How do you tackle a big project?

By Amelia © September 12, 2013

This county fair project of mine is what you call a "big project". Not quite as simple as making a sweater ... then I'd find wool, spin it, and use the pattern to knit it up. Done. "Small matter of time" ... Which is why I don't have a handspun sweater. My life is lived in smaller-than-a-sweater chunks.

I have a clear goal, 24 finished fair entries. 18 of them are skeins, 6 are finished items. Three different spinning tools (wheel, spindle, charkha). Fiber processing (tool of my choice), dyeing fiber (method of my choice, just has to be done before spinning).

Figuring it didn't really matter where I started, I looked at what I had on my wheel and spindle already. Got that Turkish spindle project done (you saw it already), with the great addition that I had carded the fiber for it, to boot! There was a sock project on my wheel, which has some fiber processing in it, though since it's only one of the three plies, I may do a different one for that lot and  use this one for 3-ply on a wheel. But that is yet to come.

See that little diversion? That's what happens when I start planning... distraction. I find it's easiest to think and plan with marker-on-whiteboard or pen-on-paper.

As you can see, I like charts. The 8 yarns and 3 spinning tools lend themselves nicely to a chart. Making a list of fibers helped me build some variety in my chart. The fair doesn't award fibers differently, but the judge will recognize when harder fibers are selected, and grade accordingly. That's a discussion yet to come ... What helps your entry stand out, or How is your entry judged.

This gives me a roadmap ... I marked off the three I have done (yay! small party!) and noted those I have already started. I found two kinds of project totes in my studio ... Apparently I like to sample spin quite a bit, as spindles with tufts of wool fill quite a few bags. There needs to be a good sample-wrap-up session in that studio of mine. But there were several spindle projects started, an unfinished crochet hat, and a silk scarf I began recently that lend themselves to fair entries.

I am collecting fiber to spin and finished entries in a tote so I can stay on task. The nice thing about this project is I can change an entry if something different strikes my fancy. I may also want to "beef up" an entry by going for something more difficult than what I plan. So there is flexibility built-in as well.

The next step in planning is time management. I can't guarantee each project is doable in two weeks or less, even with materials on hand. The skeins are all reasonable, but the knitting and crochet, especially if I need to spin the yarn (nothing suitable in my handspun stash), will take longer. I'm not a particularly speedy knitter. I've picked projects that are fairly small. None will win me best of show, but that's a goal for another year.

To help get things done on time, then, I need to start the knit and crochet projects soon, and if I can use existing skeins, even better. Time to round up the handspun stash and hold auditions ... I think a few favorite skeins are about to graduate to UFO status. I don't know about you, but particularly favorite fibers and skeins tend to stay in skein for a while before they absorb their potential and become favorite hats, socks, or scarves.

After that, I need to round up the fibers on my chart and then make steady progress. I'm more likely to succeed if I spend an hour or two a day than if I say Tuesdays are Fair days. That's about knowing myself ... How do you work best? A little every day, or a few dedicated days a month? Know yourself, and set aside time accordingly.

If there was a clear order, I would need to identify it and make progress in that order. But for this, it doesn't really matter where I go on my chart ... I could finish the charkha column first, or move between spinning tools each time; all of the projects appeal to me, so most likely I will keep it semi-random. Other ways to make it random would be to roll dice to pick row and column, alphabetize the entries, or pick them out of a hat.

One thing my chart doesn't show is that I need to prepare the entries for the fair. That's a fair amount (oooh, a pun!) of paperwork and reskeining. So I ought to plan on a week or two to get the entries fair-ready, if I don't do that as I go along. It is best to wait, as a skein that sits can get a bit compressed and mussed. Okay, so noted: coordinated wrap-up can be just as important as planning.

So, there you have it:
1. Plan
2. Prioritize
3. Schedule
4. Accomplish
5. Finalize
6. Enjoy the Fair!

© September 12, 2013 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I don't make "charts" but I sure do make lists. A list for everything, just to keep me better focused and so I don't forget anything.

I have been making lists since I was in my 20's, so I have a feeling I would not get very far today, if I stopped doing it now. LOL

Good luck to you at the fair.