"I always have a 'consideration
period' during which I ask myself if I can live for a year or more
with a book, its subject, and perhaps its characters. Several
projects did not survive this initial test." - Len Deighton, Wall Street Journal
Even as my sweater wintered uncompleted and a steady stream of
noisier socks, shawls, mittens, gloves and hats budged their way
ahead, I remained certain it was sustainable. This week, I added
the last few rows on the front. The three needle bind off with the
back was a breeze. I’m tackling the sleeves now, two at time, the
way my mother taught me to do. Next week, on my morning walk by
the pasture, I hope to show it off to the cows. Perhaps I'll snag
an admiring moo.
My soon to be finished sweater is a simple
stockinette with a little ribbing. Resuming was seamless. No
learning curve demanded. Nothing complex or exotic to slow me
down. Nothing that required an internet search for explanations of
obscure acrobatic knitting procedures, subtitled YouTube
demonstrations, or lengthy forum postings on Ravelry. Just a soft
inviting yarn gliding through needles at 5 stitches to an inch.
Sustainability is about working a project from the first to last
stitch, sewing it up, and weaving in loose ends. Blocking it, if
needed. Over the last decade or so, I have been slowly formulating
a check list to evaluate my prospective knitting and to anticipate
any roadblocks to completion. Although not fool-proof, each year I
seem to get better at judging worthiness. My stockpile of UFO's*
has steadily declined.
Sometimes we all throw caution to the wind. An irresistible skein
or pattern has us dipping into exotic waters. We amaze ourselves
by swimming successfully through the cold sea of Estonian lace, or
racing through a pair of entrelac mittens. Such is the joy and
wonder of our handwork. The surprises. However, most of us are
also acquainted with the casualties. To avoid leaving your wooly
hopes by the roadside and to help you launch your own
sustainablity guide, I offer my unsolicited advice.
Consider the following:
Time: Is the project a
wedding or birthday gift? Is there a due date? Does your time
commitment match your deadline? Is it intended for a baby (a
category unto itself)? Nothing stops an unfinished newborn size
sweater like the birth of a nine pound baby. Adjust size and
projects to meet your project’s timetable.
Portability: Do you craft
off site, on the train, subway, at coffee shops? If so, is your
Season: Will you work on
an afghan, or heavy wool jacket in the heat of summer?
Complexity: Does the
pattern require unfamiliar or complicated stitches and techniques?
Would it be better to ease into it? Start a lace wash cloth
instead of a shawl.
Materials: Do you have
all the tools and notions required? Will you have to invest in new
needles, stitch holders, markers?
Location: Is your project
compatible with your crafting environment? How's the light? Noise
level? Think about what you need to concentrate and focus.
Intentions: Are you in
love with the project? Or do you love the yarn? You could skip the
sweater and get a skein or two to have and hold. Meditating on
them, you might decide they will make a lovely hat.
Compatibility: What do
you like to make? Is the pattern friendly to your stitch, project,
and technique passions? Test out the pattern and yarn with a
Knitting History: The key
to your future may reside in the past. What you have finished may
reveal your preferences. Examine your UFO’s. Is there a trend to
your project abandonment? Could you finish it now?
Study your supplies. What size needles do you use most often? Is
there a gauge you return to again and again? Do you save your ball
bands? I do. They can clue you into your yarn favorites.
Consideration Period: If
you are unsure about a project, try waiting. Visualize making it.
Delay gratification and live with the idea until you are sure of
Sustainablity, give it a try.
To read more about UFOs and finishing projects check out another
March essay, UFOs:
The Sweater and the Shawl.
Looking for a simple sweater pattern? Here are a few options: