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Wips, UFOs and Whatnots

Wips, UFOs and Whatnots

For new knitters, decoding knitting acronyms can be as mysterious as deciphering the latest emojis. So here's an intro to the three you'll hear the most: WIPs, UFOs and FOs.

Here are the explanations:

WIP – Work IProgress

UFO – UnFinished Object

FO – Finished Object

If you are anything like me, you have up to five WIPs floating about, add one, two or three UFOs and you’d be close to what’s going on in my house. What’s the difference between WIP and UFO, you might ask? Well, a WIP is a project where you actually have to do more knitting, whereas a UFO describes a project when the knitting is done and just (ha, just!) needs finishing, like weaving in the ends, maybe grafting a toe on a sock, sewing up a sweater….anything that involves finishing work. In my opinion though any WIP that lingers too long gets promoted to a UFO, no matter what the status of the knitting is. At some point it is just UNFINISHED, no matter how much there is left to do.

I have often wondered why that happens. Usually when I start a project I am all enthusiastic, get a lot done in a few days. Sometimes this enthusiasm lingers (it is easier when I have a lot of time to knit) other times it wanes really fast. I also know that the longer the UFO sits around, the less I feel like picking it up and actually finishing it. There must be a psychological explanation for this, but I won’t even try to go there. That’s just how it is, and I have grudgingly accepted the necessity of dealing with it. One way or the other.

Now comes the part where I spill the good tips. I am oh so full of good tips. Doesn’t mean I myself follow them all the time, but I want you to know that there are ways to deal with the mess.

First thing you want to do is get all your WIPs and UFOs together. Put them all out there. Then have a good look what needs to be done. Sometimes it is less than one might think, and takes only a short time. Ask yourself a few questions:

– Do I really want to finish this? Or am I over it?

If the answer to the first part is ‘no’, the answer to the second half is most probably ‘yes’. In that case, rip. Undo it. Use the yarn for something you will love. (This is what I love about knitting, you can actually get a fresh start!) Learn how to let go, I find it can feel quite liberating.

If the answer to the first part is ‘yes’ do not try to figure out why you stopped knitting on it. Unless you made a huge mistake and tossed it aside because you are afraid of fixing it (more on that later) you won’t ever find out why you stopped. I know I never do. Pick up where you left off (sometimes that involves excessive studying of the pattern, for me too) and try to get back into the groove! The old feels new again and the UFO will be promoted to a FO in no time.

– What in the world was I thinking when I started this ___ ? (insert fair isle sweater, afghan, chair cover…you get my drift)

You probably fell in love seeing it in a magazine, on instagram or even as a store sample and thought it would be great to have one of your own. If you still feel that way and you know there is yet a lot of work, make a  plan how to progress from here.

I find it helps to knit really big projects in smaller increments. Yes, it will take longer, but bit by bit it is not so hard. If it is an afghan with really long rows, decide how many rows you can stand knitting and how much time you can spend working on them. Then do that every day. You will be surprised how fast you are at the end of whatever it is. Do it before you pick up what you really want to knit on. That you get to do as a reward for finishing two rows on the neverending blanket. I have done this many times, it takes a bit of determination, but it is absolutely doable.

– How in the world am I ever going to fix that mess I made?

So you made that huge mistake only to find out 20 rows later and you tossed it aside to be…what? It won’t fix itself, I promise you that. Fixing mistakes is like knitting. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I always say that ‘reading’ your knitting is the best way to figure out what is wrong, and one way to ‘read’ is to undo what is knit and watch closely what happens when the stitches are undone. That is how I am still learning, believe it or not.

Having said all this, fixing can mean different things. Sometimes it can be fixed by dropping a stitch down a couple of rows. Other times you might have to rip out a few inches of knitting. The good news: it can be fixed if you are willing to re-do. That is the most important part. Be prepared to re-knit.

– I am all done knitting, now I have to do one or other thing and no clue how.

My first go-to when I don’t know how: the Internet. And, yes, it just so happens that even I don’t know how. The good news in this case: one can always learn! I find life is so much easier when  you are willing to learn. Doesn’t mean learning is always easy.

If you have a knitting question and access to the internet, go to youtube type in whatever you need to know (like: knitting stretchy bind off, for example) and see how many helpful videos show up. If you do not get it the first time, you can watch it over and over again.

Books are helpful, too. Let’s not forget about books. Or ask a friend who knits and might be able to help. Of course you can ask us at the store also, but we’re not open 24/7 – youtube is.

To me, these four are the big reasons I toss a project aside, of course there are many more – most of them we cannot explain and we do not have to. The most important part is to not let the knitting drag you down, that is not how it is meant to be. Knitting is meant to entertain and give you joy, especially when you are able to present a new FO. You, just like me, are going to get a kick out of showing off that FO, and that is going to kick you into gear to finish another. Right? Right!

Originally published January 17, 2013. Updated March 22, 2022.