Finishing Stitches: A Crafter’s Resolution

by Clarence D. Staley

Halfway through the year, Storey publisher and handcrafter Deborah Balmuth has an update on her resolution to tie up loose ends.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions. In fact, I’m not a planner at all. My natural inclination is to “plant ideas” and wait for them to flower at some later time (which they seem to do almost unconsciously, often surprising me).

It was probably several years ago that I planted the idea of completing some of the dozens of unfinished knitting and sewing projects that fill my craft room. Over New Year’s Day weekend this year, I found myself digging out some of the “on hold” projects that fill baskets and bags under my work table.

I began with the easiest — a project that was relatively active. I bought the yarn and pattern for this jogi 3-color cashmere cowl at the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival just two years ago. It traveled to Japan and back with me over the month of November, and still returned unfinished.

So I set about to bring it to the finish line and by January 5, it was done!

Next up: A project from 2007!

This small quilt came out of a round-robin project. I created the central square, inspired by a block in this book. It then traveled to four other quilters before returning to me in this beautifully expanded square. Then it sat … and sat … and sat … in my pile of “I’ll get to it soon” projects. A couple years ago I had selected fabric for backing and pinned the batting and layers in place. And about a year ago, I had picked out a chrysanthemum stitching pattern and started to mark and hand-quilt it (my first attempt).

Now, with a focus on getting the job done, I decided that the tiny quilting stitches weren’t realistic. Inspired by the sashiko stitching I had seen on my visit to Japan, I found a spool of bright red embroidery thread in my collection, a sashiko needle (which I’d bought for a sashiko sampler project that remains half-finished in another pile!), and just started stitching with the goal of finishing. “Just let go and do it,” I said to myself. “Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not!”

I withheld judgement about my uneven stitches or crooked lines. Liberating the stitching to be what it has become has been wonderfully fun, and I’m happy with the results. It’s my own creation! I am actually finishing it!

What’s up next? These improv patchwork pieces have been in the works in fits and starts over the past year, inspired by a workshop I took with Victoria Findlay Wolfe at QuiltCon, based on her book 15 Minutes of Play.

I love the technique, which makes the piecing look much more complicated than it is. Now I just need to trim them up and put them together. Maybe I’ll even embellish with my favorite sashiko-style stitching. Stay tuned!

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