Finish Your Craft Projects

Sunday, December 25, 2005

In craft circles, they're called UFOs: Unfinished Objects. They are the skeletons lurking in the back of a crafter's closet -- the abandoned New Year's Eve Y2K photo album or the baby sweater, minus sleeves, embroidered with the name of a child who's now in kindergarten.

UFOs arise for a variety of reasons. Scrapbookers complain of "scrappers' block," which they liken to writers' block, while beaders might string a necklace only to find that they don't have the right tool to affix a clasp. In quilting, knitting and needlepointing, "finishing" can be an art in itself, requiring an entirely different set of skills from the crafter. Whatever the cause, the outcome is always the same: "You just get stuck and think you'll come back to it later, and then you never do," says Shelly Lis, co-owner of L.L.P. Designs, a Northern Virginia company that creates custom scrapbooks and shadow boxes for customers.

So what's a crafter to do with UFOs? The first step toward conquering the ghosts of craft projects past is to make peace with them. It's okay not to finish everything yourself, says Lyn Ermer, owner of Knit and Stitch = Bliss in Bethesda. "You're [crafting] for pleasure. If you really don't like that part of it, then don't do it. Do the part you like."

With that in mind, we've scoured the area to find finishers who will teach you how to tie up the loose ends of your UFO pile -- or tie 'em up for you, giving you the peace of mind you may need to start something new. Bridget Bentz Sizer


At Beadazzled's three locations, the staff will give customers free demos on how to finish projects themselves. In beading, finishing is usually a question of affixing a clasp or making a quick pair of earrings. If a particularly frustrated customer comes in, Deborah McClintock, the manager at the Dupont location, says she may skip the DIY lesson and offer to affix a clasp for free, if the store isn't busy. During high-traffic times, customers are charged $5 for a pair of earrings or $5 to affix a clasp. Beadazzled may send larger projects, such as stranding beads or knotting beaded necklaces, out for service. The cost for stranding beads starts at $21; knotting costs $1.50 per inch. The turnaround for larger projects is typically two to three weeks.

Beadazzled. 1507 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-265-2323; Tysons Corner Center 1, McLean, 703-848-2323; 501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, 410-837-2323. .


Lyn Ermer says that finishing is "not the funnest part of knitting." In addition to being time-consuming, it's often stressful, since, as she notes, "Good finishing can make the sweater." In knitting, finishing can mean fixing mistakes, "blocking" the pieces of a garment with steam to make sure the stitches are straight and sewing up the pieces of a garment. For $40, Knit and Stitch = Bliss offers a two-hour class in finishing for DIYers. The cost of in-store work by Ermer's staff runs from $10 to $20 for basic blocking and $30 to $70 for blocking and sewing together the pieces of a sweater. Turnaround is typically one to two weeks.

Knit and Stitch = Bliss. 4706 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. 301-652-8688. .

"If you've spent all this time on a beautiful knitted piece, why run the risk of ruining it by finishing quickly?" asks Marie Connolly, owner of Stitch DC on Capitol Hill and in Georgetown. Connolly encourages knitters to learn the techniques for themselves, and offers a 2 1/2 -hour, $50 finishing clinic to help them do so. Customers who would rather not take on the task can hire Connolly to complete projects for them at a cost of $35 an hour. Turnaround is typically seven to 10 days.

Stitch DC. 731 Eighth St. SE, 202-544-8900; 1071 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-333-5648. .


Have a finished needlepoint canvas that you'd like turned into a throw pillow? Hyla Hurley, owner of the Point of It All, has a team at your disposal. Hurley estimates that 35 to 40 percent of her store's business involves putting finishing touches on other people's work, whether it's stitching together a Christmas stocking or making an ottoman out of a customer's needlepoint project. Costs vary significantly depending on the job; a Christmas stocking may run $150, depending on the level of detail required, while a pillow starts at $50 to $60. Turnaround time is typically six to eight weeks.

The Point of It All. 5232 44th St. NW. 202-966-9898. .


"A lot more people than I expected need help finishing quilts," says Georgeanna Lunking. The Rockville resident began completing other people's quilts in her home 10 years ago on a part-time basis, but as demand grew she turned the effort into a full-time business. In quilting, "finishing" means turning patchwork quilt "tops" into something that will keep you warm at night. This generally involves the three B's: batting a piece with fabric insulation, backing the piece with lining and binding the edges of the piece. Once the piece is batted and backed, Lunking uses a sewing machine to quilt the layers together. The average cost for a full-sized quilt is $150 to $200. Turnaround is two to six weeks.

Georgeanna Lunking. 301-340-0519.


Shelly Lis knows how difficult it can be to finish a scrapbook: She started her wedding album three years ago and still hasn't finished it. But L.L.P. Designs has a better track record when it comes to finishing other people's projects. The business takes on scrapbooks for overwhelmed scrappers at a cost of $15 per one-sided page. (The cost is reduced if you provide your own paper and embellishments.) Turnaround is typically one month.

L.L.P. Designs. 703-470-0215. .

Scrap & Style is another Northern Virginia custom scrapbook business. Owner Jeannette Swain charges an average of $20 per one-sided page, or about $12 per page for customers who provide their own paper and embellishments. Turnaround is typically one month.

Scrap & Style. 703-272-7383. .

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