Let it Twist: Overcoming Perfectionism to Finish Projects

100_0510My first lace weight project took me nearly a year to complete.

Here’s what really happened: It took me eleven months to start and a week to finish.

I was making the Shell Net Cowl from Crochet One-Skein Wonders as a gift for my sister. I special ordered Malabrigo Lace in the Lime Blue colorway, because its blues, greens and yellows have special significance for her. I made the base chain successfully; normally that’s the hardest part of any project for me, because I get distracted in the middle of the count. Then I set to work making a series of tiny shells and chains to form the first row.

The instructions said: DO NOT TWIST THE CHAIN!

CrochetOneskeinThey might have also said something about curses or woe if I were to twist the chain. Except my teeny tiny laceweight chain was almost impossible to see, much less keep straight. So I went to the kitchen table, smoothed out the entire chain, and very carefully laid in a shell with the chain in the correct orientation.

I did about three more, and went and did something else.

This went on for months. It’s a cowl that can be doubled over at least twice, yet I crocheting shells two or three at a time. Something about having to get the project out, orient it on a table, and carefully hold it still while I made the shell… ugh.

Fast forward to November: it was time to give the gift and I had maybe 30 shells done. Time for a new strategy. I threw all of the chain twisting rules out the window, picked the project up and held it like I normally do, and charged forward. If the chacowlin twisted, screw it! It was a mobius cowl anyway; what’s the worst that could happen? In fact, nothing bad happened at all.

In this moment of truth, I learned something about crochet, and about myself. Following every pattern to the letter – requiring yourself to have everything just perfect before you move on – can keep you from doing anything at all. Sometimes it’s better to have a few twists in your chain, but a finished project, than to have empty hands.

Readers: have you ever gotten stuck on a particular pattern instruction, or on a tricky aspect of a pattern? How did you move forward?



Two Ways Not to Finish a Blanket (And Three More That Actually Work)

card trickMy sister was in the throes of middle school. I probably wasn’t much better: just out of college. And our grandmother was trying to teach us to quilt.

So there we stood in the middle of JoAnn’s, looking at patterns and trying to pick out fabric.

I don’t even remember why we started looking at actual sewing patterns for the quilt. I do remember that Granny kept telling us we should really do a nine-patch quilt for our first one. And I remember my sister throwing a fit because she didn’t want that; she wanted the Card Trick quilt pattern she found in the book.

Oh, and it should be king-sized also.

Granny finally gave in. Her only hard rule, apparently, was “no curves”. So we bought an enormous amount of blue and white patterned fabric, and went home to start our quilt.

Fast forward: fifteen years later. Granny is not with us anymore.blue fabric The quilt is still sitting in my basement.  Has been sitting in my basement, untouched, since the first year. We have about 12 partial blocks pieced and at least 47,560 squares cut, reflecting the division of labor in our family, or perhaps the number of sewing machines available to us.

I contracted someone on Etsy to finish it for us.

Verdict: Picking a complex, exciting pattern and doing lots of it is NOT the way to finish a quilt.image_medium2

But what is? I enjoy crocheting a lot more than sewing. When I got engaged, I wanted to make my future husband an afghan as a wedding gift. Knowing that I don’t like to do blankets, I decided to keep it as simple as possible. Granny squares, solid colored and lots of em, with a cream border.

We’re celebrating our third anniversary this year, and I’m still trying to get the world’s most boring blanket done by Christmas.

Hard or easy, sewing or crochet, I seem to have a really hard time finishing blankets. It’s a lot easier for me to finish one or two skein projects – I probably finish several blankets’ worth of small projects in one year.

I know of three ways to answer the Blanket Question:

1. Do a project with individual, different squares

2. Do a super-fast Q-hook afghan. I finished the below project this summer by working with a giant hook and four strands of yarn at one time.

3. Recognize your own tendencies. If you really don’t like doing blankets, don’t do them.

Readers, what are your tricks for starting a blanket and sticking to it?