In defense of the neglected WIP
Tuesday June 03rd 2008, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Knit

cashmere and silk holding hands

Sometimes, a project gets started and then it stalls out. It was too boring, when I needed something more interesting to work on; it was too interesting, when the rest of life was being too distracting and I needed something brainless. Either way, it got started–and every time you start a project, it is an affirmation of life and of looking towards the future–but then it got put aside.

I want to defend the lowly WIP here. (The TOADs, Trashed Object Abandoned in Disgust, not so much.) If you really don’t like it, let it go, just rip it, rip it, let it go back to being a ball of yarn full of possibilities. How many other parts of our lives do we get to rewind at will and have a do-over?

But there is value in having something on the needles simply waiting its proper turn, or, if you run shy of needles, you can always run a thread through the tops of the stitches, leave a note re the needle size, put it in its own zip lock and set it aside. It is not mocking you. It is simply waiting to be able to tell you why it is there.

I once knitted a sock and a half, before all the self-striping yarns came out that helped grab the imaginations of sock knitters. Plain and beige, boring and terribly practical, in the most basic pattern, no lace there. But size 1 needles and my hands aren’t friends to begin with, that yellowish beige was deadly (and it was right after knitting a very large pair in dark charcoal); after awhile, I just couldn’t make myself pick them up when there were other, brighter things to work on.

Till the day I badly wanted to knit a pair of socks for one of the nurses who’d taken care of me at Stanford, to thank him for his compassion and his willingness to walk in his patients’ shoes. A man. Boring beige and no lace, plain and practical. Perfect. Yes, Brian, this is a bit of a confession here. Knitting him a hat or a scarf in this climate was a little silly. He was about my height, so I imagined his feet weren’t that far off from mine, and since I’d been making them to my EE width feet, they had some lengthwise stretchability built into them. I felt swamped, because I was knitting something for all the medical personnel I could find who’d been involved in my case: in just over two months, I made 14 projects to go back and say thank you with.

And to do what I really wanted to do for him anyway, all I had to knit was half a sock. Done. He absolutely loved them. I mean, how many people get to see, much less own, a pair of handknit socks in their lives? I well understand wondering why anyone would want to bother, but put that first sock on and you instantly know. You never want to have to settle for a machine-made pair again.

A sock and a half for a year and a half, so close to being done, that had so bugged me–till I knew why I was glad I had them. Had I finished them earlier, they would have been well worn, had I declared them a TOAD and frogged them, I wouldn’t have had them to give. There’s a reason for everything. A small stash of WIPs is a very useful thing.

Meantime, the roses keep bloomingI have two shawls for which I’ve done the yoke but gone no further. One, the color just wasn’t right for me, and I still don’t know yet whom it is to be for; when I do come across the right person, it will feel like a very fast project because the first day’s worth of work is already done. The other, I picked up today, counted the stitches to be sure I’d done the final increase and to make sure on the stitch count–I’d eyeballed the lace pattern and was sure of myself, but best to check–and now off I go with it. I had cast on just as the wedding preparations were starting up; I simply ran out of time for it.

And now I know exactly whose face I can’t wait to see lighting up. I’m tweaking the pattern for the body; this will be a custom job. The first day’s work is preknitted, and off I go, delighted to be ahead of the game.

12 Comments so far
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We got our foster license! Just wanted to let you know.

Comment by Tiny Tyrant 06.03.08 @ 4:41 pm

Yay!!! Congratulations, that’s wonderful!!!

Comment by AlisonH 06.03.08 @ 5:12 pm

Delightful post. And so true – I have a couple ongoing WIPs that remain that way as they have not told me who they are for yet.

Comment by Amanda 06.03.08 @ 5:22 pm

So true! There is much value in having something waiting to be finished. I’m not ashamed of my wip stash, either. Life is good! 🙂

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 06.04.08 @ 5:11 am

I have apair of socks(well…one of the pair anyways) otn that were supposed to be for one person and didnt like him (my son)or mw so now they are sittling there with my good DPNs in them waiting for whoever they are supposed to be finished for. I also have some yarn thet I would like to turn into a pair of socks for my dad but again we will see hpw it goes :-)So I defitially see where your coming from with this post.

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 06.04.08 @ 5:31 am

What a lovely “argument” for projects in waiting. My dear Fredfoot is in that status, not because I don’t love both yarn and pattern, but because I know I won’t be able to wear it until late September at the earliest, and there are so many other “needs” to knit now!

Comment by Channon 06.04.08 @ 6:04 am

I feel much better about the fisherman’s sweater, the Shetland shawl and that half-finished sock now. They’re just waiting for the right moment…

Comment by Cynthia 06.04.08 @ 6:07 am

I finally finished my Julietta shawl–the one that started out as your Julia shawl, but got into my mind as a different pattern, so I kept up that pattern instead of ripping it out. It’s not perfectly in that pattern either, but “flaws are evidence of the handmade nature of this item” as we occasionally find on lables. I’ll send you a photo whenever I locate the camera . . .

Comment by Laura 06.04.08 @ 7:23 am

Yup, one of the things I love about knitting as a hobby is the fact that a do-over is always possible. this is not the case for sewing, pottery etc.

Comment by Carol 06.04.08 @ 1:05 pm

Something silly is bugging me. I enlarged your picture of your WIP, and other than aesthetics, which I go for and I do like it, I can’t get the two different ball theory. One is a balled cake, from a home winder I’m guessing, with a tube in it to encourage winding from the outside (because I would forget). The other is beautifully shaped, but I don’t get it: is it the one you caked from? Is it the same color? Is it connected to the cake? Is that how it came from the factory or can YOU actually make a ball that symmetrical? If you can HOW?? I’m total enthralled at the reasoning for the additional ball (and – believe me – I’m more than accepting of “it looked pretty” – I get that) and how that round one got so round.

~~mystified by pictures 🙂

Comment by ~jenn 06.04.08 @ 3:41 pm

The ballwinder cake of silk was wound up by the women at Purlescence, where I bought it; the other, which is cashmere, came perfectly round like that in the mail. Both are very fine strands, and I’m knitting the two together: the white sparkliness of the silk against the soft cream of the cashmere makes for a stunning combination.

Comment by AlisonH 06.04.08 @ 5:54 pm

You have set my mind at ease good lady. I can sleep sound tonight knowing I’m not crazy. 🙂
I would not have though lace could be double stranded like that. (I’m still considered new to this whole knitting thing.)
~~thanks for answering silly questions

Comment by ~jenn 06.04.08 @ 8:31 pm

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