If you've even slightly dabbled with crafting, you probably have at least one craft project that you bought all the stuff for, but haven't yet finished - or maybe even started. The optimists amongst us call them Works In Progress (WIPs), others know them as UnFinished Objects (UFOs).
So how many is normal? When does a WIP become a UFO and what can you do with the ones that are just hanging around causing you vague background guilt? Some of my favourite crafters spill their WIP secrets...
Zoe of @toocutetoquit is a professional craft teacher, and does every craft under the sun. Her WIPs are super organised, and she says she likes to do different projects depending on her mood or where she is . "They're all in separate project bags so I can pick one up and work on it straight away." she tells me. The projects are divided in to 'home' ones that require a bit of concentration, as well as a portable crochet project, a cross stitch and embroidery one too. Right now she's tells me she's got a crochet cardigan, a daisy granny square blanket and amigurumi koalas on the go. Even so she's not immune to the dreaded UFOS, but she does have an excellent solution. "My mum is in an OAP craft group" she explained, "so I always give them half finished projects and they turn them into something or finish them off"
But what about if you're not a full-time crafter? Most of us have a lot of commitments to meet, and it's hard to find the time to spend on your own interests. Tina, who I met through a craft-themed parents' social group, thinks WIP can be just an optimistic name for a UFO. "Currently I have two unfished pillows. How hard should these to be to finish?" she says. "Plus some drawings I want to turn into embroidery, some bodged up wax wraps and a few more things I can't bring to mind." For her, the problem is usually technical hitches. "Normally it's down to hitting a snag and needing guidance where something has gone wrong". That sounds familiar to me - as a craft teacher, I meet a lot of people who started a project based on a Youtube video but then can't progress because they need help troubleshooting. But there's always enjoyment to be had in the process, and the very group that Tina and I met in is exactly the right place to get that advices and help from fellow crafters.
My own relationship with UFOs has changed drastically in recent years. I used to love collecting fabric, wool and all craft gadgetry. It lived in a large cupboard bursting at the seams, with some of the WIPs genuinely decades old. But four years ago I started the Big Craft Swish, (which is basically a giant craft swap) and watched some of my biggest purchasing mistakes go off to loving homes and get used. The next time the Swish came round, I was brutal in my cull and let so much go - pretty much all of my stash, my UFOS and even most of my WIPs. Afterwards, my craft cupboards were bare, but once I got over the loss I realised I could see what was in there at a glance. Now I have a one-in one-out rule, that I cannot buy for a new project until I've finished one that's on the go. I don't buy stuff because it's on sale, and I try to use up or rehome the materials I have. What I do buy is the best I can afford, and as sustainable as I can afford. To my surprise, my crafting brings me much more happiness as a result, and thought of building up a big stash feels quite stressful, in case I go back to the messy and unmanageable style of hoarding. On Instagram, @jen_home_60 agrees, saying " totally agree with your rule. Finish one project in that craft at a time - loads of wips would drive me mad!"
The minimalist approach isn't right for us all though. On Instagram, my favourite knitter-turned-crocheter Dawn, and @icebaby29 both say they have lots of projects on the go all the time. If you're a prolific crafter who gets lots of craft done then having a lot of WIPs like Zoe and Dawn means just more chance for making stuff. Craft is supposed to bring happiness and calm into our lives, to give us a sense of achievement and growth. So the way we choose to manage our crafting is different for everyone, and should change to suit different times in our lives too.
So it seems there's no one right way to manage your WIPs. If it makes you happy to have lots on the go then embrace it. If you want to keep it as focused as possible, then go organised like Zoe. But if your stash and WIPs are causing you guilt or stress, I would definitely recommend doing a clearout and bringing it the Big Craft Swish. You'll rehome your unwanted stuff with someone who'll love it. If you do end up taking loads of new stuff back home, it's fine because you're spending no more that a fiver, and you're saving a bunch of stuff from landfill. So why not pull all of it out of the cupboard, and have a good look through. Keep the things your gut tells you genuinely works in progress, and give away the things you'll never finish.
My current #wips pop up on Instagram, along with various craft experiments. What's your WIP situation, and is it in a good place? And what are your tips for managing them?