Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tips From the Knit Doctor - How do I manage all my projects?

I find myself in the unusual position of needing to keep track of many unfinished objects (UFOs), as well as yarn and patterns for upcoming projects. I am normally a product knitter – I buy yarn with specific projects in mind, and finish them in a timely fashion. But lately I’ve developed a sort of ADD in my knitting. I think it’s because I had to put so many personal projects on hold while finishing my Master Knitter certification that when it was done, I tried to start everything at once. Add to that the items I’m knitting as samples for upcoming classes, and the result is that I have ten projects already started, and more ready to start (yarn and patterns gathered). This is more characteristic of process knitters, who just love to knit, and buy yarn and start projects because they look interesting, not because they necessarily plan to finish them. I’ve never had this many projects in progress before, and it is becoming a challenge to figure out how to organize them, and how to keep track of them all.

First of all, I needed to organize all my projects, so that all the parts remain together and I know where they are. Then, when I am ready to work on another project, I wanted to be able to recall what I’ve got without having to pull them all out and look. And if I need, say, my size 8 16” circulars and they’re not in my needle case, I wanted a way to know which project they’re with, again, without having to pull them all out to look.

I’m fortunate to have a crafts closet (okay, it’s also an office supplies closet), so at least I know it’s all in there somewhere and not scattered around the house. Piling all my projects on a shelf didn’t work as an organizational method, since the needles and patterns got all jumbled together. So, I took the time to bag and label them all. I don’t have that many knitting bags, but found that gallon-sized Ziploc bags work well for small projects. I also bagged the projects for which I have the yarn and pattern, but have not yet cast on. I put a piece of masking tape with the project name on the outside of each bag, and put them all on shelves in the closet. Here’s a picture of them all, piled on a table:

However, I also wanted to have a list of which projects are in progress and which ones I have the yarn and pattern for, for ease of choosing what to work on next. I was keeping a written list, which worked until my number of projects suddenly grew and I had trouble keeping it up to date, when I could find it at all. I can think of two solutions for this: tape the list to a shelf in the closet and force myself to keep it up to date (or use a notebook that I leave on the shelf if I don’t want to use tape), or use the online knitting site Ravelry.

 I’ve decided to use Ravelry, and here’s how. Under “my notebook” in Ravelry (the top left tab), you’ll find, among other things, “queue,” “projects,” and “favorites.” The way I have decided to use them is this: under projects, I listed the ones I’ve started (and they remain there as finished projects when completed). On the page for each project I’ve filled in the yarn I’m using and the needles, so if I need those size 8 16” circulars, I can look through my list of projects and find where they are without having to look through the project bags. It only shows the size of needle, not whether they are straights, circulars or dpns, but that at least narrows down the possibilities. If I weren’t using Ravelry, I could add the size/style of needles to my bag labels and/or to my written list of projects. 
On the queue, I’ve listed projects I plan to do or think I probably will do, and if I already have the yarn for it, I fill that in. So when I come across yarn that I haven’t yet bagged with a pattern and think, “What did I buy this for?” I can check my queue. I think this will work well if I remember to do it every time I bring yarn home. By the way, you can enter all your yarn into “stash” under “my notebook,” and if you find a new project you want to try, you can check that list instead of pawing through your yarn bins to see if you already have suitable yarn. 

When I come across patterns on Ravelry that I like but don’t know if I actually will do, I click on the heart on the upper right on the pattern page to add it to “favorites,” so that I can find it later if I decide to make it. This way it doesn’t clutter up my queue.

I got the Ravulous app on my smartphone so that I can check my list wherever I am; it is available for Android phones. You can use the browser on your smartphone to call up Ravelry pages, but then you get an entire Ravelry page in tiny type on your small phone screen. Ravulous pulls up a smaller set of information that is readable on the phone screen without having to enlarge it. 

I should be able to keep better track of my knitting projects now. I hope to soon start finishing these off and get back to my usual state of only four projects at most in progress, but until then, I hope to just be better organized. 

I’d love to read about the solutions you’ve found. We’ve opened a thread in Crazy Girl’s Ravelry group for you to share your ideas. Click here and let us do YOU organize your projects?

Nancy Simet is Crazy Girl Cedar Fall's resident Knit Doctor. She is a Level Three Master Knitter Certification from The Knitting Guild Association's Master Knitter Program.