Keeping Those Wild WIPs Under Control

I don’t know about you, but my life has been Crazy Town lately, and my knitting has suffered. Over the holidays, I pretty much just grabbed whatever project was closest; when I stopped to do something else, I’d leave the project in a corner, or hanging on a chair. By early January, my knitting projects were literally all over the house. (I found half of an Undulating Ribs sock on dpns in my bath towel drawer. Even I can’t explain that one.) 

I am not one of those critters who proceeds in an orderly, calm fashion throughout my crafting life. My crafting life is exuberant, full of passionate yarn affairs, patterns stained with chocolate, needles stowed hopefully in coat pockets, and projects full of cables! and lace! and charts! Oh. My. I knit wherever I am sitting, or standing, or leaning; this means that my projects live a rich life full of many adventures long before bind-off day.

Earlier this month, I picked up my sister’s customized Central Park Hoodie, intending to knit another few inches. After searching the sofa cushions, and the bookshelf, and the kitchen table,  however, I realized that my chart for the custom cables had gone walkabout. 

 “No problem,” thought I, “I can just print out another one.” I hop on over to my laptop, and there in the folder are about twenty different versions of a chart named “Heart Cables Liz Hoodie." EEK.

This Is Getting Silly.

I’m not about to try to restrict myself to a certain smallish number of WIPs, because it’s in my nature to like to work on many different things throughout the course of my week. Having multiple projects is an expression of my personality, of the great joy I take in yarn and all the lovely things one can make with it. I love to experiment and be playful with yarn; I love to look at a clever pattern and sit down to watch the designer’s cleverness become three-dimensional on my needles; sometimes, I even love to just sit and get lost in the simple rhythms of garter stitch. 

But one does have to preserve one’s sanity somehow. 

Thus, 2011 for me is the year of Project Management. I don’t really want to tame my wild ways, because that’s just who I am as a knitter; but I do want to know where my needles are, and which chart row comes next. Here’s my strategy so far:

1. Make a list of all my current WIPs. 

This has been harder than it might seem, especially what with finding half-finished projects in my linen drawers. (Apparently, even my WIP list is itself a work-in-progress.)

2. Place all the bits of each project in a separate small box or bin. 

Each WIP gets its own bin; the bin has to be large enough for all the parts of the project.

3. Put a printout or copy of the full instructions in the bin with each project. 

Include any notes or modifications; if necessary, put a pen in each bin so I know I will have one as I am knitting.

4. Put a LABEL on each bin. 

5. Put all the bins in one place (stacked on my project shelf). 

6. Add an important piece of info to each entry on the WIP list: The needles I am using for each project. 

(Oh, look. There are ALL my size 6 circs. Who knew?)

7. Print out two copies of the WIP list.

One copy goes on the wall by my desk. One copy goes in my purse, as a reference in case I find myself in a yarn shop. 

8. Periodically go through each room, collect all the stray project bits, and put them back in the bins where they belong.

9. Make sure needles-without-projects are put back in their proper cases.

Now I know where all my WIPs are; I also know that I have all the charts, pattern notes, and needles for each one. It’s OK if things get strewn about the house because I can easily collect them again. I have lists to remind me of what I am knitting. I also have a list of all my needles-in-use so I know where they are if they are not in their cases. 

And I know which version of the chart to sit down with for Liz’s CPH now. WHEW.

Needles at the ready, Cap’n. 

Any of you have clever tricks for managing multiple projects? Share your tips with us in the comments!

– Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily each week.
Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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