Thursday, 15 October 2009

Belbin is right

Have any of you done the ‘Belbin team roles’ inventory, which tells you what kind of tasks you are most comfortable with? For example, ‘Co-ordinator’, ‘Implementor’ or ‘Monitor Evaluator’? What is abundantly clear, and I don’t really need to read Belbin to know this, is that I am not a ‘Completer finisher’ (the clue is in the title of the blog). In fact, finishing things, without the motivation of some kind of unavoidable, external imperative, such as the threat of public humiliation, redundancy or death, is very difficult for me.

A great bonding moment was hearing a friend tell me about the time she’d bought green tomatoes in a fit of domestic goddess-like enthusiasm, intending to make green tomato chutney. She took so long to get around to making the chutney, the tomatoes had ripened in the interim. Ah, a woman after my own heart. In the founding spirit of this blog I think an honest post is in order, laying bare and accepting (celebrating?) my long history of enthusiastically taken-up but unfinished projects. I think there is a psychic weight of guilt and self-hatred attached to these things. Occasionally I wonder about throwing them away and releasing myself from the burden. But with the triumph of hope over experience, I still labour under the naïve belief that one day, these things will get finished. So here is the great unfinished projects list (a selection!).

Knitting projects:
This is the most pernicious area of unfinishedness and most sinful because it represents quite a lot of money, the cost of nice yarn being what it is. I’m not even going to mention the collection of balls of wool, bought in various sales for as yet undefined projects that haven’t quite got off the ground. Let’s just look at projects that have taken not only money but my time to get close to completion.

In my cupboard, I have 2 unfinished, hand-knitted cardigans, which have been sitting there for about 4 years (that’s a lie – it’s actually much longer, but I have some pride). To be fair, these are unfinished because they have gone so terribly wrong that I can’t quite work out how to save them, yet I don’t want to admit defeat and throw them out. One cardigan, in a lovely, soft, teal, is a demonstration of the fact that yes, the same yarn from different dye lots can be significantly different in colour, and doesn’t actually represent the bargain it seems to be in the mill shop. What a shame it is to discover this half way through knitting the last piece of a cardigan. I have a vague solution in mind of unravelling both sleeves and re-knitting them, somehow creating a fetching cuff arrangement, using the different colours as accent, but I haven’t quite been able to face it - yet. I haven’t been able to face it for at least 4 years.

The other cardi – a dark green chenille item - is all but ready to sew up. Unfortunately, having been interrupted by circumstances (another lie – not circumstances but apathy and carelessness) I’ve lost the pattern and don’t quite know how the different bits go together. I’ve got baffling, unidentifiable bits of knitting dangling off stitch holders. I think they are pockets and bits of collar but I’m not sure.

Does failure to start count as failure to finish when you’ve bought the project materials? If so, I could include the stunning Debbie Bliss knitting kit which I treated myself to last year and which is still sitting in all its tissue-papered gorgeousness in the cardboard box it arrived in. But, at a year old, this is just a baby of an unfinished project. No urgency there yet.

Embroidery projects:
These represent my greatest failures to finish as well as the most self-delusion in my belief that I will ever get around to finishing them. About 18 years ago, when embroidery was my craft activity of choice, my lovely husband bought me a beautiful embroidery kit: to make a gigantic, antique map of Yorkshire (my home county). The picture on the kit of the finished object is gorgeous and I would really like to have such a thing on my wall. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to do. It involves lots of charts and fiddly bits of different coloured embroidery threads. The most alarming aspect of this kit is that the pattern isn’t printed on the linen. You have to count it off a chart. It is quite easy to go wrong and end up carefully stitching York Minster where Hull docks should be. I’ve lost heart. The embroidery, with my first faltering stitches, is in one of my boxes of broken dreams (i.e. unfinished projects) and has accompanied us on 5 (yep, count ‘em) house moves. But I will not admit defeat and throw it away!
I also have an elegant William Morris design tapestry which is unfinished. The hard bit is complete (for hard, read ‘interesting’), i.e. the intricate design of birds and flowers. There is also great deal of plain, blue stitching still to be done to complete the whole design. A few years ago, in a fit of determination, I dug out the half-finished tapestry and attached it to a tapestry frame. But now the tapestry has been sitting for so long on its frame awaiting my attention that I suspect it has faded slightly. If I ever get around to excavating the blue tapestry wool from its resting place (nestled alongside the Yorkshire embroidery kit) it will be a different colour from the bits I’ve already done. Perhaps I could use it to make some cuffs for that blasted cardigan…

Household projects:
Does anyone else have home-made curtains hemmed ‘for now’ with safety pins? Please tell me I’m not the only one. Or how about these:
· Collections of old prints or maps, picked up cheaply at car boot sales or on foreign holidays, sitting unobserved in a cardboard folder, awaiting framing and hanging.
· Pieces of boring brown furniture bought as ‘shabby chic’ restoration projects, waiting for the time when I will a) make my mind up about the colour of paint to buy, b) buy it and c) sand, paint, distress and varnish said piece of furniture. Don’t hold your breath.
· ‘Family heirloom’ items, such as antique wooden trays and writing cases, inherited in a totally trashed state but because they once had a value, we are (according to my husband) not allowed to get rid of them. Instead we will hold onto them until the mythical time when we will either a) restore them (erm, once we have done a course in restoring wood inlay, or silversmithing?) or b) take them to an antique dealer for valuing (who will tell us to throw them away).
· The ever-multiplying ‘car boot sale’ boxes – full of the junk that even my dear husband can’t pretend is of real value. We have actually managed to do two car boot sales. 14 years ago. We haven’t done one since.
· The ‘mending and alterations’ pile. In these days of economic downturn and eco-motivated thrift, it is surely important not to throw clothes away that just need a few minutes attention with a needle and thread. Instead, pop them in the wardrobe in the spare bedroom for a few weeks/months/years, or until they can be termed ‘vintage’ when you can transfer them to the ‘car boot sale’ box indefinitely. But at least you haven’t just thrown them out.

This is a very long post. It could have been much longer – I haven’t even mentioned the bags of damsons and sloes in the freezer - but I am beginning to feel ever so slightly embarrassed.

Some projects do get finished ... Hic!

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