finish fifty – a creative girl’s attempt to finish what she started

Well, here we go–a big and brand new series for a brand new, beautiful year.

Here is a little something to know about me: I tend to be one of those mad-scientist-makers that goes into a frenzy with a new idea, leaving a trail of forgotten, half-made beautiful things in my wake.  My creative madness makes bringing projects through to execution challenging–directions, patterns, tutorials, and marketing easily fall by the wayside. Ideas come in waves and droves, really (also overwhelming, which I’ll save for another discussion), but the completion part takes the effort, the blocking, finishing ends, sewing in the lining, snipping the threads, packing it up, all are difficult.

You’d think this veritable rainbow of UFOs (unfinished objects) would simply be forgotten, headed for the dustbin, but I still love 90% of the ideas, and I think you would too. I know what inspired them, why I was making them, and for whom the little creative beings were intended. Their unfinished sadness nags at me–those little stresses you’re not supposed to have. I keep wanting to go back, pull them out and finish, yet I get distracted by the busyness of life and the next grand idea.  Just look at the loveliness peeking out of these bins–can’t you hear them yelling, “me, next!”

I never felt the urge to wrap up these projects more keenly than as I was packing up my studio for the move (back in JULY!). I started to go through all my handmade projects in my studio one by one, including fabulous knitting, crochet, sewing, jewelry and finger-knitting ideas, in order to organize them into bins. I mercilessly gave away oodles of the kids’ toddler toys, just to accumulate more empty bins for my hoard of projects–some of them dating back 10 years or more!

I neatly organized one project per bin–until I plum ran out of bins, and then I had to double down. And, the photos don’t include all bins! As I frantically stuffed one more project into an overwrought bin, it occurred to me that my life would feel lighter and easier if I could just finish what I started.  So this is my new year’s goal, to

50 projects.  I know it’s a lot. I won’t tell you–okay, I will–that I actually counted over 100 projects that needed finishing, all at varying levels of completion, ranging from a notebook sketch to something just waiting for a test knitter. I won’t write patterns or tutorials for every one, unless the demand is sky-high. Some will have to be re-purposed or gasp, I’ll just have to give one or two up as a bygone idea. Some of them, I’ll simply finish, photograph, and send off happily to a new owner.  For others, I can’t wait to share the tutorial or pattern.  Can you imagine how much lighter I’ll feel as I pick up these waylayed, orphaned projects and set them free?  What do you think?  Do you have a lot to finish? Tell me about your secret stashes of unfinished goodies.
  1. OMGosh! I vowed years ago not to start anything new until I had finished what I had already started and pushed aside for the next idea. It worked for a project or two but how could I deny all of the fabulous new ideas that began flooding into my brain – no doubt inspired by the empty space on a shelf or in a box. You have my best wishes for success and if you do succeed, please tell me the secret!

    • anne

      Now, now, let’s not get ahead of oursleves. I never vowed not to start anything NEW :). I don’t think I could possibly do that. I also didn’t commit to a time frame, but I will start to knock these puppies off, I promise! You’ll be sure to hear how it goes!!

  2. Ah…it wasn’t until a few years ago when i started following other creative souls online that i realized it wasn’t just me! Infact, when i was growing up my not-very-creative-openminded mother insisted that my “creative A.D.D.” was a bad thing and i needed to change my ways. Luckily, i never followed that advice! Half of my great ideas would have never been born had i concentrated on completing a project before starting another (or 10 more). so glad to know i’m not alone. Can’t wait to read about/see your projects in completion.

    • anne

      I love that – creative ADD – I think that is just inspiration at work! It is good to just run with the ideas when you get ’em. I don’t think I”ll be able to stop from doing that, but hopefully I can wrap up some other ideas while I’m at it!

  3. kristin

    yes. i also have a lot to finish. my problem is those unfinished projects often land in one of these categories…1.my boys have already outgrown the sweater, vest, booties i haven’t finished knitting yet, 2.i had to return the library book from where the pattern was found (and i can’t remember what book it’s from)3.by the time i re-gather all the required materials for a project, my creating time has run out for the day. Now if I were to be as organized as YOU! It just looks so easy to grab a bin (with all the supplies) and go get busy. Good luck with the 50, it will be fun (and motivating)to watch your progress.

    • anne

      Kristin, you had me laughing out loud here. Yes, a lot of outgrown things in my piles, adorable knit dresses for my then 2 year old daughter, a thick gorgeous stroller blanket for my now 10 year old! well, I’m going to see if I can’t make sense of it all, or at least some of it and find some new lucky young ones to gift something gorgeous to!

    • kristin

      yes. that crossed my mind also…if i just finish the too-small-for-my boys things, how nice to already have a hand made gift ready for a new baby. Again..good luck in your progress!! 🙂

  4. Melissa Robbins

    Great way to start the year, Anne. Love that you can stash new projects in the boxes as you finish up items. I’m inspired to be better organized with my projects so that I, too, can get some things finished. Excited to see your progress.

    • anne

      ah-ha, a constant rotation of bins full of old and new projects- you mean I’ll never finish ;)??

  5. OK, I’m game. I am moving my, ahem, studio to another house & looking fwd to finding those items that got buried. I most definitely have a monster task ahead of me. I keep telling myself that it just looks like ‘mountain’. I’ll be watching you and following your lead. Your emails are good reminders for me to keep on the goals of 2013. I wish you all the best on your endeavors. Thank you for the fun motivation and encouragement.

    • anne

      yes, just take it one by one, pitching or recycling as need be. good luck!

  6. Denise

    Just the encouragement I needed today! I have an unfinished quilt hanging pinned and ready to do the quilting on – what is holding me back? In a word, FEAR. Fear of making a mess of it – this is only my second quilt; so the project is stuck waiting for me to face my fear. In the meantime I learned to knit this fall – no fear there apparently as I made 4 of the lovely katy cowls for Christmas gifts as well as completed my “first” knitting project a simple scarf. I also made 2 denim stockings for my daughter and son-in-law/ All the while my son’s quilt sits quietly waiting for me to gather up the courage. So if you can tackle 50 unfinished projects perhaps I can tackle this one. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • anne

      Just go for it – your quilt will be beautiful, and with each project, we learn. So glad you made some katy cowl gifts. Yay! Happy new year!

  7. I love love love this idea! I am quite a fickle crafter – one day it will be scrapbooks, the next day beaded jewelry, the next day knitting – and I rarely see a project through before starting something new and exciting.
    Thinking back on some of them I don’t know how I abandoned them, and I am just as inspired as if I had started them yesterday. I look forward to following you through your journey of completions and finish some half finished projects of my own!

    • anne

      Here’s to wrapping them up! and being creative souls who can appreciate all kinds of beautiful things.

  8. Anne, I absolutely LOVE LOVE this idea. So much. Can’t wait to follow along!!

    • anne

      Thanks Lisa! I am glowing from your support. I can’t wait to tackle the pile myself!

  9. That’s a lot of projects and I wish you luck! I’ve never been the WIP hoarder. I like finishing my projects one at a time and never have more than 3 or 4 projects going on simultaneously. I’m also afraid of long term projects because I don’t want to be overwhelmed with them haha.

    • anne

      Ha ha- wise woman. Maybe try a big, long term project this year. You might just be surprised by how rewarding it is!

  10. My stash is not as impressive as yours, mainly because I haven’t organized them so neatly in bins, but there are definitely some UFO’s in my craft room. I did finish the blanket project I have been holding onto for four years just last week.

    • anne

      Congrats~ doesn’t it feel just heavenly to wrap it up. I just finished a quilt I’ve been meaning to for over 3 years. I’m so pleased. You’ll see it soon!

  11. Sarah

    I love this! Somehow the fact that your attitude is “I still really like my ideas!” rather than beating yourself up about not finishing, vowing to get rid of unfinished projects, etc. just seems so wonderful and inspiring to me. It’s comforting, too–a good idea doesn’t have an expiration date. Looking forward to following along…maybe I’ll even knock off a few of my own still-good ideas.

    • anne

      Thanks Sarah – yes, good ideas never have expiration dates! I hope you finish a lot of your beautiful ideas this year!

  12. I can’t even believe you have that many bins! I think my life would be much more organized if I had even a fraction of those…

    Good luck on the project-finishing! I can’t wait to see how everything turns out!

    • anne

      ha! I know. The bins are from years of failed attempted toy organization. I wanted to store half the toys and rotate them in and out. Well, that often went by the wayside, but I have a ton of bins to prove that I tried!

  13. I’m so looking forward to following your progress. 🙂

    • anne

      Thanks Sarah!

  14. Melanie

    Splendid idea… I’m right there with you. Many of mine won’t fit into bins (like the giant roll of gorgeous fabric that’s been in my closet for 4 years waiting to become curtains) but I like the idea of them for my smaller projects. I started the year out the same way – vowing to finish some this year. I don’t know if I’ll get to 50 though! You do realize that’s close to 1/week? But, I think I will at least make a list as I go [something to show my husband that progress is being made;)]

    I found your site while looking to learn how to finger knit – love the hoola-hoop wall hanging! But, I’m not going to buy one until I at least finish a few current projects!

    • anne

      Thanks Melanie! I do know that’s 1/week. eek. I was careful not to commit to a time frame, but it is my goal to do it in a year. Good luck getting through yours. Tackle those curtains first! You’ll be so happy you did!

  15. I’m the same – love the initial stages and the work itself, not so much the finishing touches (though I never thought to call them UFOs).
    Best of luck with the project, I’ll come back and follow your progress

    • anne

      Thanks so much amalia!

  16. Hello Anne. I’ve been following your blog for some time now and I really look forward to each new post, picture or pattern. You are so talented and have the skills to share your knowledge with the rest of us effectively. Thanks for doing what you do! Do you still need test knitters? If so, how do I apply?

  17. anne

    Hi Jade! Thanks so much for your sweet comment. It makes me feel good! I am always looking for test knitters. If you could send me two photos of things you have knit and a couple sentences on your knitting experience to my email flaxandtwine (at) gmail (dot) com that would be fabulous!

  18. Anonymous

    I finish one UFO before I start a new project. That way I get the best of both the new and the old. I too have too many to count. I also put myself on the wagon, much like a drinker, and will not buy any fabric for a year at a time. I still sew and quilt as much I just use what I have. The year before last I made 31 quilts and only bought fabric for a couple of the backs. That is a sign that I have a lot of fabric. I love your blog. Thank you.

  19. I too have been plugging away at completing projects (some are over 5 years old YIKES!). Wishing you the best!! xox

  20. I used to be a starter-not-a-finisher! But I’ve just had three weeks education vacation where I have done a skirt from start-TO-FINISH….
    I don’t know how I did it!
    However I didn’t do any revision in place of full sewing attention so if you wanna finish these, I’d suggest doing it when you have a week where you have NOTHING to do.
    Xxx

  21. What a great idea and commitment. I can’t wait to fast forward to the end and see if you did it.

    • anne

      I wish I had gotten further, but I did get through more than I otherwise would have. Somewhere in April, I decided that the family came before making it through an arbitrary list of projects. Still, reaching for the goal caused me to get through some really big projects that I had been putting off.

  22. Riversana

    How did you keep track of when you had the inspiration for each project? I just discovered this list of projects of yours, and I was really impressed when I saw several links to other Finish Fifty projects at the bottom of the post. I thought you were really knocking ’em out til I saw the date, and realized I was a year behind! Love the idea, and the bins!

    • anne

      Hi! The inspiration for each project always stays in my head. Not sure how – must be how I categorize things in my creative brain. Even though I only got through 14, I’m going to keep going. So many are so wonderful and really close to being done. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

    • Hey! Fourteen projects is more than one a month. Good job! Finishing creative projects is so hard for me, and you’h not just given me inspiration, you’ve proven it can be done. Thanks for this post, even though I found it a year late. Thanks, too, for sharing your wonderful patterns. I found your blog while looking for a knit poof pattern for my grandson’s nursery. Now I’m a subscriber to your blog and look forward to “getting to know you” via your writing and your projects.

    • anne

      Hi Margie! Thanks for your comment. I’m going to keep working on the pile :0. I’m not giving up yet. I’m so glad you’re subscribing 😉 Welcome!!

  23. Hi! I recently stumbled on to you through Pinterest . I can so relate to your unfinished projects as I too have many unfinished ones lingering around my home. I use the same storage bins too! The creative process of coming up with the ideas, experimenting, and tweaking is so much for fun then the actual finishing. Love your blog ! Following you.

    • Thanks so much Joselyn! I agree–Coming up with the ideas is most of the fun!!

  24. I just found your blog and I love this idea. I have so many projects that are half-made for various reasons. I just get too busy or too interested in another idea and projects are pushed to the side. I’m graduating college this December and I’m planning on spending the year after college slowing down and enjoying being done with school. During the year, I’m going to do something similar to finish up all my half-made projects. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hi Laura,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so happy to been an inspiration! Here’s to finishing projects :)!

    • lol – Well, I only managed to finish 17 that year, I think, but that’s better than none!

  25. Kat

    This article pretty much sums up my life! Soo many unfinished projects (mine is much less organized though–less bins!) It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with creative ADD.

  26. Renee

    So this Blog was started 2013…this is 2016 What and how much did you finish….any tips you learned along the way/

    • Hi Renee,
      Well, my blog was started in 2010 though, i started at a new platform in 2013. I finished 17 projects that year of the fifty, so it wasn’t a lot, but I felt good about it. I learned that it is okay to let ideas go. Sometimes if we don’t execute immediately, that means they were never meant to come to fruition. Sometimes, they come back to us and we want to finish. I think it’s important to go with where your creativity and ideas are at the moment and what’s fun for you. It’s okay to give away things that you’ve bought and projects that may just never happen. Do you have a lot of unfinished projects?

  27. gina

    You WERE meant to be friends. I can see a comment, here in 2016 with your response of today. I was thinking about forcing myself to finish everything I have in my house before moving on; but, like you wrote: maybe these projects weren’t meant to be finished. I DO have so many projects based on what my lives priority has been. I’m easing myself back to more painting with room to sew and knit more! Your words are very, very comforting here! Happy New YEAR!!

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