Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to knit more in less time

I know it's the last day of January and therefore a bit late to offer a scheme for all year, but ever since I realized I'd finished a project for every week of 2011 I've been keeping an eye on how my 2012 finished objects are piling up. Current score: 8 in 4 weeks.  And they weren't all headbands either.

I think I'm cranking them out because I've worked out three steps to help me stay on top of the knits I really want to have done so I can use them myself or have them ready to give away.  And they are:


Take a look at what you've knit in the last year or two - not just worked on, but actually finished, and enjoyed making to boot.  Do you really only care about shawls?  Live for socks or sweaters?  Never get tired of making hats?  (ahem)  Do you knit for yourself, or others - and if it's others, what kind of things?  Are they things honouring hard dates like birthdays or Christmas, or are they just random acts of knitting?

Now take a look at your stash.  What's in there that you'd like to use?  What do you feel you should use? What do you think somebody you'd knit for would love?

And finally: list out some projects you want to make this year, based on your results.  If you keep a queue at Ravelry you're halfway there, but I know a lot of us use binders of patterns we've picked up too.


Your job here is to match up patterns, yarn, and - realistically, what you actually want to knit.  Unless you are motivated by the desire to finish projects you hate, don't put a yucky-coloured, least-loved-fiber sweater you promised a 'friend' you don't even like that much up at the top of your list.  Your goal here is to work out combinations that will have you saying

YES.  I want to work on this this NOW.

Because your goal is to be knitting joyfully.  (It's faster.)

Now take a closer look at your combinations.  A 'quick knit' isn't necessarily made with bulky yarn, but it's definitely not going to get ripped out a lot.

You know what I'm talking about - those fancy lace shawls that need lifelines and constant counting, or complicated cable patterns where the left has to be folded over the right and then under that snakey bit over there and if you mess it up the whole thing looks awful and you have to rip out a few inches or cry yourself dry.  Which frankly you will anyway because hello, you ripped out a few inches representing hours of work.  You can have that sort of thing in your mix of course, but you don't want ten of them.

Timing is going to be important here too.  Probably not going to wear that wool cardi till fall?  Good - start knitting it now.  Heavy wool socks there's still a few weeks of cold left for?  If you can pull them off in a week, go for it.  Your goal here is to finish stuff either just when you need it or well ahead of the game, so you feel a rush of success that will motivate you to finish even more stuff.

Oh, and either keep it small and simple or mix it up.  Seriously - you can knit mindless socks on the sofa just as easily as you can the complicated cable sweater, but past a certain point you cannot take the sweater on the bus and get near as much of it done, percentage-wise.  Even if it means working a bit on four different things a day, you should have something you can pick up and get going on in moments, anywhere you are.

Think of it this way: if you are knitting while waiting on something else, you're doubling your time.  But if you're just standing there, you're losing it altogether.


This is my favourite bit, the one I took care of last weekend and of which I have been reaping the benefits ever since.  For as many as your projects as you can, put the needles in bags with the yarn and the pattern and CAST ON. You heard me.  Actually start those things so they're ready when you are.

My own approach factors in the coffee table with built-in cubbies beside my knitting chair, the little plastic tubs that fit perfectly inside them, and my endless supply of Tiny Happy small project bags that are so perfect for my many small projects.  Maybe something like it will work for you too.

That's four projects I've lined up there, not counting the Crazy Cowls, which were living in a different cubby till I finished them (it was too cold yesterday to take pictures of them on, sorry.)  I think they are two pairs of socks, a cowl, and a hat, but I might be wrong about hat. 

The bag that lives in front is for my tools, so I always have them handy.  I've got pens and pencils and extra scissors in the plastic tub, too - no wandering off and picking through stacks of supplies when I need to make a note or fix a problem.

Melissa sews little Tiny Happy tags into the side seam of her bags and they are perfect for holding safety pins.   I like to use those when I'm making socks, so I can remember where I started the heel flap or the foot.  Makes counting much easier, and that makes matching the pair much easier, and that means No Ripping Out (see above.)  With the pins right outside the bag were I can see them, I don't have to worry about them falling out of the bag - and also, if I see there are only one or two left, I know I'm close to finishing the pair.  Practical and motivational.

Obviously you will not be able to line up a year's worth of projects all assembled and ready to go - unless you have way more needles and other tools than I do - but you can get a few ahead and then periodically take some downtime to reload your project tub.  

Because believe me, there is nothing more delicious than having little parcels of exciting knits just waiting for you to open them up and get going!


Unknown said...

What great tips. It's true that joyful knitting does go faster! Happy Tuesday!

susan said...

I am always fascinated by the paths that happen in blogs. I have followed Tiny Happy for quite some time, but came upon you yesterday via Ravelry while searching for some hat patterns for a friend undergoing chemo. She has rejected my cashmere hats in favour of an acrylic wig - but horses for courses (or in this case, plastic for plucky patient). Here I am at 50, with a long history of knitting and sewing, just waking up to the possibility that I should actually make projects I like. In my head, I feel I SHOULD knit things that have backs, fronts and sleeves - I don't wear them, I don't like them for me - so why? Because I have some weird sountrack in my head that says I am not knitting properly if I don't. So your post is liberating - strangely so. I thank you for it and am very grateful to have come across your blog. Many, many thanks :)

Mary Keenan said...

Heh heh Susan - I so know what you mean about doing what you think you should instead of what you like ;^) That was my vow this year too, to just knit what I WANT and not try to capture every design that floats through my head... erm, not much success so far, but I seem to be doing a better job of balancing the two.