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UFOs: The Sweater and the Shawl

Finishing the hat,
How you have to finish the hat.
How you watch the rest of the world
From a window
While you finish the hat.

- from Sunday in the Park with George
by Stephen Sondheim

Michelle's Lace ShawlOne was a sweater, begun in the fall to celebrate the achievement of a weight loss milestone. The other, a shawl, started late one evening last summer while anxiously waiting to see what the rapidly rising river would do to our town when it crested. Each was stored in their own baskets for later. Sizable chunks of them were already completed. In the knitting universe, they are called UFOs. Unfinished objects.

“Why do you begin another project when you’re still working on something else?” a newer knitter asked me recently.

It’s a very good question. Finishing what you have started sounds like a lesson to be mastered in kindergarten. But UFOs happen even with the best of intentions and to the noblest knitter. In an instant, a pair of socks, heel lovingly turned, the foot knit almost to the toes, is pulled from service. A chance encounter with a more delicious yarn, an urgent request from a family member for a much needed hat, news of a baby’s arrival, and suddenly what’s on the your needles is set aside.

Thinking about UFOs reminded me of the sweater and the shawl. Did it matter why I had deserted them? Tempus Fugit. If I didn’t tackle them now, when would I? So a commitment was made. A knitter’s vow. I would finish them. This month. March.

First the sweater. Until I memorized it, the cabling graph gave me migraines. After taking out the sleeve for the third time, I chose to accept imperfection. Very liberating. A short while later, I was tucking in loose threads and fastening on the buttons. Done. A perfect fit. So what if the cabling was a little off? It was in the back where I couldn’t see it.

The shawl was a much less needy affair. After a short re-acquaintance, I established a nice rhythm. The yarn, vibrant with reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks, made me feel as I did when I had dyed it with Kool-Aid last winter, as if I was knitting spring. As I blocked open the colorful lace, a gentle drape appeared.

There’s a pay off to working to completion. Early this morning, on my way to swim laps, I grabbed my new sweater. It did more than take the chill off; it felt grand. With the hope of lending cheerful comfort, the shawl will be sent to a friend whose body is healing.

LB Collection Cotton BambooPride does not keep me from confessing that in undisclosed locations all over my house, there are other UFOs tucked neatly out of sight. Waiting their turn. My March goal was modest. Two knitting baskets are empty. Ready to be filled. An order for LB Collection Cotton Bamboo in hibiscus, cherry blossom, hyacinth, and magnolia is due any day now.

Happy Spring!

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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