Feb 22, 2015

The Snowball Effect

There's no doubt about it, the excitement of casting on a new project is difficult to resist. Many of you have commented on this phenomenon, and it certainly helps explain why I'd planned to use this cold and snowy weekend to start an afghan. Or a sweater. Or both.

Instead, I'm launching my own version of a snowball knitting strategy.

What's that you ask? The term "snowball" refers to a popular technique for reducing debt. You focus first on the smallest balance, and once it's eliminated you tackle the next-smallest until it's cleared. And so on. Over time, these actions snowball until you're debt-free, but it only works if you stop adding to the problem by accruing more debt.

The key words there are "stop adding to the problem." On the knitting front, a recent flurry of activity had buried my knitting work table under layers of test swatches, new projects, varied WIPs, and countless design notes and sketches. With growing piles perilously close to teetering out of control, it was time for a self-guided intervention.

Whew, finally! Rather than cast on something new, I'm applying the brakes and working to regain some focus. To accomplish this, I'm targeting one project at a time.

The smallest one in the lineup was a pair of serviceable use-up-the-stash mitts. They languished for weeks at the almost-but-not-quite-complete stage, while I busily cast on other things. They're done now, and as an added bonus they're especially warm and cozy. In fact, the moment they were finished, I popped them on in their unblocked state and have worn them daily since.

The next-smallest project was a cloth and towel set. Like many of you, I'm desperate for the slightest hint of spring. Since mother nature refuses to cooperate, I took matters into my own hands and decided to make a collection of finger towels and wash cloths in saturated colors. They would brighten the guest bath and as an added bonus use up a mix of cotton blends from stash.

The full towel-cloth set may eventually get made, but the immediate goal is to divide and conquer. I opted to break it into a series of smaller efforts, and that one decision has already made a difference.

The turquoise cloth is completed, the pink one is almost finished and a variegated version is underway. By the end of the weekend, I'd like to have all three off the needles and on the blocking mat. Whenever that occurs, this part of the project will be done. 

What happens next remains to be seen. I may tackle another portion of the towel-cloth set or turn my attention toward something else. With several afghans, cardigans, shawls, wraps and various small knits in the queue, there's plenty to choose from.

There are, I think, two snowball effects where knitting is concerned. One type gains mass and momentum until it turns into an avalanche of half-finished projects. The other produces a steady stream of FOs and gradually whittles the WIP pile to a manageable size.

Many knitters are happiest when they have lots of active projects on the needles. It's a concept I comprehend but can't quite master, as this recent bout of startitis and blizzard of knitted bits have clearly demonstrated. Yet again.

Visit Frontier DreamsSmall Things, Wisdom in Wonder and Natural Suburbia to see what others are making.


  1. All beautiful, but that turquoise is knocking my socks off!

  2. Great idea! I need to focus on getting some projects squared away as well, but instead I was looking through pattern books and Rav this afternoon and cast on something new! Love the mitts.

  3. I understand completely. I am trying very hard this year to keep myself at two projects at a time...a secret one for birthdays/Christmas/gifts and a not secret one I can work on anytime. We'll see if it sticks :)

  4. It can be hard to limit yourself!

  5. This is a really interesting concept. Your towels are very bright and sunny! Thanks for sharing. :)

  6. such a great idea. I could certainly do with a couple less WIPs but have been caught in the cast off 1, cast on 2 whirlpool for a while.

  7. Oh I love that turquoise too! Beautiful knitting! I am a couple-WIPs-at-a-time girl because I get overwhelmed with too many!

  8. I really like those mitts. Enjoy working through you WIPs. You will end up with a big feeling of accomplishment. I have a bunch of them also, but they are each in a different craft.

  9. I so understand your startitis comments! I am better some times at managing multiple projects, but I like your snowball idea. I may have to tackle my projects in a similar manner, though I still have to take into account certain deadlines and priorities, too.

  10. Sounds a very sensible way of dealing with an overflow of WIP's :) I like your mitts

  11. Oh, I laughed when I read this - I'm so glad that I'm not alone! I LOVE buying yarn and casting on, it's the carrying through to completion that I'm not so great at. Thinking of my knitting with the snowball effect in mind is brilliant! I have had a hat, dishclothes and a wrap going simultaneously for a while and it's frustrating because I don't focus on anything long enough to get anything done! I'm a bit the same with books these days, sadly.

  12. I need to work on some of the snowball effect; but unlike finances/debt I can't image getting down to only one or no projects. What's the fun in that?! :D

  13. good focus idea... I need some decluttering and pitching...and I too have those projects that just need to get done... and sometimes I open a zipper bag and find things I even forgot I'd started!! Good luck with the snowballs..

  14. I too need to to focus and readjust! I find it's amazing how much knitting I feel like i get done when I work on one project :) But the call of a new project is so hard to resist. Love your handwarmers!

  15. What a great way to work away at your WIPS.


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