When Too Many Projects Overwhelm

Photo of knitting the Flax sweater

Fall, fall, we all fall into fall.

I am in a snarl of too many projects and can’t seem to find my way out.

The problem with too many projects is that nothing gets done. My projects are like reflections of my moods and whichever pulls me at the moment is the one that gets worked on. But when I have a lot of projects, it starts to feel narcissistic. Or like a form of multiple personality disorder. How do I feel RIGHT NOW? What project is the perfect match for my state of mine in this genuine moment? Which garment type? This stitch complexity? That color?

And when I catch myself tangled up with indecision that granular and, frankly, insignificant, that’s when the herd gets culled. It’s for my mental health after all. I want to work on my projects, not just think about them. I want the satisfaction of finishing in a reasonable amount of time.

Here’s a pic I posted to Instagram this weekend:
A photo of knitting works-in-progress

So here’s the list of things on the needle (which I have touched in the past month; never mind the things that are already back-burnered) — clockwise from top left if you like a visual, with links to Ravelry project pages if you want more info:

  • Gift socks for the holidays. I started a new pair of socks last week. I’m trying to work on it when the recipient isn’t home. By which I mean I’m trying to not work on it when the recipient is home. Those aren’t the same things.
  • A sock sample for Washtenaw Wool Co. in our half-stripe/half speckle dye application.
  • Sockathon #2, my neverending quest to knit up scrappy socks with leftover sock yarn. I still love working on this and it’s small enough that I almost always have it with me.
  • Cowl design, long overdue, half knit up.
  • Wheaten scarf in Briar Rose Fibers Glory Days, my impulse purchase at Northern Michigan Lamb & Wool Festival. This yarn is so delicious (100% BFL) and I have been wanting to knit this pattern for a long time.
  • Susanna IC’s Yarn Crawl Mystery Knit-a-long, from August/September. I’m about halfway done. I was really enjoying this project, but had to set it aside for some deadline knitting. It’s a relatively easy knit and the yarn—old Koigu KPPPM liberated from my sister’s stash—is delicious.
  • Flax sweater in Shepherd’s Wool, started for a class I was teaching. I screwed up the sleeve garter panel and need to rip and reknit the whole thing. Sigh.
  • Thrummed mittens for a class I’m teaching, pattern of my own devising. (Not pictured; don’t know where they’re at! Somewhere in the house.)

I am harsh at this point. No matter how many projects I am considering, I always narrow the list to two, one that takes concentration and one that doesn’t. With focus, things get done quickly — sometimes even just a day or two — and then I can get back to other items on the list. Or, with the distance of time, I’ll decide something isn’t working for me and I’ll rip it out (usually precipitated because I need the needles or the storage space).

I know which two projects it needs to be.

Not a Convert to Toe Up Socks

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Koigu KPPPM

When I first learned to knit socks 13 years ago, I was taught on double pointed needles, top down.

Photo of handknit socks

In fact, that sock project was my first adult knitting project.  (My friend and teacher Liz and I have many things in common, one of them being that we like challenging projects.)

I have merrily churned my way through — oh my god, Ravelry does not lie! — 47 pairs of socks over the years, most of them top down and usually on DPNs.  It’s just what feels right.  If I am doing plain a vanilla sock, I will gladly take it with me to the movies.  Do you know how much knitting you can get done in the dark when you just have to go round and round?!

In 13 years I’ve knit 2 pairs (and some partials) of toe up socks.  The first pair was knit almost 10 years ago in an orange colorway of Koigu KPPPM that was given to me as a gift.  I loved the yarn, but the socks came out baggy.  Whatever.  I still liked them and I wore them until I wore them out (vowing never to knit socks with Koigu KPPPM again!) and stuck with my top down approach for the next many years.

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Koigu KPPPM

As my knitting skills progressed and I met other knitters who had their favorite ways, I decided I should give it another shake.  I cast on with some orange and red patterned Opal and got stuck at the heel.  Those sat for a while.  Like a couple years in the WIP basket.  I loved the yarn too much to never have socks out of it so I bravely ripped it out last year.

On impulse this fall, I bought some Patons Kroy self-striping yarn that was on sale at the big box store.  It was rainbow-y and under $10 for a pair, what can I say?  I decided this was my moment to try toe-up again, so I could use every bit of the yarn.  With a little help — encouragement, scolding, and nudging — from my friends, I made it through and knit the entirety of both skeins.

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Patons Kroy

 

This pair of toe up socks fits better in that they are not baggy, but they have problems. I hate the kitchener toe, which sticks out and won’t shape to my foot even after being worn and washed for three months.  Also, these tall socks have no shaping for my Hungarian peasant calves, so they bunch up around my ankles.  I wear them around the house rather than try to stuff them in my shoes for both of those reasons.  Since they contain nylon and get a little less wear than my other warm socks, they will probably last forever.  First world problems, eh?

I know there are things I could do to make toe-up socks work for me, but I think I am at the point in my knitting life where socks are background, comfort knitting that I do not want to think about.  Maybe I’ll try again in a few years; maybe not.

With not much more than a shoe size or foot length measurement, I can cast on a knit anyone a pair of socks with the formula in my head.  Why mess with something that works?

What’s your comfort knitting project?

Everyone Loves Fingerless Mitts

Photo of handknit fingerless mitts
There’s been a craze ‘round these parts.  Young and old alike, male and female, everyone’s gotta have a pair of fingerless mitts.
It started with the Pageturner Mitts, which was barely a pattern, but gave me a jumping off point. I had a lone and lovely skein of Noro Silk Garden, aching to be knit. I enjoy wearing my fingerless mitts in my chilly basement office:
Photo of Noro fingerless mitts
Then I made a pair in teal blue as a gift:
Photo of handknit teal fingerless mitts
My daughter, fashionista that she is, immediately demanded a pair.  In pumpkin orange:
Photo of orange fingerless mitts
My mom wanted cranberry red (modeled by Matt):
Photo of red fingerless mitts
At the same time I was making my mom’s pair, I was also designing the Fabulous Fingerless Mitts as a free pattern for Happy Fuzzy Yarn (I also did the photography). They use one skein of DK Silk yarn.  Special consideration was taken to not only use the entire skein — no more, no less — but also to knit them at a tighter gauge because silk does not have the bounce back that wool does:
Photo of handknit silk fingerless mitts
Matt needed a pair of fingerless mitts too.  He loves warm accessories and has a desk in the basement office too, which he was using daily last fall and winter.  Somehow I don’t have finished picture of these, but I used a beautiful sea blue-green-grey color of Shepherd’s wool left over from making myself a sweater.  I should get a picture of them now because it’s great — he has worn them a lot and it shows. The only thing better than knitting for loved ones is having them use and use and use your handknit gifts.
My neighbor Amy wanted a neutral-colored pair of fingerless mitts.  For these I bust out a deep stash ball of Rowan DK Tweed in grey that I bought at a tiny wool shop in York, England.  I love the nubby texture of these:
Photo of grey handknit fingerless mitts
Meanwhile, Ellie gave her orange mitts (which were really too big) to her brother, and asked me to make her another pair, one blue and one lime green. I think they represent sky and earth:
Photo of handknit fingerless mitts
(No, I didn’t ask her to pose like this.  Yes, she is a ham.)
All the random single skeins in my stash suddenly have definite purpose.  But still I bought this beauty — DK Silk in Granite — and have plans to make myself another pair of Fabulous Fingerless Mitts:
Happy Fuzzy Yarn DK Silk in "Granite"
Fingerless mitts are great for in-between weather, when it’s not hot or cold and a chill can creep up on you suddenly. They’re also a little punk, a little grunge, a little counter-culture.  Fun for kids, practical for adults. Quick to knit and a great way to use single skeins and leftovers.  What’s not to love?

Changes!

Picture of a cake of sock yarn

So much change around here!

The Obvious

I installed a new theme for the site.  Changing the furniture around here is so much easier than in my actual house.  Also, WordPress is getting easier to use all the time and more and more functionality is trickling down to those of us who mostly use the free themes and plugins.  Woohoo!

The Big

I started a new part time job working for Riin Gill at Happy Fuzzy Yarn in October.  Turns out we’re neighbors and her need for a studio assistant and my additional availability this fall with both kids in school coincided nicely. I’ll write more about the inside life of a artisanal fiber arts studio because it is FASCINATING, but for now suffice to say I wash and skein dyed yarn, package up orders, talk to new local yarn stores about carrying our yarns and combed tops, share studio shots on Instagram, tweet about sales and news on Twitter, and keep the couches warm in our Ravelry forum.

You should totally come join us.  For January and February I am hosting a knit-along for socks and a spin-along for the Local Wool Project (both run for two months).  There will be prizes at the end!

The Best

I am feeling better.  My health was poor last year and it took me forever to figure it out.  I have so much more energy for everything now.  I’m going to be a total ass and not go into details here, but instead reassure you that all is well now.

What’cha Makin’?

Well, there’s the socks for the knit-along that I mentioned above.  I’m using a gorgeous colorway of HFY Corrie Sock called “Heliotrope”.  I started off making the February Lady Socks by Kate Atherley, hoping beyond reason that the lace was simple enough and the variegation wasn’t so strong that it would overwhelm the patterning.  Alas, I was proved wrong.  So now I am doing a simple knit-and-purl pattern that provides interest while remaining stretchy.

HFY American Worsted "Wine"

I’m also knitting a hat in HFY American Worsted “Wine”, trying out a simple but attractive cable design.  I love the cables in the semi-solid colorway!  I’m on my second attempt; I needed to go up a couple needle sizes because it turns out this is a heavy worsted yarn.  This ain’t no Cascade 220.  And, truth be told, the crown decreases are kicking my butt.

And… there’s more, but that’s all I’m going to confess to at this time!

What have you been working on?

The Shawl Collar Cowl Is a Hug Around Your Neck

A photo of Matt modeling his new Shawl Collar Cowl

Earlier this year I started a Pinterest board for my knit-worthy family members to pin things they’d like me to make them — primarily knitting, but there are no rules … and no guarantees.  I got the idea from my friend Tiffany after hearing that another friend of hers started a shared board for people to pin things to that they wanted Tiffany to make for them.  Tiffany obligingly follows through, good soul that she is.

My Make for Me board is a lot of fun for me to look through.  It’s interesting to see who is pinning to the board and what is catching each person’s eye.  If you are on Pinterest, I recommend setting up a shared board or three.  Matt and I also use a shared board for recipes and that has worked out well.

One of the items on the Make for Me board is the Purl Bee‘s Shawl Collar Cowl.  If you’ve been reading here during the past twelve months, this pattern will be familiar; I tried to make one for my brother last December and tragically ran out of yarn.

photo of an unfinished Shawl Collar Cowl

But the idea wouldn’t die.  Matt decided he really wanted one for himself.

That gave me the perfect excuse for a tiny yarn bender last month when Abbey and went to Ewe-Nique Yarns in Brighton for a little therapy shopping.  I knit this cowl out of Cascade 128  Superwash in loden green and beige (not the official color names).

A photo of my finished Shawl Collar Cowl laying on the table

Let me tell you, this this li’l fiction of garter rib and stockinette is no stroll in the park.  You might think it’s an easy-peasy pattern. Or you might think the tricky part is the cross over.  No, no, no.

A photo of Matt modeling his new Shawl Collar Cowl

You know what kicked my ass?  The increases.  I’ve been knitting ardently for twelve years and I was nearly felled by the four different M1 (make one) increases in the tightly knit stockinette liner.  I got holes, I got stitches slanting the wrong way, I missed increases entirely — it was a hot mess.  Repeatedly!  After ripping and re-knitting the first half dozen rows three times, I wrote out every row on scratch paper, along with a shorthand description of the increases, and then I was able to make progress.

A photo of Matt modeling his new Shawl Collar Cowl

During this ten day adventure, I got a message from a fellow knitter on Ravelry who found my in-progress cowl and asked me how my project was going and if I was having as much trouble as she was with the dart decreases.  First time in seven years on Ravelry I’ve had a message like that.  Oh the pathos!

A photo of Matt modeling his Shawl Collar Cowl

She found her way out of the woods, as did I, but I’m here to tell you that, while the Shawl Collar Cowl pattern looks modest and unassuming, it’s actually rather spicy and takes some attention to accomplish. Lesson learned: stick to basic socks for mindless knitting.