Procrastination nation: We tend to put off finishing our crafts

April 06, 2003|By SUSAN REIMER

March is -- was -- National Craft Month, by what authority I am not sure. Since Americans spend 7.5 hours per week working on crafts -- another fact of uncertain origin -- I thought it would be a good month in which to write a column dedicated to crafters and their many homespun projects.

But I didn't get it finished.

For that reason, this tribute to crafters is late. But it is done, which is more than can be said for the projects undertaken by most crafters.

If crafters have anything in common, it is a wealth of good intentions. We all seem determined to enrich the lives of our family and friends with a gift from our own hand. The more labor-intensive the project, the more we love them.

So we create everything from quilts to Christmas stockings -- all, we hope, of heirloom quality.

But it seems that all the next generation will receive from us are dusty plastic bags filled with bits of fabric or hanks of yarn and a largely unfinished something-or-other.

I confess to being one of these women. Like the many exercise routines I have picked up and discarded -- from racquetball to swimming -- I have passed through a dozen craft phases, and I have the leftover supplies and the unfinished projects to prove it -- from basket-making reed to cross-stitch patterns I can no longer read.

(My brother and sister-in-law have three children, but not the sampler I planned to give them as a wedding present. As long as they don't get divorced, they still have a shot at receiving it.)

Despite the popularity of crafting -- and the number of hours we allegedly spend working on our projects every week -- there appear to be more unfinished crafts out there than there are unmade beds. Ironically, those who work for craft manufacturers may be among the worst offenders.

Kathleen Wilson, vice president of marketing for Klutz, the California company that produces a variety of craft kits for kids (which of us did not start down this road with the potholder frame and its colored loops) confesses to starting a quilt that became a tree skirt.

Rachelle Adams, who also works for Klutz, says she began by purchasing a pre-packaged "quilt square of the month" from a fabric store.

"Each month, you'd get pre-cut fabric pieces to make one square, and at the end of the year you put them all together and make a quilt," she says.

"I put together the January square, but February through December squares still sit in my craft drawer -- unopened.

"I put the first square together nine years ago."

Upon hearing Rachelle's story, I realized that not only are there a lot of unfinished craft projects out there -- some of them have been that way for a very long time.

I put out a call for long unfinished projects, and the confessions just poured in. Among the highlights:

* Janet Abramowitz, of Baltimore, still has not finished a crewel project she began in high school 28 years ago. And she has been working on a needlepoint project for 19 1/2 years. "At least I can say that I am up to date on the laundry," she says.

* When Jacki Tkacik, of Reisterstown, moved to Germany with her husband and two little boys in 1969, she purchased a set of unpainted wooden ornaments to decorate. "I painted one side of one ornament, and I still hang that half-done ornament on the tree every year." She has no idea what happened to the rest of them.

* It was always the dream of Melanie Winyall, of Ellicott City, to have a Victorian dollhouse that she could hand down to a daughter or granddaughter. She was thrilled when she received a huge kit from which to construct such a treasure, and she immediately purchased the furniture to use when it was finished. "Well, the kit has been with me, unfinished, for 27 years," she says.

* We don't give up easily on our unfinished crafts. Tracy Stafford, of Denton, has carried the same Williamsburg sampler she started in junior high school to each of the eight houses to which she has moved. The problem is, she says, "I'm not into the embroidered sampler thing any more."

* Jackie Pargament, of Owings Mills, started knitting herself a sweater when her daughter was a 5-year-old gymnastics student. "The knit shop was near the gym," she explains. That was 20 years ago, and the sweater still has no sleeves.

* Mary Ostrye's third son suffered a fate common to children further along in the birth order. While his older brothers each have a Christmas stocking handmade by their mother, he has a hand-me-down from K-Mart.

"He's off to college in the fall. What a great gift for him when he returns from his first semester freshman year" to have a finished, handmade stocking from Mom. "But it got packed up with the ornaments, so the odds are thin," admits the Severna Park mother.

* Before she could report on the age of her unfinished projects, Jo Kilbourn, of Joppa, said she would have to complete the daunting task of counting them. She stopped at about 30, rather than including the unfinished projects she had inherited from her mother when she died in 1993.

When her 3-year-old daughter asked about all the unfinished projects, Kilbourn explained that she intended to finish them someday.

Said her daughter in reply: "Someday is going to be a very busy day."

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