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Don't be a knitting monogamist!

Feb 6, 2013

Anyone who knows me knows that I have many knits going at one time, in various stages of progress. Some are comprised of wound balls in a bag with the pattern. Some are half-done sweaters or scarves. Some are completed except for the seaming. And some are seamed and just need to be blocked. I rotate these projects, sometimes going on finishing kicks where I pull out the "almost-dones" and finish them, one after another. I really love those—instant gratification!

Dollar and a Half Cardigan by Véronik Avery, Interweave Knits Spring 2007
Bauhaus Fair Isle by Mary Jane Mucklestone, Interweave Knits Spring 2007
I also love starting projects, and I let myself start new ones while old ones are still in progress. I find that new projects keeps my enthusiasm for knitting at top speed. To me, looking at yarn and patterns and starting new projects is the lifeblood of knitting—there's always something new to work on!

One of my knitting idols, Vicki Square, decided to become a starter, too. Here she is to inspire you to do the same!

"Start as many new projects as you can!"

That's my new motto, and I'm sticking to it. I'm not talking about mindlessly and indiscriminately knitting any old thing with any old yarn you can get your hands on; instead, I'm talking about choosing new projects wisely and for very specific beneficial reasons. Yet recognizing that creativity is fluid, I want to keep a steady stream of new experiences flowing with as many different kinds of projects as I can manage.

My old motto was "Finish as many projects as you can." Although finishing projects was a functional goal, it wasn't any fun. Don't get me wrong: I like to finish things and wear them, use them, and give them as much as the next person. But as a primary goal, the focus on finishing brought forward momentum to a halt. I ignored the insistent need to create new and fresh ideas; I trampled all over my enthusiasm and enjoyment. Well, I finished . . . and I learned a valuable lesson. Then I traded up on my motto.

What design? What yarn? What colors? These Big Three questions form the central force of knitting inspiration. Contemplating all the possibilities is the core thrill of a new knitting project: a design idea prompts a quest for the perfect yarn to bring the vision to life.

ZickZack Tunic by Melissa Wehrle, Interweave Knits Spring 2009

Fitted Dolman by Annie Modesitt, Interweave Knits Spring 2005

Join me in the freedom my new motto offers and realistically evaluate your knitting and yarn stash. You may have yarn to give away—to friends who need a boost, to kids learning how to knit, or to a local charity knitting group.

Some projects in progress you will definitely complete, simply because you are still connected to the initial inspiration. Some projects started with fabulous yarn, but the design no longer holds interest; it's time to ravel and reuse. And frankly, some projects deserve a decent burial, perhaps on the far side of the moon. You won't finish the knitting, and you know it. What can be done?

First, with a mental flick of the wrist, get rid of the little gargoyle who sits on your shoulder chastising you in whispers for not finishing your knitting. Second, pretend that all your half-done knitting belongs to someone else and you have been given carte blanche to update or redirect the original vision. A large pullover or cardigan can be cut down and made into a pillow. A half-finished Fair Isle sweater can be lightly felted and sewn into a hat.

Whatever you do, refuse to make yourself a hostage to the undone. Enjoy the creative flow of having many knitting projects going simultaneously, just as you enjoy a car ride without worrying about each individual moving part. I find I can place my knitting projects on a scale much like a speedometer. On the 10 mph end of the scale are the projects that have no time parameters, so I can relax and take as long as I want to finish them. On the 120 mph end of the scale is power knitting: a specific project with a specific deadline. Laying aside all else, I power through to the finish line and find doing so spectacularly exhilarating. Most knitting projects, of course, lie somewhere between a crawl and a drag race.

Knit anything and everything you want—and enjoy the scenery!

—Vicki Square, from Interweave Knits Spring 2009

If you need ideas for some new projects, and who doesn't?—check out The Ultimate Interweave Knits Collection CD Kit! Get every issue of Interweave Knits from 1996 through 2001, including the Holiday Gifts special issues.

As you can see from the sample I've selected, the projects in Interweave Knits are as fresh now as they were back in the day. Inspirational and so usable!


P.S. What's your favorite Interweave Knits project? Share it with us in the comments!

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on Feb 14, 2013 4:40 PM

For me, unfinished projects are a constant source of stress, always in the back of my mind demanding attention. This was definitely the case when I purchased several shopping bags full of wonderful yarn for 50%-70% discount at a going-out-of-business sale. My elation soon gave way to mild-but-constant stress because all those projects I started are now vying for my time and attention. All my other hobbies had to be put on hold for the past 18 months so I can spend every free minute knitting, and I can actually feel the stress diminishing with each completed project. I now realize that finishing a knitting project feels even better than starting one!

avakcox wrote
on Feb 13, 2013 5:52 AM

I wish you will get great success in your work.

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ZassZ wrote
on Feb 10, 2013 9:35 PM

I went on a finishing kick as well, a few years ago.  I decided to pull out all of the unfinished knit, crochet, needle point, cross stitch, & crewel projects.  I made a promise to finish off each and every one before I started on any new venture.  And I did and boy, did that feel good!  

When I’m winding down toward the end of a project, I begin thinking on what I am feeling about doing next.  If I’m not feeling it, I keep looking, keeping confident .  I don’t like to bring something new in until I know I am ready for the next one.  It somehow ruins my enjoyment of the final finishing on the one I am working on.  I guess I am still connected to it.   It feels like I am cheating my dearly loved project that’s on my needles to abandon you before its time.  And that’s what I would do if I brought the new one in before your finished.    I guess I am still connected to you.  So now I don’t have the problem of a decent burial, because I know I will finish you !  Also beneficial to my mind.  I no longer have to pretend.  I’m not a hostage to the undone, because I finish what I started til I am done!  Also I hate clutter.  That is what stifles me more than anything else.   Not having a bunch of unfinished kids around to distract me, actually promotes my creativity.  Also knitting under pressure is not my cup of tea.  I knit to relax, not stress myself.   Out.  I guess I am nonconcurring on this and issue my own opinion.  

NulaEva wrote
on Feb 9, 2013 9:26 AM

Hi Kathleen,

Love the post about starting new projects; you are talking to the converted; I'm so pleased to 'meet' someone with similar ways of working, and thanks to Vicki, I'll get rid of that gargoyle, and let the creative juices flow.

I'm into crochet, rather than knitting, but I must have wanted the free pattern (just found it - several Kristin Omddahl designs - I thnk it was to see the broomstick lace - wow)

To all the knitters out there: I'm so impressed with you gals (& guys?) - some of the things I've seen on the web recently are so inspiring (another project is added to the queue)

Nula Eva

Dmsiino wrote
on Feb 9, 2013 9:14 AM

I'm with you on this one Stormweaver.  It has always been easier for me to start a project than to finish it, so I always strive to finish what I've started.  KUDOS to you for finishing 5 projects since October!   Denise

ebbyjake wrote
on Feb 9, 2013 9:11 AM

Hi, Kathleen.

Good post, as always. And yes, that's a reasonable price for soft copy of the magazine since inception. However, it seems to be just a series of separate CDs, each with a few individual magazines as PDF files. Perhaps the next edition will integrate all the issues into a single, searchable product including all those issues at once, with the ability to add bookmarks & annotations, print as needed, mark favorites, and etc.. Annual updates would naturally follow for appropriately lesser amounts. You get the idea. Thanks,


Stormweaver wrote
on Feb 9, 2013 8:50 AM

I'm going to have to disagree on this one. This may be great for some folks, but I have ADD issues, and my personality is that of a "starter" -- so if I don't work on one project at a time, from beginning to end, I simply don't finish it. Regardless of the project, I will reach a point in the middle where I don't want to do it any more -- I want to do something new and different. If I go ahead and give in to that (which I have always done in the past), I never do go back to that old project to finish it, and then, I have a dozen unfinished projects, a great deal of expense, and nothing to show for it.

This past year, I -also- refined and upgraded my goals. For me, it went just the opposite. Instead of buying and starting a zillion interesting things, I was going to choose my projects with care and passion -- and then FINISH the entire project before moving on to the next one. I have a slew of interesting things lined up that I want to do -- but I have also COMPLETED 5 projects since October, and been able to see the joy on the faces of the people that I handed those finished items over to.

I think that, perhaps, there is no one true way. I am "people-poly" but "yarn monogamous" because that's what works for me... For me, dedication is the skill I must hone... not flexibility and starting new things. Those are in my blood, and it's getting things all the way through even the boring parts that requires my dedicated effort!

Rwpatton wrote
on Feb 9, 2013 6:58 AM

CAn I buy just the 2007 Interweave book with the Buahaus fair isle sweater in it?


Dmsiino wrote
on Feb 8, 2013 3:42 PM

Hi Kathleen,

Always love reading your knittingdaily blog posts...keep them coming!    Just read 2/6, which got me smiling and left me with a question.  You mentioned all of your projects-in-progress, including a stash of "seamed projects waiting to be blocked."  I always thought you blocked first before seaming?  Have I been doing it wrong?  I have been knitting for about 8 years now, slowly, between other hobbies, and have only knit maybe a half-dozen garments (along with lots of hats and scarfs).  But I have always blocked before seaming.  Thanks in advance for your reply.   Denise

on Feb 7, 2013 5:53 PM

Hey TKerth! Here's the link for the Dollar and a Half Cardigan. It's available as a single pattern download in the Knitting Daily Shop!

Have fun knitting it!


on Feb 7, 2013 6:50 AM

I am a quilter as well as a knitter and can see where the same spirit applies. I call my version "asset management" and suggest people actually list their unfinished projects in a portfolio of assets (including pictures or pattern sheets), the supplies still to be bought to finish the items (additional investments), and the expected time it will take to finish (quarterly review of returns). I also urge people to keep their portfolio beside their TV chairs so they can regularly ponder the best use of  time, make decisions to toss, get someone else to finish something, or embark on a blitz, as you said. (My own "investments" shopping list goes in my purse by the way, including crucial measurements. Another excuse out of the way!) I finish handiwork projects on consignment and it is always a shock for people to realize how close they were to "done". Still I have my own portfolio to return to each night, and sometimes I have to hire myself to get the job done! Thanks for the great article. Nancy

Stacy-b-good wrote
on Feb 7, 2013 12:19 AM

Wow! What a great article, but also wow! I don't think I'll be able to afford the CD kit anytime soon. That said, it is a good price. I'm just not in the best financial straights at present. I had a rough year in 2012, but am making 2013 a better one. And now I have yet another way to do so: be a knitting poligymist!

on Feb 6, 2013 9:50 PM

Dear Kathleen..........I was so happy to read your comments on not finishing a project!  I think  I enjoy the process, the researching of the yarns, the planning and most of all learning new stitches and the challenge of a new pattern that I'm not totally comfortable with doing.  I think of it as exercise for my brain!!  I shall now add not finishing a project to my list of things not to feel guilty about....just think someday I will be 'guilt free'!   ! ............Diana

strodedona wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 3:59 PM


Your article about unfinished projects really described me!   Was actually beginning to think that i had some phobic reason for not JUST FINISHING that hat or scarf.

Thanks to u, I am now prepared to just go along and eventually they will all get done.


on Feb 6, 2013 3:38 PM

Kathleen --You are such a grreat person to make one feel good, rather than guilty.  I have so many projects going at a time, I was feeling like no one should be doing this!  However, I love all that I am doing --  finished, finishing, and done! I have to try new things, Some, I discard, some I continue, but I love the whole knitting process. Thank you for putting into words exactly how I feel.  Love your columns!

JWT wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 11:39 AM

~ I thought not finishing before starting something new was a lack of self discipline. Ha! I thought a pile of wip's showed a lack of purpose. Ha! The scales have fallen from my eyes! I feel a weight off my shoulders. My silly convictions have taken the fun and creativity out of knitting and made it drudgery with long spells of "knitters block". I have been converted.

yellowbike wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 11:15 AM

I always have multiple projects going and when I see pretty yarn or an awesome pattern it's time to start a new one. I am sure I am driving my husband crazy. However, I have found if I put any project down and don't right away mark my pattern it is a hassle to find where I was a week later (or later for that matter). Any good advice for this?

AKAPedge wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 10:51 AM

Although I enjoy reading your daily column/blog, "don't be a knitting monogomist" has to be one of my favorites.  It certainly took away the guilt since I am definitely a knitting polygamist!

tkerth wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 9:31 AM

I always have several projects going and it is nice to know I'm not the only one. I sure wish you'd put up the Dollar and a Half Cardigan by Veronik Avery so I could buy it. Love the asymmetrical cable.

Kay East wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 8:43 AM

I start too many things but have secret.  I use ghost stitchers (just go on line to find them) and they get me back in the knitting game.  Ususally it is just something I have not finished like the end of an afghan. but it has been selected patterns when I get in way over my head.  It is wonderful to have an option and they are so reasonable.  I like to try new technigues that you recommend.  right now, have fingerless mitts on the needles as well as two afghans that are very close to finishing.  Want to start the Downton Abbey hat.  Just can not figure out what the pattern calls for what yarn.  Love Knitting Daily.

JanetM@17 wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 7:53 AM

My feeling about many projects on the needles simultaneously. While I love finished projects and usually have a goal when I begin, that goal is often just to try out a new technique and my overriding love of knitting is more focused on process than product. I love having something new to keep me excited, something in progress to fill my hands when watching television, riding in the car, or listening to audiobooks. As I approach the end of a project, excitement takes over once again. If something new fails to engage me or something falls to the bottom of the project list for more than a year or two, it's time to frog

hcgogan wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 7:51 AM

I am so happy to find a kindred spirit.  The thrill of the hunt for just the right yarn for a specific project is much too powerful for me to only work on one thing at a time.  And I even switch off between knitting, crocheting, beading and wire working!  So you know I have many, many WIPs (works in progress) and a few UFOs (unfinished objects).  It's helpful to know I'm not the only one who starts before finishing!  You have empowered me to look at my process in a new light.  It's very freeing.  Thank you.

hcgogan wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 7:51 AM

I am so happy to find a kindred spirit.  The thrill of the hunt for just the right yarn for a specific project is much too powerful for me to only work on one thing at a time.  And I even switch off between knitting, crocheting, beading and wire working!  So you know I have many, many WIPs (works in progress) and a few UFOs (unfinished objects).  It's helpful to know I'm not the only one who starts before finishing!  You have empowered me to look at my process in a new light.  It's very freeing.  Thank you.

kelliepiet wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 7:40 AM

I'm right there with AngieAnn62.  People are always saying when they see me with something new on the needles...weren't you just working on (insert project here).  They don't understand the NEED to have many things going at once.  I probably would have quit knitting if I couldn't do this.  Short attention span...possibly.  But I love finding just the right yarn to go with just the right pattern and the thrill of casting on for it.

AngieAnn62 wrote
on Feb 6, 2013 7:33 AM

I shivered when I read this!! I ALWAYS have several projects going at once and sometimes the itch to start something new just overtakes me. There are people in my life that say "but you haven't finished...." Yeah, yeah, I know! But I'm so excited about something else now. I have 'priority' knitting...projects that need to be done for a gift or event or a KAL but I also have things I'm no longer interested in finishing so they're constantly pushed to the back of the basket. Most everything else DOES get finished, but there is a touch of guilt when I think of my unfinished 'business'. NO MORE! Thank you, thank you!!