This weekend, someone in my life asked me to face one of my demons. This was not an intentional discussion, and I suspect that if this person knew me better, the conversation would have gone in a different direction.
So much of knit blogging discusses stash, Flash Your Stash, Latest Stash Acquisitions, photos upon photos of the endless stuff that we all collect. I even did this in the last post, but mainly to show off a yarn dyer that I like who runs her own business and was raising money for charity.
The consumerist nature of most of it fatigues me a little, but on the other hand, it IS exciting to have all this potential at one’s disposal.
I said something along these lines recently to Mel over at Purling Plans: What is important to me about having a wheel, fleece, a camera, needles, yarn, even dye, is the potential for creation that exists within each of these sets of tools. We combine them to not only create beautiful materials, but eventually produce a garment, which we like to photograph and stick up on the blog. Not all of my materials are used. A lot of them currently sit by the wayside, waiting to go to Good Will or be selected for a project. I’m a self-proclaimed packrat, and I have a hard time getting rid of anything, even those ugly, lonely skeins that I bought way back when, before I knew how to plan my yarn purchases. (Back when I was utterly astounded to read that Eunny kept no stash at all. How was that possible?)
But, this post is not so much about stash. It is about the value of finishing things.
The day after the conversation I haven’t yet told you about, I opened my Interweave Spring 2009 to work on the Fountain Pen Shawl. Pulling out the shawl was a direct result of a previous conversation about finishing things – I picked up a UFO and started working toward finishing. In the magazine, there is a one-pager by Vicki Square that encourages us to start as many projects as we like. The idea is that finishing just for the sake of finishing doesn’t feed the creative juices. There are many other aspects to the type of knitting we do now (compared to the utilitarian fare of my grandmother before, during, and after WWII for example) besides just binding off and sewing on buttons.
My intent is not to just start a million projects and never finish any. But I suppose I have different levels of investment in each object’s finished status. If it’s cold and I really want to wear it, I’ll finish. If a baby is coming along, hopefully I’ll finish! When my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, I knit three hats in no time flat. Socks – I wear ‘em lots, so I finish. Holiday gifts? Usually.
If there is a hard deadline, of course I finish. Not a problem.
But for me, knitting is a state of being, a constant activitiy, and part of that state wants meditative repetition, creating a tendency to put something down when I reach a hitch in the work. Another part wants experimentation, which leads to seeking out new patterns, new yarns, new techniques, new visual experiences. So, sure, many times I stop before finishing. This doesn’t mean the project is doomed, but frankly, it bothers me not a bit if it takes three years to complete. Not a bit.
The other day, I was confronted by someone completely confounded by this approach. I was told that I should not start so many things. I was told that the time I spend on knitting could be spent on other activities (Like what? -work. Work!). Sure, I suppose that’s true. I could clean more, read more, watch more movies, exercise more, cook more, pick up another hobby, or simply finish more knitted objects.
I’m content to ignore the advice, because I find that I’m interested enough in finishing. Most of us are more interested in starting, and I find no problem with that, unless you’re broke or there’s no more room in your house.
The aspect of finishing that is not so interesting is the elimination of potential. I know I keep using that word, but I find it’s the essence of why I collect stitch and pattern books, why I swatch, why I like having skeins or bumps hanging around and imagining their final destiny. Once finished, they’ve met their fate, and there isn’t so much left to the imagination.
Maybe my projects are more like large swatches, with the potential to actually become something one day. Would anyone wonder about finishing if all I had were a big box of swatches instead?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a great sense of satisfaction once something is finished, when we wear it around and someone asks about it, even knows that it could be handknitted. We all know that bashful pride when we say, Why yes, I DID make this myself.
In the mean time, I’ll keep plugging away on anything and everything that catches my fancy. This is my pastime, which feeds my need to create, to have color and texture in my life. I see my (slightly disorganized) collection of materials in my living space as a studio, in which I am responsible only to myself.
So what if I never finish?