Conquer Lingering Tasks

Like many people, I have absolutely no trouble starting projects. I get inspired by an idea, buy all the supplies and dive in full of confidence. Sometimes, if the project is short or free of complications, that inspiration carries me through right to the finish line. More often, I come up against a difficulty or get bored and the project gets pushed aside for a shinier, more inspiring project. It is easy to start projects, but so much harder to finish them.

Tossing aside difficult personal projects wouldn’t be much of a problem, except that the growing “work-in-progress” pile starts to haunt me after awhile. I start to feel guilty whenever I pull out the materials for a new project. Then, of course, there is the clutter factor: the ongoing projects start to spill out of the closet and suddenly there is no more room in the boxes under my bed. Over time I’ve tried many different ways of forcing myself to finish these projects, including posting my “Pile of Shame” on this blog. Each idea or technique motivates me to finish a few more projects, but I never get down to a level I’m happy with, and soon the total number starts to climb again. This time, I’m trying something a little different.

The title of this post comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of the book The Happiness Project, among others. In one book (I can’t remember which) she describes how “conquering lingering tasks” is one method of boosting your overall happiness. That idea really resonated with me, so in 2016 I set myself a year-long goal of reducing my backlog of unfinished projects by more than half. Because I love graphs and spreadsheets, I have been tracking my progress all year:

Gretchen’s inspiration, and keeping track in a spreadsheet, has really helped keep me focused this year. It is also possible that all the reading on Simple Living, and all the practice from previous attempts at simplifying is finally paying off. Maybe I’ve even built up enough of a habit of finishing to keep momentum going when it gets tough.

On the other hand, I’ve also found that focusing solely on the numbers hasn’t always been helpful. About mid-year I realized I had left several projects off the list that I had been keeping track of elsewhere; adding them made my numbers closer to reality but also felt like it negated all of my recent progress. More recently I removed the projects that were “younger” than 6 months and started tracking them separately. This lets me add new projects (like knitting Christmas presents!) without taking a demotivating hit to my totals. Staying flexible with the tracking system means I can use numbers and graphs to keep on track and keeps the system relevant as the year progresses and I learn more about myself. Of course, a flexible system means the graph at the end isn’t quite as clear as it could be.

I’ve finished so many projects in the last half year of “blogging silence”, and I truly miss sharing them in this space. I’m working on getting back into a more regular blogging habit, and to get started I’m going to share the finished projects I’m most proud of. If I can keep the blogging habit up then I’ll share the rest of them soon too! Weirdly enough, the projects I’m most proud of finishing didn’t actually yield a finished product; these were projects “in reverse”.

Projects Finished: Reclaiming Yarn

I have a very hard time giving up on projects that just aren’t working. I’m a sentimental person and very much inclined to become more attached to a project the more time I have put into it…even if I no longer like what I’m creating! Several of the oldest projects in my list were lingering precisely because I invested so much time in them to begin with. It’s hard to let go of that time spent.

However, in the last year and a half I’ve been working my way through the the KonMari decluttering process (see my “Making Space” posts: Clothing pt 1, pt 2, pt 3, pt 4 and pt 5, Books, Paper, and Kitchen. Update on my current progress coming soon). I’ve been getting much better at letting things go, and at the same time this process is making me better at letting projects go. It has been a welcome change, and it has helped me tackle two of my oldest, most difficult lingering projects. Both are knitting projects, and both had been lingering for over a year, sulking in the back of the closet and glaring at me whenever I pulled out other, more exciting yarn.

The first piece of knitting I frogged (read: unravelled) was my attempt to knit an Anne Elliot’s Fichu out of brown handspun alpaca from Peru. My rough estimate of yardage turned out to be way off, which I only discovered after knitting up more than 1000 yards of yarn! The pattern was designed for a true laceweight yarn, and this yarn fell into some kind of middle ground between laceweight and fingering, which meant that the project was ultimately doomed. Unravelling this project took awhile, and the result was a loop of crinkly yarn, with a very entertaining bounce to it.

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A quick bath and a night drying under tension straightened out the yarn, and it was ready to be knit again. I’m now knitting it up into a Peppermint Bay shawl, which has appeared on several Yarn Along posts. I feel confident that the second incarnation of this yarn will turn out much better than the first.

The attempt at Anne Elliot’s Fichu can be seen in these posts: Yarn Along 6, Yarn Along 15, Yarn Along 17, and the Peppermint Bay re-knit can be seen these Yarn Along posts: Thinking With Alpaca, Big Shawl, Slightly Bigger Shawl, Same Shawl, Same Shawl Again, Neverending ShawlNeverending Shawl Again. It’s been on the back-burner while I finish Vivid but I’ll be getting back to it soon.

The second knitting project to hit the frog-pond was actually a completely finished Ribbed Lace Bolero, started back in 2014. The whole project was a pain from the start. I used superwash yarn, so the bolero block out larger than I had planned, and the yarn was too heavy for the kind of fit I wanted. Determined, I stubbornly knit the whole thing, blocked it, wove in all the ends and seamed the thing before finally admitting I just don’t like it. The bolero doesn’t fit me, and it doesn’t look good. By the time I gave up and unravelled the whole thing I didn’t even feel a pang of regret. Mostly I was just relieved that the bolero wouldn’t end up sitting in my drawer, unworn, for years.

You can see see my progress with this project in these posts: Yarn Along 52, Yarn Along 54Yarn Along 60, Piles of Stuff

Once unravelled this yarn held its “memory” even better than the alpaca, making for a skein of very crinkled yarn.

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It looks almost like an old-fashioned telephone cord. As soon as it hit the water, though, the yarn completely relaxed. You could almost hear it sigh with relief.

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Once it was dry I wound all the yarn into neat little balls and tucked it away in my yarn stash. I have a few ideas of what I might knit with it in the future but for now it is waiting patiently. I have far too many projects on-the-go as it is, so I’m fine with letting it sit.

Generally I’m very determined to see a project through to completion once it is started, but I’m learning that sometimes it is better to give up and move on. I’m improving as I go, even if this is one lesson I may have to learn over and over again.

This blog post has been another lingering task, and this time I’m glad I didn’t give up on it and that it is finally ready to post. This will be my first blog post that isn’t a Yarn Along since May, and I don’t want to take another 6 months to write the next one. I’ve missed documenting my crafting projects and attempts at decluttering, and after all this time I have a long list of potential post topics. So, stay tuned to this space for more finished craft projects, decluttering updates and whatever else happens to inspire me in the moment. Thanks for sticking with me through the long drought🙂

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Yarn Along – Canada Knits, and an Almost-Blanket

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.


The only reason the photo above is missing one square from the almost-blanket is because it is on the blocking board right now. That’s right, more than a year after I cast on the first square and after many (many) Yarn Along posts, I have finished the knitting for Vivid! I laid out all the squares a few nights ago and played around with several different layouts before settling on this gradient. The squares were all knit with leftovers so I have different numbers of squares in each colour, which ruled out any stripe-based layouts. All of the squares were knit with natural shades of Shetland and North Ronaldsey wool, and I absolutely love the effect. The only sad moment was when I realized that the onion-skin-dyed yarn I had also knit up just didn’t go with the rest of the undyed squares. Those two squares are headed for the frog pond, but the blanket as it is now is so perfect I don’t mind that much. I have already started seaming the squares together using the whip stitch (aka overcast or overhand stitch). Hopefully I get much quicker as I go otherwise the seaming could take almost as long as the knitting!

I can’t remember what prompted me to put Canada Knits on hold at the library, which is a little disturbing given that it was only a couple of weeks ago. Regardless, it is an interesting read, especially for someone who wasn’t knitting in the early 1990s, when the book was written. The author, Shirley Scott, covers the history of knitting in Canada and then moves on to describing who was knitting and making yarns in Canada at the time. It is an especially fascinating time for me to read about because it is essentially pre-Internet. Yarn was still sold in department stores (does that happen any more?) or by mail-order, there was no Ravelry or knitting blogs, and everyone’s sweaters were about 4 sizes too big. It was certainly a very different time to be a knitter, and I’m really enjoying reading about it.

One thing that I’ve been reminded of while reading this book is how much I dislike the word “modern”. It loses meaning so quickly. The “modern” fashions of the 1990s described in Scott’s book would never qualify as modern now. This word irks me when it is used in almost any context. It almost feels lazy, like we don’t want to make the effort to find a more appropriate adjective. Anyway, that is just something I’ve been chewing on lately and not a specific problem with Scott’s excellent book.

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Yarn Along – Another Seaside Mystery and Unblocked Vivid Squares

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.


More Vivid squares! I’m just flying through the last few. Only three, maybe four to go and I’ll be ready to put it all together. I’m finding it quite addictive now that the end is in sight, but at the same time I know I’ll miss this project once it’s finished. It’s a sort of pre-nostalgia, really. Still, it will be one more project out of the WIP pile and that can only be a good thing. The pile is getting rather overwhelming at the moment.

The Wedding Shawl is the next book in Sally Goldenbaum’s Seaside Knitters Mystery series. I do read other books besides these mysteries, I promise! They just never seem to make it into my Yarn Along photos. Possibly because the Mystery covers are just so colourful in comparison to the other books I’m reading. I’m devouring this book in gulps, already halfway through after just a couple of days. I’m only allowing myself to put the next book on hold after I finish this one, just so I have a chance to finish the non-fiction library books I have checked out right now. I am overrun with books, but really this is a good problem to have. Or so I keep telling myself…

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Yarn Along – Seaside Mystery and Blocked Vivid Squares

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.


Now that I’ve finished the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series I’ve been filling the fiction void with the Seaside Knitters Mysteries by Sally Goldenbaum. These mysteries are less all-consuming than Carola Dunn’s books, but still entertaining. The Seaside Knitters are a group of four women living in a seaside Massachusetts town who in each book encounter a a murder case that only they can solve. The series is worth a try if only for Goldenbaum’s vivid descriptions of the scenery, food and knitting that the knitters and their friends regularly enjoy. The mysteries are usually complex enough to keep my interest. This book, A Holiday Yarn, was the first so far in which I managed guess the murderer before the end. I’m thoroughly enjoying the series and plan to make my way through the all the books in my library’s collection.

The same spirit of reviving languishing projects that led me to dig out my Stained Glass quilt last week inspired me this week to unearth my Vivid blanket. This project has been documented across many, many Yarn Along posts. There were the early days back in summer 2015 (Yarn Along 82, 83, 86, 8789 and 91), culminating in one of my favourite Yarn Along photos with all of the leftover Shetland yarn squares together (Yarn Along 92). At that point I thought I was out of yarn, so I put the project away for a year or so. This summer, while re-evaluating some of my oldest stash, I realized that I had two more yarns that could be added to this blanket. I knitted up the onion-skin-dyed yarn, and then started on a final large skein of natural North Ronaldsey wool (shown in these two Yarn Alongs). I’ve now begun blocking all the finished squares so that I can try some layouts for the final blanket. The photo above shows the squares that are currently blocked, there are about 15 more that need blocking still. Then there are just a few more squares to knit (and block), and I can finally get started on seaming! I’m really pleased to be nearing completion on this multi-year project.

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Yarn Along – Neverending Shawl, and the last Daisy Dalrymple

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.


I have been having a little trouble getting to bed on time this week, between reading novels until 1am and staying up late to work on my Stained Glass Quilt (last seen on the blog in April). Over the last couple of months my friend Janice and I have had semi-regular “sew dates” at our respective homes. Apparently that regular date is what it takes to get me to work on a sewing project, because all of my sewing has been done during those evenings. The first project I chose was this much-neglected quilt top, and it’s coming along nicely. Last time I had all the pieces out on my floor to get the colour balance right and then of course I had to sew it all up just to get access to my floor again. Who knows, there might be a finished quilt top to show off here one of these days.

For me, staying up late usually means I have some kind of emotional issue that I’m trying to escape by diving into reading or TV. I haven’t quite figured out what the problem is at the moment. Maybe just post-vacation blues? The Peppermint Bay shawl is the perfect knitting for times like this: soothing, interesting enough to keep from getting boring and yet simple enough that I can pick it up and put it down at any point without issue. It is so perfect that I really haven’t touched any other knitting this week.

This week I also finally reached the end of the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series. I wasn’t reading them in order, so Gunpowder Plot isn’t the most recent book, but it was the last one left for me. I’m almost tempted to go back and read them again in order, and more slowly this time! I listened to about half of the books as audiobooks through my library, and I really enjoyed those too. I loved these books enormously and would recommend them to anyone who likes Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter. Although not contemporary, Carola Dunn writes cozy 1920s British mysteries that you would swear were written at the time. They are fantastic. Unless you don’t want to stay up until past midnight every night reading. Then maybe give them a pass🙂

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Yarn Along – Neverending Shawl, and Feminist Fairy Tales

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.


My Peppermint Bay shawl continues to grow, and I continue to love the long, slow rows. The only problem is that I’m starting to run out of room on my circular needle, and I don’t have a longer one to hand. You would think by now I would have all the knitting needles I could ever need! There’s always a project that needs the one missing needle…

Barbara Walker is probably best known among knitters for her Treasury of Knitting Patterns, but she also written several books on feminism and other topics. I was curious to read her Feminist Fairy Tales so I put it on my wishlist last year and received it as a gift. Walker has put feminist spins on both traditional fairy tales and other myths and legends from various cultures. It is an interesting concept, and I understand her motivation, but I’m not sure Walker’s writing style is suited to fiction. Her tone can be a little heavy-handed, and some of the stories veered too far into anti-men stereotypes for my taste. Still, overall it was a fun read and I particularly enjoyed “The Three Little Pinks”, about the fairies that paint all the flowers in the garden to give them their colour. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, and I probably won’t be keeping it for long, but it was enjoyable enough for a single read-through.

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Yarn Along – The Same Shawl, with World Mythology

Every Wednesday I participate in “Yarn Along”, a link-up run by Ginny over at Small Things where we share what we are knitting and reading this week. You can click the Yarn Along image at the end of this post to see the whole link-up. You can also find Yarn Along photos on Instagram (#yarnalong) and Flickr.



Predictably, I was too caught up in the road trip to post a Yarn Along last Wednesday. I even forgot it was Wednesday until the day was already over! I didn’t actually get much knitting time during the road trip so there really wasn’t anything new to post about anyway. Now I’m home, back to work and back to a regular routine. And the regular routine includes knitting and blog posts! I really do intend to post more than just Yarn Alongs, especially now that I have all these trip photos to share. It is just a matter of finding the time…

My Peppermint Bay shawl is growing more slowly now that the rounds are getting longer, but it is still perfect mindless knitting. I got in a few rounds during the 9-hour car ride home on the weekend, and then a few more at the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild meeting last night. It is still fairly portable, and a very soothing knit. I’m really enjoying it.

I finished all three Daisy Dalrymple novels I brought with me on the road trip, and now I’m back to my to-read pile at home. This Encyclopedia of World Mythology has been on my shelf for ages, and I was finally inspired to tackle it yesterday. It now sits on my kitchen table and I read a few pages over breakfast and dinner. It will probably take me months to finish it, but at least I’m making progress.

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