Finish 'Em or Frog 'Em: Organize Your WIPs

Works-in-progress (WIPs). Unfinished objects (UFOs). Almost every knitter and crochet has them lingering in their home or studio. Not only do WIPs take up physical space, but they also require mental energy with the intention to finish them and the guilt of not having completed them yet.

Spring Cleaning Challenge Day 4: Work Through Your WIPs

Today we’ll help you make a plan to make those UFOs finished projects!

This exercise (which is adapted from the “Letting Go” chapter of my book Hook to Heal) provides a step-by-step guide for cleaning up those projects.

collection of WIPs

Photo of WIPs by Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence

Why bother decluttering WIPs?

Sometimes we hang onto projects for too long. They make us feel like we have something to get done, and that can be a creative drain in so many subtle ways.

Getting rid of or finishing unfinished project can free up your artistic energy — where one creative door closes another will open. It’s all about letting go of the past to be tuned into the creativity of right now.

So we’re going to explore why you’ve held on to the things that you’ve held on to. Why do you still have these WIPs? Was there a reason that you didn’t finish them? What emotions come up when you think about letting them go?

freeform crochet

Image via Bluprint member ClaireZ

How to manage your WIPs

Here are the step-by-step actions to take to take control of your WIPs and UFOs.

Step 1: Gather all of your WIPs.

Go through your house and collect every crochet item that you’ve started and haven’t completed. Every single one. If you store WIPs in your car or your work place or anywhere else, collect those as well.

Step 2: Look at them all as a bunch

Clear a space on the floor or bed and lay out all your WIPs. Some people, may need a whole room, but it is important to see all of that unfinished work that has been weighing heavily on the back of your mind. You need to get a sense of all that has been left unfinished.

cardi wip crochet

WIP Image via Bluprint member mooberly

Step 3: Pick the ones you want to finish.

Pull out any WIPs that you truly, honestly, really are consistently working on and will actually finish. But be honest with yourself here: It’s tempting to say that you’re going to finish every project, but if an item has been sitting there for five years unfinished, are you really going to get it done?

Can’t decide? Sit still for a moment with it, without other distractions, and ask yourself what you feel:

  • If looking at the item makes you feel happy, peaceful, excited, eager or curious, then it might be worth finishing.
  • If it makes you feel dread, guilt, the desire to procrastinate, annoyance or anything other negative feeling, then you should let it go.
  • What if it makes you feel nothing? Also let it go! Life is short and crafting time is limited — you should only work on what truly inspires you and not what you feel obligated to just because you started it.

Step 4: Donate!

See if there are any items in the remaining WIPs that can be used or donated exactly as they are. For example, an unfinished afghan might already be the right size for a baby blanket. Give it immediately to a baby charity, a friend’s baby or even a pet shelter.

frogging knitting

Step 5: Rid yourself of the rest

Donate unfinished projects

You can donate half-finished crochet or knit items to many thrift stores. People will purchase them and either finish them or use the yarn. (Check with your local thrift stores before making such a donation as you don’t want the items to go to waste.) Children’s art classes and local yarn-bombing projects are other options for donating such items.

Frog works in progress

Alternatively, you can frog the item and either donate the yarn or re-use the yarn yourself. In fact, the act of frogging an item can be really soothing: you unravel what was begun and create potential for something new.

I have one special blanket that was unraveled and re-invented multiple times before it finally found its perfect purpose. Note that sometimes a WIP really has no purpose; it doesn’t frog easily and isn’t going to be finished. In that case, it may become a rag or it may even need to be thrown away. That’s OK!

Step 6: Repeat!

Return to this exercise at least once per year so that you aren’t allowing unfinished items to linger in your mental space.

project tote bag

Stash Bag Image via Bluprint member Cara99

Organizing your WIPs

You might discover at the end of Step 3 above that you still have a lot of WIPs that you do want to finish. That’s OK as long as you are truly committed to completing them. The important thing is that you get them organized in a way that facilitates working on them.

Here are some tips for organizing WIPs so that you actually finish them:

  • Put each project in its own bag or box, along with all of the yarn required to complete that project. Don’t have the yarn? Purchase it! You’ll feel more obligated to complete the WIP and you’ll be prepared to do it.
  • Put the WIPs in your way. Normally it’s smart to clear your creative space, but in this instance, it’s better to have that WIP right in your face so you remember constantly that you want to get it done.
  • Schedule “deadlines.” Make up your own deadlines and a schedule for completing all of your WIPs and challenge yourself to stick to those timelines.
  • Start with the project that excites you the most. This will help you to get your motivation in motion. Get more motivational tips here.
  • Do some journaling. If you get stuck and find that you don’t want to complete a WIP, do some writing to find out why. Either you’ll discover something important about yourself, you’ll resurrect excitement about the project or you’ll decide to let it go. Regardless, this is a step forward.
organize stash

Image via Bluprint member WVLISA

Letting go of UFOs

Many of us have issues with “letting go.” Hanging on to WIPs in one manifestation of that, and it can be hugely emotionally healing to learn to release them. (That’s why I included this exercise in my book.) But giving away WIPs can also jar you emotionally, so it’s important to take the time to understand what is going on for you. You may actually grieve when letting go of a project.

If you are struggling to let go of your WIPs, a little goodbye ritual can help: You might simply hold the WIP, reflect on why you started it, give it thanks for serving the purpose that it did at the time that you needed it. You can do this for all of them at once or do each one individually — whatever feels best to you.

Another option is to start (and finish!) a new project to replace those special WIPs. For example, make a new scarf for the grown-up child whose baby blanket you never finished. Get rid of the WIP and the guilt associated with not finishing it, yet come full circle with the project by making something that’s relevant to the here-and-now.

freeform flower garden

Image via Bluprint member PugNotes

If you still can’t let some WIPs go, consider turning them all into an art project.

For example, maybe you never finished a baby blanket for a child, and now the child is grown. If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of the blanket, make use of it as is.

You can frame a WIP and make it a piece of wall art. You can make a mixed media collage of pieces of WIPs, a 3-D sculptural art piece or even a freeform stitched-together patchwork of a blanket. It can be like a quilt of your unfinished items. Whatever you choose, get your WIPs out of “unfinished” status and give those special ones a place in your current home.

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