Momentum is what we hope for when we start a knitting project is that there will be strong momentum from beginning to completion. Because there rarely is strictly forward momentum, I think it might be useful to look at the things that interfere with the momentum that propels us forward.
Initial momentum is what catapults us into each project. We love the rush, and usually, in an attempt to capture the surge it creates, we don’t do our due diligence. Rarely do we read the pattern, do a proper gauge swatch, or even think about how much time it will really take to successfully complete. We are all guilty of this to some extent! We’re excited by the yarn, our plans for the project, the freshness of the project, and just how good it feels to start something that has no baggage attached.
If you look at the list of things we mostly fail to do,
- read the pattern
- do a proper gauge swatch
- think about the time needed to complete
it is not at all surprising that we run into obstacles. It is a given that some of these obstacles will crop up given our propensity for project starting, so let’s focus on how to manage them.
If you didn’t begin by looking through the pattern, it is never too late to do so. This why I like to make up a project worksheet: it makes me at least glance through and consider the needed steps. This doesn’t mean that you need to understand everything at the outset, but it is a wonderful opportunity to see where flags might need to be raised. Knowing they are ahead can give you time to figure them out. By looking at the schematic, charts (and keys!), lists of abbreviations, definitions of specific techniques, and the written instructions, you can get a feel for the project. Patterns lacking these things are a red flag for me.
- Schematics give you an idea of what your project should look like. Should you need to make changes to length or width/circumference, it might be difficult to do without an idea of what the original measurements and relationships are. Sure, you can figure it out, but this is a definite drag on momentum.
- Stitch patterns without charts, or charts without stitch patterns give you no way to cross-reference or check should you run into a problem. Many knitters like to have a visual representation in the form of a chart, while others need to have written instructions for easy memorization. Lacking either may contribute to future issues.
- Abbreviations beyond the common should be called out and identified.
- Techniques that aren’t defined are especially tricky because you, as the knitter, need to know exactly what the designer/pattern writer had in mind. Directing you to where to find those techniques, as they are used in the pattern, is okay if it is easily accessible.
- Instructions themselves can be filled with land mines. It is important to understand how the pattern is presented to really understand the instructions. I find things that aren’t clear to me and it takes a bit of figuring to see what was intended before I know how to proceed in that situation.
I know, you think a gauge swatch is antithetical to forward momentum. It seems a waste of time and yarn–you could be that far into the project if you just start. Unless: a) you don’t get gauge, b) you have to start over for any number of misunderstandings, or c) you have to adjust to fit. I don’t expect to win anyone over to this point of view, but you could consider the gauge swatch as a tool that will end up saving you time. Swatches will:
- help you learn the stitch pattern,
- reveal adjustments needed in needle size,
- point out tricks to the yarn,
- help you to master techniques, and
- give you time to see if you will be happy working the pattern.
I used to figure I was going to spend my time knitting anyway, so I didn’t really need to plan. I turned out to be completely wrong. Planning can help you overcome these typical pitfalls:
- Underestimating how long it takes to knit the project,
- Lacking the time needed to knit the project,
- Lacking the enthusiasm needed for the length of time needed,
- Things not planned for,
- Things needed for a successful completion.
We’ve all started something only to find our attention drawn away. This can pretty much be the death knell for a project. It is difficult to resume and to find enthusiasm for a project that you wished you had finished at some point in the past.
I find that planning, then not deviatating too far from your knitting plan, is crucial to a quick and relatively painless finish. Not as much fun, but you will get things finished.