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Skein of thought

Project Management

Wednesday, August 19, 2015           by The Purl Box

I don't know about you, but I've found this winter / year / decade to be one of those 'run around being busy, busy, busy' one's... but where at the end of the day, you sometimes just can't see where all your efforts have got to.  And you're too tired to remember everything that you've done.... or if you've even managed to achieve anything at all for the day.

Kind of a Chasing My Tail season.

One thing I am grateful for though, is knitting.  This is where I get to fill in the gaps of my days with something that I can physically see the result of.  Projects!  Such a lovely way to quantify time well spent.  A real, physical, tactile measure of time.  

Of course quantity of knitting in terms of the number of projects, does not always directly relate to the number of hours spent on something.  And as I've never claimed to hold a belief in monogamy of knitting, I can often have a number of 'active' projects on the go at any given time.  I do this for a couple of reasons.

The First Reason - there are so many different types of projects - the gift knit, the in my breaks at work knit, the TV knit, the knit that requires concentration, the sweater I really want to wear knit, the quick & dirty hat for warmth right now knit, the travelling in the car knit, the learn a new technique knit, the just because its fun knit .... there's probably a few more, but I'm sure you get my drift.

The Second Reason - Because I really want to do it.  Because there are so many gorgeous patterns available & this one is just gorgeous & I have to start it right now.  I even have the yarn that will suit it perfectly ( or know where I can get some ).

Both reason's are equally important, in my mind.  And as long as I can fit the pattern relating to the second reason into a category of the first reason, then I pretty much am happy to cast on.

Of course this sort of thinking can lead to a whole lot of new projects being started, but not necessarily being finished.  Correspondingly, this can lead very quickly into that Chasing My Tail kind of feeling.  Now knitting is my chosen Hobby, which should by rights  put it into the category of Relaxing & Enjoyable.  Feeling like I'm about to be smothered by my pile of WIP's is not either of those things, instead it creates stress rather than relieving it.

So my Reasons obviously need some refining, or rather, some other way of gating the project flow.  This year I've been attempting to work out a good system of project management.  I'd made a New Years Resolution to 'Try and be more sensible about how much knitting I can do'.  

It's okay to laugh, afterall that's what the OH did when I told him what my resolution was.  

Being serious about it, I've attempted a few methods.... I considered monogamy for about oh, half a second & dismissed it as impractical.  See the First Reason listed above regarding project types.

I tried by giving each project its fair go on a one project per day rotational basis.  ie, Monday project 1, Tuesday project 2, Wed project 3 etc.  But that lasted until project of the day did not fit with activity of the day.  You can't knit beaded lace in an All Wheel Drive Van.  Trust me on that.  What you can do easily, of course, is Cast On.

I rearranged my Queue page on Ravelry to only include that which I was actually planning to knit.  Which neatened things up a whole lot & made me feel better, but did nothing to reduce the actual WIP's that I had ongoing.

Then I decided that I'd use my Ravelry projects page to control how many WIP's I had at any one time.  On my computer the projects displayed five across... so I resolved to have no more than 5 WIP's at any one time.  Only the top line of my project page could contain WIP's - an easy rule, really.  If I wanted to start a new project & I already had 5 being displayed, then I needed to finish one of them before I began.  This method I had high hopes for - simple, easy to apply - indeed I'm still technically doing this, but I've I struggled a little with execution.  A few of my longer term WIP's quickly made their way into the Hibernating category - not finished per se, but not written off either.  Most importantly, Not in the top row.  

My biggest fail is this - a number of my projects have not been added to the page until they are finished.  That way they go straight on as an FO & don't count in my WIP pile.  If it's not posted up somewhere, then I can pretend it doesn't really exist.

Which is kind of like putting a pair of shoes you bought in the spare cupboard for a while, just so you can hide the fact you bought three pairs in one go.... then bring them out later & its like you've had them for ages.  (Okay, I was very, very grumpy that day & needed retail therapy).

Which still doesn't stop me from smothering myself in WIP's in real life.... Especially now I realise that by changing the display on my screen a little, I can now get 6 projects in the top row.... the 'how many could I get on a wide screen monitor' thought has crossed my mind more than once as a way of not breaking the WIP's in the Top Row Only rule.

Clearly this is not a foolproof method.

My next idea was to sort my projects into types of item and only have one of each category on the go at anyone time.  This method is my latest & I have high hopes for it....  I picked out my categories - Accessory, Garment, Gift.  That seemed feasible.  I could easily have a hat, a Sweater & a something for someone on needles at any one time & feel very virtuous.  And get quite a variety of things knitted at the same time.

Only I've had to tweak the categories a little.  I've added Lace - after all a gorgeous beaded frothy shawl is technically an accessory, but such a different kind of knit to a quick hat or cowl.  The lace can take me months to complete, as I find I need the alert part of the day & solitude to knit it in & they can be hen's teeth rare.  Yet there are so many accessories that a quick knits for instant warmth, holding back here just puts pressure on getting the shawl done & can leads to frustration & errors.

I've also added Colourwork, something that's relatively new to me but I really, really enjoy doing.  Not all colourwork projects are easily portable, so again, I don't want it to encroach on another category, as I can't always take this with me when I'm out & about.

This Knit By Category system is kind of working for me.  

Accessory - Cowl, hat, mitts, scarf, wrap etc.

Gift - could be anything as long as its designated for someone else  

Garment - pretty self explanatory.  A sweater or cardi or skirt or tunic etc. 

Lace - a technique based category that takes time & concentration & so the potential for quality knitting time associated with this project is limited.  These are my slow burn projects.

Colourwork - this can be any type of project - a beanie, a yoked sweater, but using some form of colourwork.

As you see there can be a fair bit of overlap between the categories - making it easier to fit it into one of them.  Looking at my projects page, I may have this cardi on needles, but I can without guilt cast on soon for the Stevenson Sweater, as the cardi is a Garment & the Stevenson will fall into Colourwork.  Limepop may be a Garment, but it is also for a nephew, so therefore a Gift.  Homin can be an Accessory even though its lace & the Boo Moon obviously falls into the Lace group

I have cheated a little with this system, but mostly for Gifts.... which I can justify to myself much more easily, as everyone keeps having birthdays!!!

Admittedly, I've also realised, I need to add just one more category.  The Test Knit.  This I'll talk more on soon, because I've had the pleasure to test some lovely patterns recently.

How do you manage your WIP's?



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