Do you have gift-giving finish line goals? I know many of you make things for gifts, and it can get pretty stressful trying to get the finish line and the deadline to match. There is nothing worse than having to finish up after the climax is reached. Talk about anti-climactic. This is why I don’t knit or make gifts. Years of spending the end of December and month of January finishing up my good intentions made me quit. But I do a lot of knitting on deadlines, so I want to share some thoughts with you—and maybe it will help you match your finish line and the deadline.
Finish Line and Distance
It isn’t that you try to do too much, it is that our ability to judge how long something will take when we are enthusiastic and excited is just not very good. That finish line seems far away, and the amount of time needed to complete our goals gets compressed by our enthusiasm. I’ve been thinking about why this is and I think I’ve got a pretty nice theory going.
When planning a project I am excited about, I almost always fail to allocate sufficient time. As I think about casting on and knitting [whatever!] time compresses. I see the finish line, and fail to judge the distance and time needed to get there; I never include the curves ahead, and I might not actually put it into my schedule as a “must do”.
We have the skills: we do major dinners and event, we get ourselves and our families (intact) places on time, we do our jobs. But we tend not to apply all those planning skills and techniques to our knitting, because we just like doing it. Except if you need to get it done, you need to plan.
I try to figure out some general distances and times so I can plan better. It isn’t that a hat takes four hours to make, it is that I will need at least two nights of knitting to get those four hours. Then I have to finish and block that hat. So “it will take four hours” becomes “if I start on Monday, I could have it completed by Thursday”. Those are two very different points of view!
Example. When I am doing gauge swatches (which I love to do), I have kept track of how long they generally take to knit, and know that I need to allocate 1.5 to 2 nights of knitting (usually) to get through them. Then I need to take and record my pre-blocking gauges, do a wet block and dry, do a steam block and dry, and finally take and record my blocked gauges. That means that I am not finished when I finish knitting. I need about 45 minutes more of active time, plus the bath and drying times. So it can take me nearly four days to get my swatches ready.
Forgetting the Finishing
Tuesday I finished a messy-bun hat. I started the project on Sunday, knitted again on Monday, and finished the hat and made i-cord for it on Tuesday night. After finishing it I was thinking about picking up another project, when I realized I needed to work in the ends (it had some color changes so more than just beginning and ending). I pulled out my bent-tip needle and had the ends worked in within 15 minutes. I know if I don’t do that at the time of completing the knitting, it can take weeks for me to do that small bit—which means I can’t block it and fully finish it. But that 15 minutes is rarely part of our plan! And what if the finishing is more than ends? If buttons need to be purchased, or seams sewn, or . . .
Where is the Finish Line?
This is what we mostly fail at—actually perceiving where the finish line is and then backtracking our route there.
Example. I wanted to show a sample to Margaret Long of LGF Suris when she was visiting nearby yarn shops. We had discussed a project that would use just one skein of Ultimate Suri. I had a date on my calendar when I wanted to visit her. I started the sample and figured out how long it took to do a series of pattern rows and how much yarn went into each series. I needed to know how many series of rows I could realistically expect to get so that my yarn and project ended in harmony. The key is to work backwards from my Finish Line & Deadline.
Next, I had to write the pattern to accommodate the gauges and yarn consumption. Then I had to figure out how long it would take to knit it based on all my information. I also added two days for blocking. Based on my knitting speed over a series of pattern rows, I could estimate how long I would need to knit (I always pad for mistakes, and other unforeseen problems). Typically I knit in the evening only, but I went on a short holiday so I actually got a massive amount of knitting done during a couple of days.
On my return I put the project on waste yarn so I could look at what I had. I put it back on needles and finished it. But I didn’t like the finish, so I took some photos and tried it on my dress form, then ripped back, and reknit the finish. I had a cool closure planned (whole ‘nother story), but I needed to have a blocked measurement to buy ribbon for it. That meant I needed three additional days after I finished knitting. One day for wet blocking, doing my steam blocking and measuring the next day, and going to get ribbon, and making the closure on the third day. The nice thing was, I was onto another knitting project during my evening knitting time!
Ready? Set the Finish Line
Here’s What You Need. How long will you need for this? _________________________ minutes/hours
- Needles and supplies
- Knit a gauge swatch (if you don’t, plan ripping time if gauge doesn’t work)
- Block and record gauge numbers
- Review pattern for size, other information
Here’s the Starting Line.
- Cast on for the chosen size
- Figure out how long it takes to do 2 rows/rounds. _________________________ minutes/hours
- Figure out how long it takes to do a pattern repeat in rows/rounds. _________________________ minutes/hours
- How many pattern repeats do you need to do? _____________________
- What is your deadline? ____________________________
- What is your best, most realistic estimate of how many hours of knitting this project will take? Think big! ____________________________
- Write into your calendar (electronic or other) each day you plan to work on this project and for how long.
- The secret here is to make sure you actually have time.
- Make sure your calendar has all your other obligations accounted for.
- Print your calendar or a list or keep your calendar handy.
- Each day, note what you are supposed to be knitting, and stick to that.
- If you miss knitting as scheduled, you need to find that time elsewhere (usually in the future).
- If you do extra knitting, you can take a break!
- You have your plan.
- You are executing.
- Make adjustments as needed, but stick to the plan.
- Check your gauge, your measurements.
- Restrict your social media time during knitting time.
- Record your progress with photos or by making notes.
- Find a knitting buddy. It doesn’t have to be another knitter, just someone who is can help by being interested.
- Block pieces as you finish them.
- Work in ends.
- Read ahead and consider the finishing steps.
- Schedule time for blocking and drying.
- Start planning your next project (but don’t start yet!).
- Check that your pieces are going to fit together.
- Adjust your schedule.
- Make a list of everything left to do.
- Set aside quiet time for seaming and detail work.
- Check your calendar and make adjustments.
- Go buy anything you need.
- Keep at it even if it seems daunting.
- Plan your reward!
Want to have this list for easy reference? Download this printable Finish Line Worksheet.