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"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.

Knitting HandsMy 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 project portable?

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 swatch.

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 your commitment.

Sustainablity, give it a try.

*Unfinished Objects


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:

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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