Crafting is endlessly distracting

The worst is when I can’t even remember what I’d originally intended for a craft object to be.

So, I have what appears to be a jute coaster. But that can’t have been my intention, right? No. 1, coasters rarely occur to me and I own exactly zero of them. No. 2, a jute coaster? That’s just weird. All it would do is absorb condensation and then I’d have a wet jute coaster ruining the furniture.

I can’t think what else it could be, though. It’s a crocheted circle of jute, approximately three inches in diameter, crammed in a bag and stuffed into a bin with other orphans of craft: five feet of aran-knit scarf, a cross-stitch sampler of a wizard that’s about 1/10th done, 28 crocheted squares of an intended afghan, an inexplicable bag of crocheted stars, a wooden recipe box that’s 98 percent decoupaged with illustrations I cut from a Harry Potter desk calendar…

I could go on. The list is — I won’t say shameful, but I will admit it’s long, the half-finished projects of my crafting life. Because March is National Craft Month, I figured it was time to own up to my UFOs (unfinished objects: I just learned this is what people call them), confession being good for the soul and all.

Except, no way am I venturing out on this frail, humbling branch alone. Help me out here, Shirley Bradbury.

“I have a lifetime of unfinished projects stacked up in closets and boxes,” explained the Montrose crafter. “I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed! Just resigned.”

Among her half-finished projects:

■ A weaving project (dishtowels on a four-harness loom).

■ Spinning wool into yarn.

■ Jewelry beading (a necklace from semi-precious stones that needs to be strung and finished).

■ Crocheted washcloths.

■ Learning to knit a washcloth.

Added Shirley, “The wool, by the way, comes from a sheep I raised. I originally planned to raise sheep for wool to spin into yarn that I would later weave into rugs for the entire home. After 10 years, I have about 20 feet of yarn spun and no rugs.”


This is the central truth of crafting: the ideas are huge, the plans are grand, the intentions are pure. And the attention is easily… ooh! Shiny thing!

Distraction can be a problem. And not just when I’m in a fugue state at the craft store and tossing things such as mosaic tiles or grosgrain ribbon into my basket. It also happens days or weeks — or even months — into a project, when the sheen of newness is gone and the fickle eye wanders.

It’s too easy to justify: Well. I know I should finish this thing, but my mom’s birthday is coming up and it would be so nice if I made her that thing I saw on Pinterest, so I’ll put this original thing aside for now and definitely come back to it when I finish the Pinterest thing.

Five years later, both things remain unfinished.

Arlene Schweitzer understands. She got into quilting with the idea that she’d make each of her kids a quilt for their first wedding anniversary, one that incorporated their wedding colors. However many years later, she estimated that she has about 100 unfinished projects — not just quilts, but wall hangings and table runners and other objects of promising loveliness.

Her husband, Darrel, thinks that’s too many, but then again, he repairs sewing machines at Quilter’s Corner, so he’s exposed to this… whatever it is all the time.

And I will have you know that Arlene finished seven previously unfinished projects in January and two in February. The problem is that she also likes making cards. And cross stitching. And there’s always some exciting new project to start, some new craft to try.

Perhaps this explains why I recently discovered a Baggie of sand in one of my bins of craft supplies. I would estimate I’ve moved with it twice. I can’t remember its intended craft purpose, but I’m sure it was delightful.

(But let us stop right there when it comes to craft supplies. That’s a whole other pile of evidence for institutionalization, and the reason why my spare bedroom is a place of Dark Secrets.)

It is never my intention to not finish a project, and it’s not like I’ve never finished anything. I’ve finished lots of stuff! These earrings I’m wearing, for example. A garish yellow afghan in my sister’s linen closet. The woven band on my dad’s hat. The dress I wore Sunday.

Finishing things is tremendous, an incomparable satisfaction if it turns out how I envisioned when I started. (If it doesn’t, on account of it’s flipping impossible to put in snaps with that stupid hole puncher-ish tool, and you throw that tool across the living room and say a terrible word, to the extreme startlement of your brother and dad, and never mind making baby clothes for your infant niece — well, if that’s the case, you’ll discover a cute, unfinished onesie years later among a pile of fabric, not long after said niece gets married.)

But starting things, especially if it’s something I haven’t tried before: That’s different. It’s a little like falling in love, with the giddiness and the buoyancy and the excitement. There’s an element of obsession, too, of being eager to get home and get to beading/sewing/weaving/knitting/whatever else is interesting in that moment. I love the challenge. I love the tools. I love the colors and the textures and the motions of it. I especially love it if sequins are involved.

Inevitably, though, my unfaithful eye wanders. I can’t help it.

So, I have bins filled with unfinished projects. Maybe someday I’ll finish them. It has happened before! Or, more likely, devoid of good sense but filled with optimism, I’ll just start another one.


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