The tedium of doing big things

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It has now been 31 weeks since I started this granny square blanket, dearest reader, and it’s definitely going to be at least another couple of months before it’s done. My unofficial deadline for this has been the end of July of this year, which would put the finish line around a year after I started it. I’ve had a lot of projects that ended up taking several months to finish, but anything that is still unfinished after a year stands a pretty low chance of getting finished, so that’s my goal post. I have a couple of 60% finished sweaters still stuffed in their project bags, that really, I swear, are TOTALLY going to get done some day, yes – Wait, look over there! Plus…I really really really want this blanket.

However, blankets are realistically huge projects, and I knew that going into it that it wasn’t going to be over in a flash. Anything that needs multiple hundred identically constructed pieces is going to take a while. But I wanted the finished thing badly enough, and still do, so believe you me this sucker is getting finished. And a big epic project like this goes on for long enough that I am finding I rediscover the enjoyment for different parts of it all over again. I’m now back in a phase of making the regular squares (without borders – just the colourful centre parts), and remembering how fun it is to choose colour combinations. Then I’ll go back to the borders again, which are pretty fast compared to the centres, and enjoy that all over again too.

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On the other hand, a big blanket is not like a sweater or a pair of socks where there are clearly defined stages of done-ness. It’s very hard to measure progress when it’s so big. I can’t say “well I’ve got the back and two sleeves done so now just the front and a bit of seaming and this sucker will be done by next Tuesday.” Most of the time the best I can do is report on having slightly fewer very repetitive actions to look forward to as compared to the week before. I mean, I hit 200 finished squares on this earlier this week, and that was really amazing. I still need 104 more squares, mind you, but dudes, I have finished 200 of the exact same thing and I am still going. THIS IS FREAKING AMAZING, HOW AM I STILL DOING THIS.

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I have, more than once since starting this, worried about how to blog about it, and how often. It’s repetitive, and then more repetitive, and not as easy to blog about in discrete stages. I mostly try not to lift the curtain on my blogging process, because that’s just not how I do this, but guys, I genuinely don’t want to bore you with posting about the same damn thing a million times. I also wonder sometimes if people will tune out as soon as they see a crocheted thing. People come here for the knitting talk, Glenna, why are you crocheting things now.

Except, if I’m being totally honest, I have now reached the point where I’ve completely forgotten that this is a crochet project. I genuinely don’t think of it as a different craft any more, it’s just That Big Blanket That’s Going to Be Gorgeous When It’s Done. It’s in the same yarn I’ve used for knitting, it’s extending the life of my knitting leftovers into a huge epic project that never would have happened otherwise, and really, yarn is yarn. Knitting is still my main craft and let’s face it probably always will be, and this afghan is a welcome diversion down a neighbouring side street that I may well visit again some time, so. I’m all good with it.

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In pondering all of this is that, I can only conclude that if this seems tedious then that is because sometimes our chosen yarn crafts are tedious. If you are going to get good at knitting (or crochet), you have to be able to experience the boredom and impatience of being in the middle of a project you wish were already finished, and persevering anyway. Beyond any specific stitches or technique, as crafters we have to get good at repetition and boredom, otherwise we would never finish anything. But the tedium never shows up as well in exciting photos or flashy internet listicles, or in that highly visible and curated portion of the crafty/DIY internet that resists the risk of seeming imperfect or unfinished.

Most of us don’t live in a perfectly curated world, we live in our own real worlds, and damnit, those worlds include tedium. Welcome. If you are experiencing repetition, and boredom, and a desperate impatience to be finished and move on to the next project – you are doing your yarn craft right, and I’m glad you’re doing it with the rest of us, because we live there too and it’s nice to have company. (Tedium usually comes with tea and snacks, FYI. We make it cozy.) The bigger, more epic the project, the more space the tedium takes up, so stretch that muscle and get good at it.

Happy Friday, knitter friends – I hope you have a boring weekend! 😉

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Project: Granny square afghan squares (classic granny square pattern – tutorials widely available on the web and YouTube), 3.0mm crochet hook

Yarn: Miscellaneous sock yarn stash leftovers, including Tanis Fiber Arts sock, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock, Madelinetosh sock, Dream In Color Smooshy, Van Der Rock sock (no longer available), Indigodragonfly sock, Miss Babs sock, and more. Border yarn is Sweet Georgia ‘Tough Love Sock’ in birch.

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39 comments

  1. Jeanette · ·

    I know that blanket is going to be gorgeous! Keep on hooking!

  2. If we wanted something fast, we’d just buy it, right?

  3. I love your post because so often we hear “fantastic” “perfect” when reality isn’t like that. Frustration, confusion, and working through all that is much closer. Pleasure in reaching the end of the struggle. And of course: the finished project. “No one can take that away from you”.
    Love,

  4. Geraldine Dorcey · ·

    Enjoying your mega task (I’ve been working on the same quilt for 42years plus!). Looking forward to your finished blanket. Hand made is hand made, and all items absolutely wonderful whether in yarn or fabric, knitted or crochet

  5. Great post. I can relate oh so well. Life has tedium so why should knitting/crochet be any different? It’s refreshing to hear the “real” story as so many blogs only paint the rosy side. I like reading people I can relate to, that have problems and frustrations like me as it’s comforting to know you’re not the only one. Good luck on your blanket it’s gorgeous!

  6. It is truly beautiful. I love your colour combinations.

  7. It’s looking beautiful, even just as squares. I can’t wait to see it finished !

  8. I’m right in the middle of a second mitten and feeling the tedium like crazy. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

    The blanket is going to be gorgeous – you take amazing photos and your yarn taste is awesome!

  9. I am loving your ‘tedious’ big blanket posts. When you first posted I thought, “Oooh, granny squares! I haven’t crocheted granny squares in ages. They are so fun!” And then I remembered that I don’t crochet anything anymore because 4 crochet stitches tends to leave my carpal tunnely hands unable to pick up a pencil for a week. And with that thought, I’m spurred to go knit another square on my never ending mitered square blanket. So thank you for pushing through your tedium. It’s helping me with mine.

  10. You know, I normally am not interested in crochet content, but your blanket is so gorgeous that I’m loving watching the progress.

  11. I have crocheted blankets for every baby of my friends since I was 19. Each one is different from the one before, so all babies get something unique. A few years ago, the granny squares became mini granny squares (skip the outer ring before the border colour) and found I could pack some interesting colour variation into a smaller blanket. And yes, I knit more than I crochet.

  12. Very timely – I’m at the stage where I keep measuring, AND measuring, my first top down sweater – is it long enough YET???
    Thank you for sharing this with everyone – It helps to know one is not alone.!

  13. 379christy · ·

    Glenna, I’m very happy to read about the tedious characteristics of handmade projects. I’m a quilter who knows that I need several projects going at once because I need something to contemplate while doing the repetitive steps of piecing, basting, or quilting on a different project. My knitting projects are also in different stages of completion but mainly because there are some that just can’t be done while riding, talking, or watching movies, etc.

    Further to your point, Glenna, I wish that the people who publish the lists of quick, easy, one-hour, etc. projects would consider including the challenging, thought-provoking, or long-term projects in their daily lists. I prefer the fabric from lace-to-light weight yarn done on US1 or US2 over the chunky, bulky or quick fabric done on US11+. I’ve recently commented to the AllFreeKnitting site on just this subject. But then, having choices is what makes horse racing!

    Happy Knitting

  14. This is exactly the pep talk I needed. Here’s to a boring, productive, tedious weekend 😉

  15. Tracy B. · ·

    It makes no difference to me if you are blogging about knitting or crocheting, sweaters or socks or blanket squares. I always look forward to your blog posts. Keep up the good work!

  16. Linda A · ·

    Crochet certainly has its place in the knitting world – as edging around a knit piece; as a diversion into a slightly different way of using yarn; a chance to use different muscles (to ward off “carpal knit”), a new way of looking at color; another way to become engaged in “process;” and, in this case, practicing perseverence – something needed in both crafts. I’m enjoying seeing the progress and hope to see how you’ll figure out the layout of color for the final result.

  17. suzanne schulte · ·

    I love your granny square blanket. Granny squares are fun. But I must warn you – it took me three blankets before I got Granny Squares out of my system! 🙂

    Of course people come here for the knitting. Yours in glorious. But as a person who’s read every one of your posts, I can say that if someone sticks around your blog for a while, they also come for Glenna. It’s good to hear what you’re doing, if it’s crocheting, cat sitting or making cupcakes.

    PS. I miss the cupcakes.

  18. Hazeyreynolds@yahoo.com · ·

    Best blog subjecT going. I can’t believe you have so much sock yarn to use. Keep going!❤️

  19. Gina S. · ·

    Very well said. And you’re absolutely right. The reason I have (just counted them the other day) 48 WIPs/UFOs is exactly because of the tedium aspect, and being distracted by shiny new things. But I reached a point recently where I got fed up of not having nearly enough finished items to account for all the time I spend knitting/crocheting – so I’ve been digging out the WIPs and putting some love into them. It’s been awesome really. Yes, I made a new pair of socks in February, but I also finished off 2 other pairs I started in middle of last year! And going back to them after so much time, I don’t know if my skills have improved in the meantime, but neither was as challenging or as boring as I remembered. Hooray for perseverance!!

  20. Lorraine · ·

    All that being in the moment practice!

  21. Nancy from mass · ·

    It’s looking great!! Crochet typically works up faster than knitting, so think of it that way! I started an 8×8 square scrappy knitted blanket about 7 months ago. I’m 29 squares in (about halfway done) all the while quilting, crocheting, knitting and cross stitching other things to help with the tedious blanket. Every square is a different stitch pattern (I just look thru my stitch bible, choose a pattern and calculate CO stitches to fit). In hindsite, I wish it was 10in or 12in square!! Probably would have been done by now!

  22. My grandmother was from Spain and she taught me to crochet. She was such a pro that she could crochet a doilie without looking x while having a conversation with you. You wouldn’t even realize what she was doing because she’d be totally into the conversation.

    You probably do the same and it would make the process more pleasant.

    I prefer knitting but am making a Christmas afgan out of granny squares.

    Thank you for your posts

    Christina

  23. kinoethermes · ·

    Amen to this great post!

  24. It’s ok that it’s tedious. Tedium is a sign of hard work (I’m a professional pianist slogging through some particularly tedious contemporary saxophone rep at the moment, so this is especially prescient…) I like having a daily quota. Do a square a day, or 3 squares every 2 days, or something, and then that blanket WILL be done and you’ll hardly blink an eye.

  25. an insane lad · ·

    Tedium is part of the work of any great artist! It just doesn’t look good on facebook 😉 Thanxx for reminding me!

  26. Loved your post. I just finished a big blanket and I can relate on your concern regarding how repetitive and bored speaking on the blanket over and over can be. Don’t worry though. Tedium applies here as well. All crafters can understand this. I’m very grateful for the tedium. I learned to be patient, to enjoy the process, to be more understanding and humble. I strongly believe that tedium makes better people.

  27. I love your blog, Glenna! Anyone who has knitted miles of stockinette stitch knows the definition of tedium. I love seeing how you’re coming along in your projects. It’s the stuff of blogs as far as I am concerned!

  28. What a terrific blog post, on a topic we can all relate to. You’re giving me the fuel I need as I am laboring through a log-cabin blanket knitted with #2 needles (I know, glutton for punishment) and delaying further blog posts on the topic. As for crochet, it’s all good, it’s all yarn, and I can only wish I spoke it as fluently as you do!

  29. jenjoywil1 · ·

    I am making a lacy baby blanket for my first grandchild and it’s a huge undertaking. I’m intimidated by it but, at the same time, love working on it. Thank you for this post – it gave me courage!

  30. I adore granny squares and your colors are gorgeous 🙂

  31. Thanks for keeping it real, Glenna. Tedium and boredom is part of the “making” experience. I just finished a stockinette sweater that took months due to my own mistake with row gauge. Finally I just decided I wasn’t letting the knitting get the best of the project and that I was going to finish. So I did. I like to read about all fiber related crafts so keep hooking, knitting, designing, and writing.

  32. I’m making a granny square blanket too, but if it wasn’t interspersed with other projects it would drive me crazy too. One solution, I think, to the waiting, waiting and waiting for the end product is to sew the squares together as you go and use it as a small blanket/lapwarmer, then a bigger blanket, then a bigger blanket etc. I hvae an overgrown lapwarmer on the sofa at the moment, but it’s getting a lot of use (it’s cold)!

  33. i’m in the middle of using leftovers for a blanket, too….and I so know what you are saying about how often do you blog about it? how many different things can you really SAY about it??!? Everyone has been very kind and encouraging…..and don’t we all need a cheerleader occasionally on a project like this???!!? I, personally, love to see the progress….gives me a boost on mine, too.

  34. eeaajj2014 · ·

    As a knitter I love to crochet, I started out doing that first. Last year I was home recooperating from a hysterectomy, I completed a giant granny square lap-gan. Each row was a different color and each row took a bit longer to finish. I think that’s why it’s only a lap-gan and not bed sized! When I look at it I remember that I came through a rough time and have something beautiful to show for it! Can’t wait to see the finished project Glenna!

  35. […] kept myself busy with the yarn this past winter, but one downside of pursuing the big epic projects is that it does start to eat into project time that might otherwise be spent working on something […]

  36. You wrote that for ME! I’m working on 150 crocheted blocks in 150 different colors. I love color and the pattern is interesting enough without being difficult. There is a comfort in repetition.

  37. Theresa · ·

    Thank you for your post. I am doing three blankets for my granddaughters for Christmas. Lucky, I am doing Kaffe Fasset and there are only 42 squares, Nice big squares. It’s fun and I am going to finish by Christmas this year. You have inspired me.

  38. Thanks, I needed that today

  39. Your granny is so pretty, I love grannys. I have one that I am working on now, weaving in those ends. And then putting it together, I am so looking forward to doing this. It starts with varagated then the next round is solid then back to varagated and then finishing off in a solid. And they are all outlined in black. I just have to find a good way of putting them together besides needle and yard them together. I want to try crocheting them together. I made it to be able to fit a queen sized bed. Its a big one. When I get it together I am planning on crocheting a black shell stitch all around it.

    I am also working on a knitted shawl which is sort of getting difficult, as I havent used this stitch before in a project, it is called Ostrich Plumes. It’s pretty, but hard for me, but I will get it, cause I love the way it looks.

    Glenna, your site is amazing, your patterns are so beautiful.

    Thank you so much for adding me today.

    Andrea

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