Knitting WIPs – How many should I have, and how do I work on them all?
If I were to guess, if you’re a new knitter, or when you started knitting, you had the idea that you needed to avoid having multiple knitting WIPs (work in progress), and that you had to finish one WIP before starting a new one.
At least, that’s what I did when I started out!
First of all, let me tell you my WIP story.
After I started knitting, it took a few months before I had more than one project on the needles at the same time. But my whole first year of knitting, I think I had no more than 2 or 3 projects on my needles at the same time.
Over the next few years, my WIP pile slowly grew. There were some larger projects that I set aside for one reason or another.
And then right at the end of 2015, my arm started hurting really bad. I had cubital tunnel, and while knitting wasn’t the only thing causing it, it was not helping. I ended up taking 6 months off from knitting to let myself heal. When I started back up again, I was mostly not interested in working on the WIPs I had started before my break.
So I cast on new things, but I still kept my active WIPs to around 3-5 projects at a time. (Those UFOs – Unfinished Objects – still live in my head though. And my closet.)
Then around 2 years ago, I’d had it. I was tired of keeping my active WIPs low. I wanted to work on more projects. So I let myself cast on more.
I’ve been a monogamous knitter, I currently have a bunch of WIPs, and I’ve spent a good deal of time somewhere in-between. Therefore I have advice to give if you’re struggling with WIP guilt!
How many knitting WIPs should you have then?
My answer: As many as you want (with one caveat which I’ll get to in a bit.)
(As you can tell from the image at the top of the page, I’m all about having lots of WIPs now. These were my sock WIPs in May 2021. I’ve since finished 3 pairs of the ones pictured, and cast on 3 more.)
There is no magical number, and everyone is different. There is no right and wrong answer. Some people want to keep it low, no more than 2-3 WIPs at a time. Others like the variety that 4-6 WIPs might bring. Still others may be fine with a dozen or many more!
Everyone has their own limit, you just need to experiment to find where that limit exists. But when you experiment, you need to let go of the WIP guilt.
The WIP guilt is real.
I get it, I’ve been there. But WIP guilt can exist at any number of WIPs.
You might have guilt if you have a WIP that you haven’t worked on in weeks…or months…or even years.
But you don’t have to feel guilty. In fact, I want to argue that increasing your WIPs can even help relieve some of that guilt.
Why are you feeling guilty?
If you have a WIP that’s not being worked on, you need to ask yourself why. Is it because you’ve made a mistake somewhere, and it’s going to take a while to figure it out and fix it? Is it not coming out the way you thought it would, such as maybe the size is wrong, or the yarn not working with the design like you thought it would? Do you just not feel like working on it right now?
The reasons are various, but if you identify them, it can help you with the guilt. It’s okay to put something aside for a while, whether you just need a break from it, or you want to work on something else.
Some time away from the project can help you figure out what you want to do with it. If there’s a problem, it’ll give you time to figure out whether you want to fix it, or if you want to rip it out and restart, or just rip it out. If the project is just sitting there patiently by the sidelines, and you fully intend to come back to it, that’s okay too.
What you don’t need is it taking up one of your “WIP slots” and then deny yourself the joy of casting on something else.
A new project can make you happy with your knitting again.
If you do have a WIP that is in time out, or your current mix of WIPs is not calling to you that much, rather than enforcing a WIP limit and being unhappy with your knitting, you can start a new project, and get all the happy feelings that comes from that. Then maybe you will have the energy to go back to your previous WIPs and work on those too.
You should definitely have more than one knitting WIP.
Remember that caveat that I mentioned a little while earlier? Well, this is it.
I’m going to say that you should have a minimum of 2 WIPs.
What happens if you’re a monogamous knitter, and you do get frustrated with your one WIP, and throw it across the room? Well what are you going to knit on then? You’re probably going to go do something else for a while…which is all well and good if that’s what you want.
But I’ve been a monogamous knitter before, and lots of times that time just ends up getting wasted. I would rather have a different project I can work on. (But I also feel it’s a waste, if say, I’m watching a show and don’t have knitting in my hands. Or doing anything else where I could also be knitting at the same time.)
If one WIP is in time out, you can work on another WIP, and then maybe the next day you’ll feel ready to work on the offending WIP again. This maximizes your knitting time.
How should you manage multiple knitting WIPs?
Well, first you should think of your knitting goals. (If you haven’t read my post about knitting goals, you can find it here.) When choosing which WIP to work on, it helps to identify your weekly or monthly knitting goals.
For this example we’re going to use some weekly goals.
First, identify your focus WIP for the week.
This would either be the one you’re closest to being done with, the one you’re most excited to finish, or perhaps one of your larger projects that you want to make sure you get good progress on.
Next, pick out 1-3 other WIPs.
These could be smaller projects, or just any other projects that you’re most excited to work on right now.
Then, work on 2-3 projects per day, including your focus WIP every day.
This could be as simple as working on one WIP earlier in the day, and then a different WIP in the evening. Some people may like to get up early and knit before their day starts. Or you could sneak in some knitting around lunchtime, or other times when you might have a break. Then in the evening when you get some time to yourself you can work on your 2nd or 3rd project of the day.
I find that when I switch between 2-3 projects per day, I don’t get bored with any of them, and I’m excited to work on each project when I pick it up.
Throughout the week, you can change what your second or third project of the day is, if you want to get knitting time in on different projects, while still making good project on your focus WIP.
Here is an example of WIPs that I’ve decided to work on this week. My focus will actually be the blue socks that I just started today, since it is Sock Week. Then I will work on the cardigan and rainbow socks here and there.
Once the blue socks are done, if the rainbow ones are not done by then, I will probably quickly finish those off, and then I want to move the cardigan into the focus spot.
A different way to do it, is work on a different WIP each day, but rotate what you work on.
When doing this, you could designate 3-5 days to your focus knitting WIP, and 1-2 days each for the other WIPs.
(This personally isn’t my cup of tea, because to me it is too rigid. However, I have known people who do other crafts who have had great success with this rotation method.)
As you finish your knitting WIPs, or finish weeks, reevaluate!
When you finish a WIP, you will probably naturally pick a new focus project. But even if you don’t finish a WIP, you should feel free to pick a new focus project the next, if you feel like it. Or you could have the same focus project all month if you wanted. It all depends on what your goals are.
Now that you have a strategy, you shouldn’t worry about having multiple, or even many knitting WIPs.
As long as you keep on knitting 2-3 different WIPs per day, and vary which 2-3 you work on, you can touch quite a few of your WIPs each month. (A planned rotation schedule also works.) This should ease any remaining WIP guilt you might have.
I hope you have fun experimenting with the number of WIPs you have! There were so many times that I’ve denied myself a new cast on because I already had “too many” WIPs. I have certainly enjoyed my knitting more since I’ve let myself cast on more projects. I’d love to hear about your experience and your WIPs!