WIP crazy

A few weeks back I wrote a post called Now I know I’m crazy.  I was referring to the fact that I had just started an MBA course, while still working full-time, just as my last kid flew the nest.  That is crazy, without a doubt.  In this post, I want to talk about another kind of crazy.  Now, for those of you who aren’t on Ravelry (which is the greatest knitting tool ever devised), I will digress for a minute.  Each user on Ravelry has a projects page, where they store their knitting projects.  Below is a screen shot of part of my projects page.

Rav projects pageEach photo is of a knitted project; you can click on the photo to pull up an individual page where details and more photos can be stored, including start and end dates for the project, pattern details, yarn used, modifications, notes, etc.  These projects can be organized in any number of ways, but the majority of knitters use the default options whereby your WIPs (works in progress) come first, followed by your finished projects in reverse chronological order.  The first two photos, in the top row left, show my two WIPS – the Soumak Scarf Wrap and the Exeter jacket.  If you have very good eyes and you squint carefully at this screen shot, you will see that the top right-hand corner of these two photos is marked “wip”. The other photos show my completed knitted projects in order of finishing – the purple Viajante shawl was just finished last week; the green Flecktone mitts in the second row where finished in early January this year (this has been a rather slow year for me on the knitting front) and the rest were among the projects I finished in 2012.

By definition, a WIP is a project which has been cast on (thus, is “on the needles” as we knitters say).  I normally try to have between 2 and 5 WIPs going at any one time.  Two, because it is good to have more than one given the vagaries of interest and time and concentration (i.e. some projects need lots of quiet and focus and others can be done while simultaneously cooking dinner and helping your kids with their homework).  Five because, well, its hard to keep track of too many; experience tells me that five is about my upper limit.

Now, I spend a lot of time surfing Ravelry, looking at other people’s projects, patterns, etc.  When I see something I like, I click on that knitter’s project page.  My eye first goes to the number of projects – on my page above you can see that it says ’61 projects’.  That means that I have loaded up details and photos of 61 projects (these are just those that I have knitted since joining Ravelry, though even some of those I haven’t bothered to enter).  Note that this 61 includes the two WIPs and 59 completed projects.  You can often make a sort of initial assumption about the knitter by the number of projects – someone with less than 10 is likely a beginner.  Someone with 100 is likely pretty good.  (These often have no correlation to reality; the knitter with 10 may have knit hundreds of beautiful sweaters over a long lifetime and has only just discovered Ravelry, or perhaps just got access to a digital camera; the knitter with 100 may have just knit 100 garter stitch dish cloths and showcased each individually.)  Then, I scroll down the page and check out all of the projects.  I click on those I particularly like and take a closer look.  Sometimes, I will make comments, or add someone to my friends so I can follow their future knitting activity.

The other day, I came across someone who had over 300 projects.  When I scrolled down, I noticed that she had lots of WIPs.  I mean LOTS of WIPs.  For each one, she had a photo, of a knitting needle with a few rows of knitting on it, and a link to the pattern and the type and amount of yarn set aside for the project.    I couldn’t help myself, I started counting.  This knitter had over 240 WIPs.  I hope not to offend anyone by saying this, but this strikes me as totally insane.  This is CRAZY.

Let me try to enumerate the reasons why:

  1. Each of these WIPs is cast on and is thus “using” a knitting needle, or set of needles.  Let us say that your knitting needles cost $5 each (using US currency here for no particular reason, and probably underestimating the cost of a needle).  This means that you have $1200 worth of knitting needles wasting away in your WIP pile.  This means that, unless you own a knitting store or manufacture the needles yourself, it is very likely that you never have a needle handy when you want to cast on, and will have to keep buying more and more and more.
  2. Each of these projects takes yarn.  Let us say that, on average, each project takes $30 worth of yarn.  (I will point out, that for me at least, this is a wild underestimation of yarn costs.) This means that you have $7200 worth of yarn sitting around, dedicated to WIPs (thus, I will repeat, “on the needles”).
  3. This means that you need to have some way to keep track simultaneously of 240 patterns, 240 swatches, plus notes and modifications for each one.  I know that Ravelry makes this easier, but still this seems ludicrous.  For example, I have two WIPs at the moment, but every time I pick up my Exeter jacket after having been knitting something else, I have to spend some time re-familiarizing myself with the complex cable patterning, and looking over my notes to get back on track with where I left off.  Plus, my fingers have lost the “feel” for the pattern, and I sometimes have to re-learn the finger memory.  With 240 projects, you will never feel on-track and will constantly be re-familiarizing yourself with each one.
  4. I don’t know about you, but my tastes change.  The project that I found pretty two years ago, may not appeal to me today.  Trends in yarns, patterns and colours change all the time.  Why have 240 projects picked out today, each with yarn and resources already committed to it, when tomorrow you may not even like them?
  5. In 2012, I knit 13 projects.  That was a pretty average year for me.  If I steadily knit away at this rate, finishing 13 projects per year, it would take me OVER 18 YEARS to finish those 240 WIPs.  And that is assuming that in that 18 years I don’t cast on anything else.  Even if you knit three times as fast as I do, it would still take you over 6 years to finish, and my bet is that anyone who currently has 240 WIPs will not stop casting on.

In short, dear readers, this is seriously crazy.  Of course, we all have our own brand of craziness, and this one at least isn’t harming anyone.  Live and let live, after all.  It might help keep knitting needle manufacturers and yarn producers in business.  It could be that centuries from now, archeologists will find great basements full of thousands of ziplock plastic baggies each containing a knitting needle supporting a few rows of decaying yarn remnants, and come to some interesting conclusions about early 21st century life.

I do, however, have one request for the WIP-addicted knitter:  PLEASE, sort your project page so the WIPs are at the bottom.