasn't looked back since. She knitted a lovely buffer Christmas last year. She was the inspiration for me starting an after-school knitting at the primary where I work. The results are great. Tomorrow the members will selling the product of their labour. And with that money we'll buy more wool and knitting needles. I loved, loved, loved those photos. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  23. I like to have several things on the go at the same time as I get bored easily.

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  24. Love your choice of wool and projects - I'm a complete beginner at knitting and always abandon it in the summer for the garden too, but then in the Autumn I can't resist browsing in my local wool shop and before I know it I'm totally seduced by the Debbie Bliss and Noro yarns and patterns. I forget I can hardly knit, get carried away by enthusiasm and find myself with a knitting bag crammed full. Currently I'm 'knitting' a cardigan for myself, welly socks for my daughter and have a semi-abandoned tricky (for me) pair of fingerless gloves in there. But now I like the look of a blanket ....

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  25. I almost always have 4 or 5 knitting projects on the go. I like something portable (socks) and something complicated/interesting (a lace-patterned shawl or cabled sweater or . . . ) and something for TV knitting (straightforward sweater, lots of garter or stocking stitch. . . Right now, I've got two pairs of socks on the go, have just finished a cowl but haven't woven the ends in yet, just sewed the buttons on a dress I knit my granddaughter but before I did that I couldn't resist casting on for a cardigan for the other granddaughter. . . . meanwhile, there's a pair of Fair Isle mittens I've been almost finished for weeks and weeks, as well as the cobweb-lace shawl I've been working on, on and off, for 18 months. So you have company . . . ;-)

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  26. Love your crochet and knitting. I often like to have several things on the go even though one of the things we had to learn at school was......*Great is the art of beginning......... but greater the art of finishing*. Still theres something urges me to go on to something else but I often do finish a project in the end.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

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  27. I suspect our psych profiles would be very similar, i am no completer/finisher either, and thrive on lots of projects on the go. My current bete noire is a lovely but complex cable cardy for mil. I have to reacquaint myself with the pattern, so it languishes. Ho hum.

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