Fear of Finishing

Fear of finishing – it’s something that comes up often in knitting circles. I fall prey to it, too, but not in the usual sense.

I do find sewing up seams rather tedious at times, definitely lacking the soothing rhythms of knitting.  And it does need a solid block of time.  Not a 15-minute-while-I-sit-with-the-kids task.  Yes, the wonder of mattress stitch is indeed delightful – it can feel like a magician’s trick the way a tug on the stitches causes the seam to obediently and mannerly slip to the wrong side.

Finishingthe Mosey legwamer

No, for me there is another side of finishing that creates a sense of fear.  It occurs as the project moves from possibility to actuality.  The Possible Sweater is perfect: full of all the wonder and excitement which drew me to knit it in the first place.  As I near the finishing stage, it begins to dawn on me that there is a chance that what I have knit will not match the mental image of the intriguingly fashionable and yet profoundly comfortable garment I have been wearing in my imagination. There are times that my knitting actually slows.  I’m no longer racing through the rows, fired with an enthusiasm to reach the end – where perfection no doubt awaits – but instead begin to dread the possibility that after the work of washing and blocking and stitching I will draw the sleeves over my arms and settle the fabric across my shoulders to find…something other than perfection.

There is also the fact that once I’ve done the knitting, my mind has moved on to other projects.  Finishing seems like being told that you have to stay late when you were already headed out the door for a long weekend. I don’t let myself start a new project til the project is well and truly finished. A little bit of knitting Puritanism? Perhaps. Perhaps Puritanism mixed with a pragmatic assessment of my personality. I find the rhythm of knitting so deeply compelling that it is hard to choose finishing over knitting.

Finishingthe Eyelet-Front vest

All of this plays a role in why I love to knit in the round, particularly from the top down. Trying something on as I go certainly eliminates the doubt-inducing mental process of squinting at a flat sleeve and trying to bend it ’round a three dimensional yet wholly imaginary arm.

My orange Eyelet-Front Vest from the Holiday Vogue was sewn up today. I’ve still got the crochet edging to do. It’s been waiting patiently for a day when I had an uninterrupted stretch of time, and it had to wait until we’d seen my in-laws to the airport. I haven’t knit in pieces in a very long time. It was surprisingly rewarding – three quick bits to declare “Done!” along the way. The final sweater is not quite what I’d imagined – the sleeves are longer than cap sleeves and a bit large around. Still, there will no doubt be a mental accommodation between the Possible Sweater and the Real Sweater. The fact that I get to wrap around myself the gloriously drapey fabric of the baby llama in a gorgeous orange in the form of the Real Sweater will no doubt do much to help me adjust.

I think I’ll knit the next one in the round, though.


8 thoughts on “Fear of Finishing

  1. Andrea says:

    You summed up my feelings perfectly with this post. In my mind the garment will be perfect – but the minute I try it on, reality strikes and sometimes I’m left devastated…

    It’s like that feeling when you were a kid at Xmas opening the last present thinking it’s got to be “the one” with “that gift” you’ve been begging for. Then you open it only to find new underwear…

  2. JoVE says:

    That point about the reality maybe not matching the fantasy resonates.

    I assume you are not drowning. The news out east makes it seems as if you might be. And your silence made me think maybe you were out sandbagging. But in-laws is perhaps a better explanation.

  3. gudrun says:

    I so understand that feeling…..like you I prefer the “try on” as you go method….it’s been so long since I knit anything in pieces.
    That red looks so luscious….look forward to seeing it on you!

  4. nicolaknits says:

    You eloquently stated what I alluded to in my post of today – the worry that a finished item of knitting will not meet expectations!

  5. GailV says:

    I think this is a common experience. Remember Starbuck’s line in Nash’s play The Rainmaker:

    “Nothing’s as pretty in your hands as it was in your head. There ain’t no world near as good as the world I got up here.” [taps forehead]

    I don’t think Nash was a knitter, but he nailed a bit of the human experience with that line — which might be why I’ve remembered it for all of these years since hearing it as a teenager.

    Rejoice if knitting is the only part of your life where this is happening. Better it happen to a sweater than, say, a career or a marriage.

  6. Charity says:

    Yes, I can well relate to that feeling of dread as a project is ending – until then, the potential seems limitless! Nice to know so many of us feel the same.

  7. Christine Guest says:

    Or like finishing a book and knowing that you won’t get to visit the characters anymore.

    When I thought that a knitting machine would be the solution to my carpal tunnel problem, I found that I had to decide to enjoy finishing as an art form in itself – there was a lot more of it than in hand knitting, especially in knitting in the round. I didn’t quiet make that transition though, and gave away my machine after it languished in a closet. But that may have been more a problem of not having had space to keep it out all the time too…

    If only it were easier to mock up and try on knits before they are finished, so it’s easier to re-engineer them.

  8. ChristineMM says:

    Enjoyed your post.

    My first sweater was knit it in the round so I was spared finishing it off. When I made my first vest last month I was nervous to finish it off as I feared it would not fit correctly. I am nearly done with my second top down raglan and it definately is more reassuring that I can try it on as I go with no finishing.

    Have a great weekend!

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