Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In defense of numerous WIPs

My Traveling Companion Shawl. I actually love the way this is coming out, but the lace takes a bit of concentration, so I generally don't carry it around with me or work on it when distracted by other things (which is most of my knitting time). Going has been slow. But I plan to finish by spring, so I can wear it. 
Every now and then I like to do some Ravelry project-page housekeeping. This involves changing the status of projects that are actually finished but have been lingering in WIP mode, deleting projects I'm never actually going to get around to, etc. Today I counted up the number of WIPs listed on my Ravelry page and noticed it's at 131. One hundred and thirty-one! OK, to be fair, that includes two "projects" that were created for photos of my yarn stash (for the Flash Your Stash thread, back in 2010 or so, when I could fit it all on my couch. I wouldn't dare drag my considerably larger stash out for a photo op now) and one to keep links to photos of commercially made sweaters that I like. And then there are probably about 10 to 20 projects that I've created a project page for but haven't actually cast on, so technically those aren't WIPs. Yet. 

Organix Tee. Started as a test knit two or three years ago. I knit most of it on the transpacific flight after a visit home. Somehow my gauge changed during the process and I ended up with a top that is about 4" too big around. I like the oversized look but the shoulders are clearly too big here. I just haven't had the heart to tear it out, although that's probably what's going to happen. 
So that leaves about 110 projects that I've started and left unfinished. Some are being worked on regularly. Many are stuffed into the box of shame in my storage room, likely destined to be frogged or given away in their half-completed state to my knitting/crocheting friends to salvage the yarn from. About four or five are stuffed into the "do these next" box that's at the top of the stack of boxes in the storage room. 

Ombre Cowl. This is just a dumb WIP. It's a small project with relatively mindless knitting, and I really love the yarns, the color, and how it's turning out. I have no excuse for this one, and right now would be the perfect time to wear it. So I'd better chop chop.
People often write about WIPs and casting on new projects before they've finished old ones as a bad thing. Personally, I'm pretty OK with keeping lots of WIPs. For me, the three major problems with many WIPs are:
  • I need a set of needles for every WIP, or I have to spend a lot of time transferring stitches onto waste yarn or stitch holders
  • I might lose track of what part of the pattern I was one or what needle size I was using
  • The clutter WIPs create (it's much harder to stuff them neatly into a box than it is to store untouched skeins and cakes of yarn in a box)
For issue 1, I just own lots of needles, and because there are at least five yarn shops within a mile radius of my apartment (plus one at my bus-transfer point on days I go to work) that sell needles for about 4 yuan apiece (and on Taobao they're half that price), I am in the (bad?) habit of just buying needles whenever the size I need is occupied by a WIP.

Beatnik Pullover. Another sweater I'd love to be wearing this season, but guess what? It's only got 2/3rds of a body done. Still gotta do sleeves and finishing after that. The cables on this one are fairly complex and require attention. I hope the yarn isn't too itchy when it's all said and done. I love the color and the little weird tweed-like flecks. I started this in 2010 and it grows a few inches every winter before it goes into hibernation for the rest of the year.
Issue 2 is taken care of by Ravelry's excellent project-notes functionality. I am usually quite diligent about recording what yarn I have and in what quantity, what needle size(s) I'm using for a particular project, and so forth. I generally print my patterns and take notes as to where I am if necessary -- on many projects it's easy enough to figure out where I am.

I haven't solved issue 3, apart from buying and crocheting several large containers to store WIPs in. Each one gets placed into a sealable plastic bag (to keep out the moths) with the remaining yarn needed to complete the project as well as the printout of the pattern. The bags are then stored in one of my baskets. Or, you know, littered all over the couch and the floor next to the couch.

Caramel. I like the design of this sweater, called "blanket-style," a lot. But I am not sure about the yarn -- it was a relatively early purchase, and that dark blue/black marl has a fairly high acrylic content. But the whole fabric drapes fairly nicely and feels soft enough. This was sitting with only half the body done for a few years until I pulled it out a couple months ago and finished the body off. Now I'm slowly trudging through the sleeves, my least favorite part. I decided I'd finish it in time for our upcoming trip, which means I have about two weeks left. Good thing there's no finishing work on this one. Just gotta slog through those sleeves.
I guess one final issue with lots of WIPs is that my taste, style, or size might change. But I try not to knit garments that are too trendy, and my clothing size has not fluctuated more than one size since I was in high school (half my life ago!), so I feel relatively safe there too. 

Velvet Morning. Another long journey. I acquired the main color in 2010 or 2011 but couldn't find suitable contrast yarns until this past summer when I was at home. So the ribbing was sitting there patiently until this fall when I started the colorwork. I finished the body a month or so ago, finally, and now I'm trying to work up the courage to do those stranded sleeves, which will need to be set in. There's also a loooong ribbed collar I've got to do and then seam. But mostly I'm afraid of those sleeves. The worst part is I'm not in love with my color selection. 
The main reason I've always felt justified in keeping so many WIPs is that most of life is about maintaining structure and sticking to deadlines (especially for those, like me, who do freelance work) that I allow myself this guilt-free pleasure of casting on whatever I want regardless of whatever other knitting projects await my attention.

I think this is my oldest WIP. It's the first garment I ever cast on for, and ... it's still not done! Honestly I don't even know where it is. I apparently created the Ravelry project page in July 2010, so I probably cast it on well before that.
P.S. It's been a really long time, I know. One of my small new year's resolutions is to take better care of this blog.

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