Jan 22, 2014

Confronting the Clutter

Perhaps you can relate. When I’m in the throes of knitting, things can get quite cluttered. Because there’s always some type of knitting work in progress, things tend to be cluttered most of the time. I think I'm beginning to figure out why.

Stage 1: Yarn
When I’m in yarn mode, for example, I need to see it, stroke it, swatch it and swap it. At will. I like to examine all the options in natural and artificial light to make sure the colors really do work well together. (Yes, I’ve made that mistake. More than once.) Long before this stage ends, my space takes on the look and feel of a battlefield, with multiple skeins locked in the throes of the last battle of good v. bad yarn. (Or more accurately suitable v. unsuitable yarn.)

Stage 2: Pattern
When I’m in pattern mode, the same thing happens. I pull out books and print patterns and my own sketches and concepts. I scour Ravelry for patterns, tips and watchouts. I read, analyze and compare patterns and techniques. I jot notes, generate To-Do lists and scribble comments, like “wouldn’t it be easier if …” Add a layer of books and papers and notes, and well, you see the problem.

Stage 3: Swatching
While I don’t always swatch, I do so with some regularity. When I’m being conscientious and disciplined, I may make multiple swatches, all of which are then soaked and blocked in an effort to determine how the yarn behaves in a particular stitch pattern and predict how it might behave in a specific design. Sprinkle the surface with swatches and blocking gear, and yes, the clutter beast has grown another tentacle.
Stage 4: Knitting
More often than not, small projects live in a bowl or on a tray, while larger ones reside in a box, bin or basket as the case might be. In all their permutations, WIPs tend to sit out rather than get stowed. If there’s only one WIP, it’s not a big problem. With multiples, my space takes on the character of a demented scientist's knitting workshop gone awry.

Stage 5: Blocking & Finishing
As every knitter knows, blocking takes time and space. It often requires tools and gear like mats, pins, tape measures, rulers and blocking wires. The same can be true for finishing. The result? More clutter.

Through the years, I’ve set up a variety of organizational strategies to introduce some semblance of control. The essential goals were to store, find and retrieve the yarn, needles, tools, gear and patterns I wanted. When I wanted them. As time passed, many of those methods were abandoned. So much for good intentions.

There’s an axiom that says, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If my past behavior is a valid indicator, it’s time to come to grips with some harsh realities.

I’m not the knitter who retrieves a project, works on it and then stows it neatly away until it’s time to tackle the next stage. I’m not the knitter who has every print pattern neatly filed in drawers or binders. Or whose needles live in labeled pouches or tidy needle rolls. Or whose WIPs are contained in cute project bags that live in a designated storage unit. Or who plans a project in advance and knits that project … exactly as planned.                                                                                                                                                                                            
I’m the other kind. The one who wallows in the process. The one who leaves her tools and projects out. The one who makes changes and substitutions, sometimes at every stage. The one who deposits a trail of sketches and notes in her wake. While this approach tends to work for me, it creates a wide swath of clutter at every stage.

Some days, that clutter drives me crazy.

This year, I’m determined to confront and wrestle the beast to the (blocking) mat. I’m not seeking perfection, but I’m committed to developing an approach that’s simple, sustainable and solves most of the clutter. Clearly, this is destined to be an ongoing WIP effort.

How do you keep the clutter beast under control? I’m open to suggestions.


  1. Baskets. I have 2-3 in my living room, plus a short bookcase. The blocking gear resides in or behind the bookcase, where I usually store the swift and winder. The baskets hold projects or yarn discarded as possibles. In the family room, where I am knitting more these days, I have a basket that stays put and a handled basket I use to transport my projects to knit night. I also have another bag I use to carry along. Upstairs is the craft closet where the yarn usually lives. My best advice is tuck the baskets behind, under, or around side tables and chairs!! LOL

  2. Yes, it's a dilemma! Like you, I've tested various methods but have yet to win the clutter war. Sounds like Chrisknits method works well for her, I might try something similar.


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