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Planning a Big Project -aka Writing a List

Blocking on the Frame
My Big Project

...is now complete.

For a day I wasn't quite myself because the there was no compulsion to knit.

It was ended and the studio was needing a tidy-up. The 1.73m square shawl was up on the frame in the shed being stretched to its limits and my hands were obsessively tidying, labelling wool samples and photographing the Opus.

I spring-cleaned the house....washing china;

Spring-cleaned display china

Within a week I was back in the shed with fleece in my hands planning again....spinning is the greatest "resolver" of nerves.

The point of finishing a big project with some sanity (I had not lost my mind....maybe my patience a bit) is to be organised; This is why SO many Works In Process become Works in Decommission. 

Advice to me when 8yrs old was "Never start a project until you have finished the one in front of you" and I was scared enough to remember it and follow it.

I have to be clear here -I will never start a project unless I have complete and total control over it's process. Sounds like my typical controlling self but it is the ONLY way to remain sane and have a garment worth the effort at the end.

Working the edging of the shawl.
To handle a project of any size it's important that you are familiar with all of its components. This work involved dyeing, so I needed to re-familiarise myself with that process before starting.

I confess, I did leave choosing the edging stitch right up until I got to it because I just wasn't entirely sure if I was going to be working a side-on knitted edge or not. So yes, one component was not 100% established.

The best things to help are the simplest ones:

1. Get a Manila Folder (I use a ring-binder with dividers for my projects).

2. Use grid paper (I remove the staples from maths exercise books so I have a full A3 size to work with).

3. Use a pencil and an eraser.

4. Scribble your ideas....get them down. Use the backs of surplus print-outs from the printer for non-grid work. Keep everything together in the Manila Folder.

5. Use a Bull-dog clip or large paper-clips to maintain order.

6. Date your scribbles.

7. Itemise the main components and tick-off when you have agreed on the patterns. In my case I had a Centre Pattern, a Border Pattern and an Edge Pattern so that was three things.

8. Establish your construction method -If it's a jersey will you work top-down or bottom up? Will there be steeks? etc. Doing this decides the "joining" features which are intrinsic to your project such as picking up stitches to join vertical and horizontal edges.

9. Sample and swatch for gauge in the pattern you are knitting the project. Determine your stitch count and pattern repeats and determine the rate you are picking up stitches along vertical edges. I was using 8ply so my rate was 2 stitches out of three.

10. Do the maths for the whole project set-up and draw the pattern on your grid paper. If these means learning chart symbols then do it. If your pattern involves a 90 corner then slow down, draw the 45 degree line and be prepared to swear a bit. Don't assume you can knit immediately without drawing the corners first.

Plan and draw corners or any awkward bits well before starting.

11. Get stitch-markers. Get good needles. Get the gear needed for blocking and finishing such as a wool needle, buttons etc.

12. Get the diary out and plan the events you need to be attend and clear your diary for the rest. Establish a routine (I only knit in day-light and in the mornings) where you can work for three hours a day.

13. If the project is for a deadline do the maths for the time needed and add a week for finishing and the usual chaos and drama that goes with being human.

14. Plan a finishing present for yourself...mine is always a glass of bubbles.


Plan your Finishing Present to yourself before actually finishing it....then you can look forward to it.
15. Keep your file with all its bits of paper and samples...they'll be useful one day.

Shawl blocking on my big frame  -with part of dog.

This project took three months from spinning the wool to completion. I worked most days and the only delay was fiddling and faddling over the edging stitch. I could afford that time as I had planned for it.

It's all in the preparation and planning.

Take care,

...and thanks.

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns
View from Front Door of Tin Shed Yarns





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