“It’s All About Me” Monday: The Unfinished Object

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Is there a crafter alive who has finished every project she has started?

If so, I’d like to meet her; I’d like to shake her hand, and celebrate her fortitude and single-mindedness and self-discipline.

In the words of the legendary Bob Dylan, “It ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re looking for . . .”

I’ve left so many things undone. Some have been too hard for me, some too easy, some just didn’t take. Some have been around so long that the colors and style are sadly out of date and some have been attacked by insects or mice or something else unthinkable. Some have simply fallen by the wayside when another shiny-new, exciting project has come along.

I’m not proud of this so most of my unfinished projects have been disposed of, gone and forgotten, so they can no longer haunt me and make me feel undisciplined.

But one piece endures—I love it in spite of its unfinishedness. I think it’s lovely just as it is.

This kit depicting scenes from Aesop’s Fables came out in 1979, the same year I finished a cross stitch sampler. I imagine I felt flush with that success and wanted to keep the feeling going.

This was back when crewel embroidery was cool and you could buy beautiful kits, complete with good instructions and quality yarns.

This project was big and ambitious and gorgeous—I thought so then and I still think so 37 years later.

And yet I didn’t get far with the project. I can’t remember why but it was right when I started grad school and had bought a spinning wheel and . . . who knows?

But I got far enough that I have thought this unfinished object was still worth seeing. It doesn’t make me feel bad in its incompleteness. In fact, I kind of like the effect of one bright, embroidered panel against the subtle line drawings of the other panels.

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It’s been with me all these years and has hung on a wall most of that time.

I’ve never intended to finish it and wouldn’t have known where to begin, even if I was inclined.

And, yet, weirdly, recently, even as I had the idea for this post in mind, I came across a plastic bag, in a plastic bin, in an overcrowded garage, along with other unfinished projects.

And look what was in it . . .

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Yes, the directions and the yarn. Is this a sign of things to come?

But, enough about me! Let’s talk about you. How do you like my unfinished object?

Do you finish everything? Do your unfinished projects ever make you happy, just as they are?

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78 thoughts on ““It’s All About Me” Monday: The Unfinished Object

  1. Brilliant! And so very familiar 🙂 I love your embroidery, even just the small bit you have done. I also recognise those kits and know that I have at least two tucked away somewhere, each with a small part started!! When looking for some yarn in my stash a few days ago, I came across a beautiful lace shawl I knitted about 100 years ago – I had completely forgotten about it, and it is unfinished in that I have not blocked it. Incredible, when I must have put in so many knitting hours with it. I think there is something so tantalising about starting a fresh project. It takes a particular kind of focus and resolve to stick with it and not get diverted on to the next shiny thing… 🙂

  2. I had a cross stitch kit from that company. It was a view of two ducks. I know I didn’t finish it. I have no idea where it is now 🙂

  3. Great timing, you must’ve been looking over my shoulder several weekends ago when I opened up a bag with some knitting in it, an unfinished project of course, and decided that I would donate the yarn for the afghan I had started umpteen or more years ago & use the partially knitted piece to make a throw pillow instead. And so I did, and it is very much in style, being a cabled piece in a cream color; the pillow looks delightful on our guest room bed. And I felt so much better about life after making that decision! One down, still several to go, although I think others I find may not be as easily repurposed.

    • Good for you! We just took a load of stuff to drop off at a local thrift shop yesterday and it does feel good to get it out of the house. I need to keep going and make more hard decisions about stuff to get rid of–need space of that new loom!

  4. I love it. My projects are rarely unfinished for the simple reason I rarely start them! Perhaps you will finish this one; perhaps. I am about to list another of my aunt’s unfinished embroidery pieces. I feel really pleased/grateful that there are crafters out there who are willing to finish them.

    • That’s one way to avoid UFOs! I think it’s great that someone is finishing your aunt’s work–and isn’t nice to know that someone cares about it? It’s not as if you’re sending those treasures out into a cold world–they’re getting loving homes!

  5. I might have an unfinished project or two tucked away. An embroidered table cloth and napkins seems to be lurking in the fog of my memory… and they MIGHT be in a bottom drawer in the craft room. 🙂 KNitting WIPs and UFOs I have tried to either finish, rip out and repurpose the yarn or otherwise get rid of. Sewing ones I have been brutal with and tossed. Who needs all that guilt and recrimination? But yours is just so lovely – you are right, it is pretty the way it is! And now that you have found the missing parts, you can do another accent animal or two. 🙂

    I have several Dimensions kits tucked away “for my retirement” and you are right, they made very nice kits. Wish that quality of thing was still available.

    • I look at kits today and am mostly disgusted with the style and the quality! I bet you do have UFOs tucked away–as I say, we all do. Maybe knitting is less likely to meet that unfortunate end, though, since ripping it out is not so hard?

      • I am sure I have more than I am thinking of, but what helped was that I moved about ten years ago to a rental, and then 8 years ago into our home. So I cleared out drastically before moving into the rental because I had to put things in storage. And then when I unpacked, I was brutal again – made myself really think about if I was going to make things. That helped me get rid of lots. But I kept that tablecloth, I know, because I do love it and someday will want to work on it. There are a few items that are in my WIP pile (which means that technically, I work on them regularly) and have been for a while, and I know I have several unopened kits . But maybe I will go exploring and see what else I find up there in that messy craft room!

  6. “Finished” deserves definition. It is finished when you are done with it. If it is already done, it is finished! I’m SO glad you’ve had this displayed, as it is beautiful as is, whether or not another stitch is ever taken.

    As for me, I have a counted cross-stitch piece from before Son was born, so at least 28 years ago. Sometimes I think about finishing it, but it really doesn’t bother me that it’s still in process. (It’s not done. I am not done with it. Or, I might be. But it’s not a decided thing…) I don’t have a lot of quilt UFOs, but there are a couple. One might actually be done. ? A good learning experience but not something I need to do more with. The other will come along in its own time.

    • I like that distinction, Melanie! It seems so much more . . . forgiving to think that maybe it is finished and pretty in its own right, rather than hanging my head over it.

  7. My craft/sewing area (and home) are full of UFOs. I’ve tried to find ways to convert them into smaller projects (example : a few squares of a quilt that turned into pillow tops) but some, I’ve just started ripping apart. I figure might as well recycle the fabrics (or yarn when it comes to knitting)… I love your embroidery piece.

    • Well, with your kids and all, you have good excuses when you don’t finish a craft project! The idea of small, manageable projects probably makes sense for the next, oh, 18 years or so!

  8. Yes, I can easily relate to this experience. At least with weaving, I have to finish weaving the project on the loom before I can start another one. But, once off the loom the finishing has to be completed, fringes twisted, mistakes corrected, washing, pressing, sometimes sewing. I must get back to those almost finished pieces!

    • Good point about the need to get to a certain point of completion with weaving, just so we can move on to the next warp! But can you believe how those almost-done pieces pile up?? Oy.

  9. Your post is part of the reason why I have come to honor deadlines in my creative life — they help me to finish things (in my case they are usually songs — although I do have a scarf that could still use some tassels on each end that I crocheted last winter… The creative process/path is fascinating. I was playing (cautiously) in a small, multi-leveled waterfall yesterday, and was noticing all the different ways a drop of water might travel (flowing this way and that, eddying for a while in a kettle hole, etc.) from the top to the bottom of the falls, eventually arriving at the bottom…

    • What a fascinating visual metaphor of the drops of water and the ways we go about creating in different ways. I don’t have many deadlines in my creative life. I think because I’m retired from “real” work and this is all supposed to be fun and leisure, I’ve never set deadlines. I do set daily goals, or stints, for projects I want to make progress on. That helps!

  10. I have surprisingly few UFOs in any craft, mostly because I’ve foisted them off on other people. Guild swaps of such bags of guilt have cleared out my black trunk. I have the afghan I’ve been crocheting for 26 years, but I do intend to finish that, possibly on my deathbed. I wonder what happened to crewel as a craft? Did it go the way of stump work?

    • I’ve recently started off-loading some of my fabric and even some of my vintage linens (especially those little crocheted doilies that seem to multiply when no one is looking) to members of my sewing group. They seem thrilled, at least so far! I don’t know why crewel work went out of style. Both it and stump work were quite realistic–maybe they don’t fit in our post-post-modern world?

  11. The tortoise and hare are really lovely. I think finding the instructions and yarn were a sign. I don’t always finish things but either get to them eventually or abandon them without much regret. I’ve still got a table runner to finish, but think I’ll hem some shorts first…

  12. I would love to see that piece finished – the Hare and Tortoise are stunning! I think finding the threads is a definite sign! Having said that I also like the unfinished look around the animals – maybe there is room for a partial completion ……….. Just a thought.

    Enough about you – now about me: I have a piece of counted cross-stitch that was started and given up on when I made a repeated mistake with my counting and got fed up – I probably should have chosen a drawn pattern to follow. I’m more comfortable with the free flow of paint. I come across it now and again and think ‘Damn!’

    Interestingly I have made a decision i my latest art journal to leave nothing unfinished – there’s one piece languishing waiting for me to return to it, but every other page has been edged and signed off on. It’s kind of satisfying 🙂

    • Enough about me, indeed! You make me laugh, Pauline! I can’t make myself do counted cross stitch either–I like a craft that has some room for faking it when I make a mistake, and cross stitch seems so unforgiving that way! Stick with the painting, I say–it brings joy!

  13. Oh my goodness Kerry, I only take on quick projects, otherwise NOTHING gets finsihed. I once had a similar embroidery debacle…in the end I cut out what I had finshed and framed it. I look at it every day and it makes me very happy! Xo Johanna

    • That’s a great solution! I have to admit, though, that quick projects don’t appeal to me much–I wonder why? I like big, ambitious, multi-year extravaganzas . . . I guess I better get used to not having many “finishes”!

  14. Yes, Yes, Yes, Do it!!! Stitch on the lion or the fox–they will look awesome! And isn’t this akin to that new painting technique that has recently become popular? I went on a finishing rampage several years ago, and it was very liberating…I didn’t have tons of UFO’s because I didn’t have time to start them, but had a long wish list…that has been my motivation. I do have a few things that need to be framed, pillowed, etc.

  15. I have no unfinished projects. (both fingers crossed behind my back). I don’t know of many creative people that finish everything. I too miss doing crewel embroidery. Kits, I have dozens from the 80’s. I used to work for a company called Creative Circle and I would gather groups of women and teach different tips and techniques of all kinds of needle work. I got paid in kits. 🙂 I keep hoping to get back to them one day and have given a large amount away. My favorite was crewel as I could see it best. They do haunt me. Not many do that kind of handwork anymore. My mother joined me in the teaching/selling of these kits and I ended up inheriting many of her finished and unfinished projects. Like I didn’t have enough of my own. I also did a few of the Dimensions kits. Yours is quite lovely and you can be happy with it as it is or try to finish it. Either way is lovely.

    • Was Creative Circle a kind of craft party, like Tupperware but with crafts? I went to few of those parties in the ’80s and still have a framed needlepoint I made from one kit. With all your kits stashed away, you’ll never need to get a new one, which is good since they are not the same quality at all now. I like crewel work, too–maybe it’ll make a comeback someday.

      • Yes, it was! I got caught up in the fun. I have a lot of it on my walls. I looked for them online but they have gone out of business. Too bad. Crewel work was easiest for me to see. I never figured out needlepoint but my mother loved it. The counted cross stitch, I gave to my daughter. She made the kits and gave them as gifts.

  16. I really like your project like it is! You made it one of a kind hanging ” special edition” . Me ,do I have UFO’s ?! You know it!😀

  17. It embroidered part looks incredible… I’m eager to see the finished piece Kerry!

    So I have this weird OCD kinda thing to finish things & I think that’s the only reason I finish my projects!!

  18. Oh my goodness what a fun thread. [cough-cough] You have me in stitches [groan] How ‘crewel’ can you be?
    In all seriousness, I’ve loved reading your craft confessions and all the comments that have followed. As soon as I started reading, I knew the very project that has lingered for so many years. It’s a small, counted cross stitch from Current. The original kit came with four cross stitch patterns and coordinating card frames and envelopes so you could give them as gifts. I made and gave away three of the four before I was married. I was working on the 4th one shortly after we were married, and apparently abandoned it once having children (two boys in 1997 and 2000). The kit is dated 1988. Your post inspired me to run and look for it, and now it is sitting next to me on my desk. Will I finish it now? Who knows. But you’ve given me something to think about, not to mention tremendous relief that I’m not alone in this crafters phenomenon.

    I spent hours as a girl hooking rugs, creating needlepoint designs and cross-stitching along with sewing, a bit of knitting and the like, but I always finished. We grew up quite poor after my father died, so this was a primary hobby, and not something easily abandoned. That’s probably why I still have my little Current craft all these years later.

    I LOVE your crewel work. It’s delightful. I can’t wait to see what you do with it (or not). Once again, a terrific post. I’m going to go find Anne’s post and share it here. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    • Thanks! From your own work, I’m sure you do have a good idea that this would be time consuming–and I remember it was, because I wanted the stitched fur to look like fur, etc.

  19. I think every person who has ever started a project understands this post. 🙂 I have a cross stitch I started years ago, made several mistakes I couldn’t fix, lost track of where I was, and it sits in the bag to this day because I haven’t been able to pitch it. I may just do that today. 🙂 When it comes to sewing and quilting I do finish everything. That being said several of them go into a drawer because I don’t like them or don’t know what to do with them. When I’m gone, my daughter will open that drawer and wonder what the heck did Mom make all this stuff for. 🙂

    • So far, I think I have finished the quilts I’ve started . . . but I have, probably, 10 or more vintage quilt tops I’ve bought with the intention of quilting them . . . and they are still tops only. And I have no children to deal with the stuff when I’m gone so I better get a move on!

  20. The “fur” on the hair looks so realistic! Beautiful. I know you’ll finish this now and I can’t wait to see the finished project. Serendipity cannot be ignored!

  21. I think unfinished projects are a great way of telling you what there’s no point in your continuing. Felting for example. I’ve given that a couple of goes, and now know for certain I find it frustrating an annoying, even though I love the results I’ve seen come from other peoples’ hands, and have great respect for their tenacity in the face of adversity. Now then, I’m thinking of returning to crochet… I wonder where that will lead?

    • Felting involves water and wet hands, right? I don’t think I’d like it either. Pick up the crochet again! Dry hands and lovely colors of yarn and repetitive, relaxing stitching, plus something to do on the plane during that long flight to Korea!

  22. Whew! I’m sure you don’t need to hear from me, knowing that I am the Queen of UFO’s….or WIP’s to be kinder! I love that pattern – it would be fabulous as a hooked rug as well. I loved doing crewel when I was much younger; I haven’t done it in years. In my college years, I did crewel patches (on linen) for holes in blue jeans!!! (Back when one really made holes in jeans and didn’t buy them with holes.) Some for me and some for a few boys…. Can you imagine? I’d love to see them again. I rememebr one I did, for a special boy, was a sun, on his knee….. ;-D

    • Oh, Deb–I did SO much embroidery on jeans when I was a teenager! I think we are soul sisters. I wish I had some of that work, too, though I can’t remember doing any for a boy . . .

      • Really??? WOW.
        I have been trying to remember how I got started doing it. Perhaps I was stitching and “that boy” (not Peter!) asked me to patch his jeans. I even sewed together a pair of Docksiders for a friend’s boyfriend and then I had to do it to mine as well. I did lots of needlepoint and bargello as well and don’t have any of that either. I guess we have moved too much… I have been thinking about bargello recently as I could dye such amazing colorways…

  23. Very reassuring. You can hang something nice on the wall even it is unfinished. Too late for a complicated Nordic sweater I started knitting for a beau before I met my husband. I hope the woman to whom I gave it finished for her husband. Wish I still knew how to knit that well.

    • It’s probably just as well you didn’t finish it because your husband might’ve have felt bad . . . I’ve never really gotten into knitting. I’ve tried but never got past the stage of sheer frustration. If you picked it up again, it would probably come back to you!

  24. Like you, I’ve disposed of most unfinished projects that languished for more than a couple years – but there is one that I kept and eventually finished. I may have told you about it before. I started a large needlepoint picture of a lighthouse when my son was a baby. I think that I never finished it because it seemed boring at the time and was very slow going. I found it more than three decades later, and decided to give it another try. I discovered that my eyes weren’t what they used to be, and realized that I needed to finish it now or I never would. Six months later the picture was finished.

    An aside: Like the one in your picture, it was a Dimensions kit and came in a package very similar to the one in the photo.

    • I did needlepoints, too–they are pretty boring, I agree. I do like the finished effect and am impressed that you finished after so much time had passed–did you get it framed, by way of celebration?!

  25. I love your unfinished project! I think it is lovely as it is, though perhaps if it were mine I would be feeling guilty about it and would have to either finish it or hide it away where I wouldn’t come across it too often. I cannot remember ever leaving anything unfinished when I was young and enthusiastic. Since my second marriage in the mid 90’s I have abandoned a few things – mainly through lack of time. I would put them to one side while I was really busy with the intention of going back to them later and then not going back. I still daren’t start anything as I know I’ll not finish them.

    • I’m trying to choose only projects that are “meaningful” to me now (whatever that means!) so I’m more likely to finish them. Ands since I’m retired and seem to define myself by what I make, the making has become a priority for me, in terms of how I use my time. I’m impressed that you have finished what you’ve started AND that you know yourself well enough not to start something you haven’t time for!

      • Thank-you Kerry! It is so long since I made anything that I’m not sure that I have the skills anymore plus arthritic hands and poor eyesight! It would be nice to think that one day I might be able to knit/crochet/sew/embroider something again! The only time I get needle and thread out these days is to repair something!

  26. Some years ago, my mother-in-law gave me an old handbag with a cut-work cloth partially finished. She must have started it years before and now just wanted to get rid of the unfinished object. I thought it was lovely in its own way, but have I finished it? No, not yet. She has since passed away, and the stamped pattern is fading. Time is running out.

    Your hanging is lovely as well–finished or not. The animals’ expressions draw me into the picture. I like your idea of displaying it as is all these years. If you do choose to finish it, it will have a saga all its own!

    • It’s the expressions on the animal faces that brings me back to this piece. They aren’t “cutesy” like I usually see on craft projects. I don’t really go for cutesy. I’m having a hard time envisioning the handbag project you mention–maybe you should finish it and blog about it!

  27. The embroidery that you *have* done is gorgeous, it must have taken you a long time to make all those tiny stitches! I#The colours are beautiful and I agree that it isn’t totally obvious that it’s unfinished. I am (of course) not always great at finishing projects. The ones that make me feel worst are patterns and fabrics that have been bought for a specific purpose, but still sit in my fabric pile, untouched. I’ll get round to them eventually I’m sure, and the finished object will feel so much better for having been in my mind for so long.

    • I can’t even remember if the stitching took a long time–I worked on this SO long ago! I’m just happy the design has stood the test of time. Sometimes I postpone finishing something for so long that the colors or style go completely out of fashion . . .

  28. So many stitches went into that rabbit! The lion’s mane and the little mouse call out to me – I would embroider them next. The fox will be magnificent with his rust coat. Can you tell I think you will work on it again?
    I finish most of what I start. My problem is getting started – I have so many unused patterns, fabrics, yarns, supplies, etc.

    • I love the fox’s serious face. And, you know, I think starting is the issue for me, too–with this and so many projects. If I really start this embroidery again, I’d probably zoom through it . . . we’ll see.

  29. That is one lovely unfinished project. Although there’s another way of seeing it: you have finished one block, beautifully. I have a long piece of knitting that I started years ago and I don’t plan to finish it, but I will keep knitting.

  30. I used to be a prolific cross stitcher. One day (40 years ago), the local store where I bought my supplies asked if I would be interested in working up some samples fir their store. Sure, that sounds like fun! But I couldn’t make myself work on them for some reason. Maybe the pressure of working for someone else or the deadline – I’m not sure what. That still bothers me that I didn’t finish what I started.

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