Three fat balls of yarn in green and gray sit on my bookshelf. Knitting needles are stuck through one ball and a half-foot scarf hangs off of one knitting needle. The pattern is simple, the scarf is pretty, but still, this half-finished project languishes. One of many projects started and left undone.

I’m not much of a knitter. My grandma tried to teach me how when I was 12, but I had too much frenetic energy to sit still and knit. I had no patience for it, which is why I swore off attempting any more knitting projects ever. Then COVID winter came, when visiting bars sounded like a deeply bad idea, dances weren’t happening and live music was still a distant dream. I was tired of re-watching the same episodes of Community. The half-priced yarn called out to me in the store. It said, “I am the perfect shade of green. Buy me. Knit a scarf. You could finish it just in time for Christmas. A cheap and handmade gift—all in a timely manner.”

A scarf, I thought, it couldn’t be that complicated. The temptation was too much. I bought the yarn.

I found a YouTube tutorial on knitting. I practiced the basics. Got a hang of the cast on, the knit stich. It all made sense. The vague memory of grandma teaching me flooded back. I felt warm and fuzzy, and I hadn’t even knitted anything warm and fuzzy yet.

And it was easy, knitting a scarf.

I watched some television and let my hands move through the motions, over and over again. Easy, I thought. Slow going, but easy. Soon though, I ran into trouble. It was less than a week later when I hadn’t touched the project in a few days. A month later, the ball of yarn, knitting needles stabbed through the center, was still resting in the same spot on my armchair. Taking up space, but no knitting happening.

No need to put it away, I thought. I’ll get back to it. Only I didn’t. Months passed. I did not get back to it. I moved. The balls of yarn and quarter scarf were thrown into a cardboard box, then unpacked. Still, I have not touched the knitting needles. Still, the scarf remains unmade. Still, despite no progress, I have faith in the project. I think, yes, I will do this. This will happen in its time.

I am bad at giving up and letting go. Which is sometimes terribly inconvenient. I have a long history of half-finished projects, that I still have some irrational optimism will be completed, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Sometimes not giving up is a very bad idea. I have been known to stay in relationships perhaps longer than was wise, and to stay at workplaces when it was past time to move on to the next thing.

Sometimes not giving up is everything. Being willing to fail again and again is crucial for actually getting something done. Not giving up is central to journalism, and writing, and life. Not giving up in journalism seems to be more about active persistence, making the same phone call again, sending another request for information. The payoff is endless opportunity to satisfy your own curiosity and to make your curiosity of service to someone else. There’s always something new to learn, and sometimes those things are useful for the people reading your work. At least, that’s the hope.

All this to say, I don’t know the answer. When is the right time to give up? Should I keep the yarn? Should I pass it on to someone who actually knits? There’s always next Christmas…



Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain