keeping track of WIPs

I always have many works in progress (WIPs). The same thing happens to me with books. I may set a project aside for months … or years and return to it and continue as if there was no pause. How do I keep track of all the details? Carefully.

The other day someone asked me how I don’t mess up and work on instructions for a different project. It happens! This is definitely true if I’m working on a few projects with similar stitch rhythms.

Sometimes keeping track of my WIPs doesn’t go as planned. I don’t always follow my own advice! More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve had to scour my own social media posts and photo archives to try to remember what size needle I used, what materials I chose, or if I made a planned modification or a mistake.

Here’s my ideal world process to keep track of my WIPs.

Where I keep my project records

  1. As soon as I commit to a project, it gets a page in my notebook1. When I start a new notebook2, relevant information on existing WIPs is migrated as appropriate.
  2. Each project also receives an index card. These are my quick notes and used mostly for me to track progress though I will often put a crib sheet of the pattern there too. Think of these index cards as the due date slips in library books. Yes, I have a date stamp which I often use.
  3. I’ll create a project online, this is hopefully in the fledgling notebook website I’ve created, but I also add it on Ravelry.

What I record in my project records.

  1. All basic information: yarn and colorway, needle size, pattern information.
  2. Any modifications I make to the pattern.
  3. A note for project bag the project is stored in.
  4. A photo or doodle.

Years ago, I sketched and colored examples of my project bags and printed stickers. My intent was to put them in my notebooks. That hasn’t worked well for me, as I constantly swap the bags around depending on various factors. It’s been easier for me to write that out each time. I still like the sticker idea!

Where I keep my WIPs

It is important for me to keep my studio tidy and cat safe. Dot has very good taste in yarn and it’s not hers to play with whenever she wants. This IKEA “expedit” cabinet3 is where I keep most of my WIPs and yarn and fiber. It isn’t the only one in my studio, there are also two smaller units.

It’s not the most user friendly of systems for me – if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. I keep index cards for WIPs grouped by its bin. The cards help me to go through my current projects without pulling out all the bins to search for the right project. It has worked out well, except when the cat decides to run off with the index card.

How do you keep track of your WIPs?

This post was first published in 2015 and updated for 2024.

  1. This is a new design in Oink Pigments Dapper, colorway Random Carp. I hope to finish the pattern soon! Interested in being one of the first to know? Please follow @creativeacorns on Instagram and sign up for the newsletter. ↩︎
  2. A few notebooks are still available in the shop, if they are sold out, I also offer notebooks at PSG Studio↩︎
  3. For many years it wasn’t in my studio and stored other things. After renovating my space I realized it would now fit and provide much needed storage. ↩︎

tunisian crochet resources

Over the past few years, I’ve fallen in love with Tunisian crochet. It was a long time coming. Honestly I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner. When I was a child, I wanted to learn to knit and couldn’t figure it out. My mother couldn’t and said it was “too hard” so she hated it. We both knew Tunisian crochet could look like knitting, however, the few resources I found back then didn’t make sense to me.

Once you figure out the rhythm of it and learn what parts of stitches to work with, it’s a fun new form and creates fabric that is unique. I really love how it plays with colour.

I’m so smitten I recently designed a crochet cowl — multimesh. The way it’s worked up blends colors into a cohesive and colorful whole and without it looking muddy. The colors retain their vibrancy due to the nature of the Tunisian crochet stitch. This design is worked up Artyarns worsted weight Silky Twist, using a “Duos” kit and a full length skein, approximately 440 yards/440 meters total.

There’s many resources online and a few new books out that show I’m not alone in falling for this crochet technique.

Resources

Edie Eckman is an excellent teacher and creates remarkable videos. In the two I’m linking here, she explores the Tunisian Simple Stitch for both Right-Handed and Left-Handed Crocheters.

the book title is in red and green. nine swatches primarily in oranges, reds, and yellows are laid out in a 3x3 grid on the white cover.

Kim Guzman of CrochetKim has been working with Tunisian Crochet for years. I’ve been able to borrow her book, Tunisian crochet stitch guide, from my public library. Published in 2013 it shows basic stitches, colorwork, and lace. While it may look dated when compared to publications from the past few years it is a useful book!

model wearing tunisian crochet wrap of light blue, grey, orange, and teal wrapped around their body. the title of the book is super imposed in white text.

If you’re looking for a more modern guide, Toni Lipsey’s 2021 title, The Tunisian crochet handbook: a beginner’s guide is lovely. It’s available from Hoopla if your library subscribes to that service or through a local bookstore or your yarn shop. It guides you through the basic essentials and includes 20 modern looking projects. The page layout makes it easy to skim or read closely. The swatch and tutorial photographs are clear and bright. Tutorial steps match the photos and I know I almost expected them to move they felt so right as I worked with them. The section “Adding Color” is where I first saw two-toned stripes and fell in love. I think this is a useful title no matter your Tunisian crochet skill level.

the title is above a flat lay of balls of pink yarn, a swatch on a hook, and four other swatches laid out to show different stitch options. the pallet is pink to the top and left and then shifts to yellow, greens, and blue.

Once you have mastered the basics – what other stitches can you make? Yes, it’s possible and fun to play and design your own. My preference is to first comb through a dictionary for inspiration. Some times I’ll create a new combination of stitches and at others I’ll create a new variation based on another stitch. If you love stitch dictionaries like I do, then the Tunisian Crochet Stitch Dictionary by Anna Nikipirowicz will be a useful addition to your shelf. There’s a clear photo of each stitch, it’s charted, and many of the steps are laid out with clear tutorial photos to help you figure out how to work them.

Tools

I’m working on adding more products to the shop, including Tunisian hooks. I struggled to find some when I was swatching for multimesh. Please sign up to my newsletter to be informed when I add them to the shop.

technique tuesday: granny squares (& other motifs)

Happy Granny Square Day! Don’t worry if you didn’t know that was today (15 August); I hadn’t heard about it until earlier this week. May your counting be correct and your ends weave themselves.

Granny squares were the next thing I learned to crochet after perfecting miles of chains. When I was 7, my mother was still working on my baby blanket and I wanted to make the cute little squares too. I made at least one square for the blanket. Unfortunately I can’t find my photos or the blanket (without looking in the attic storage). Please picture granny squares with each round either pastel pink, blue, or yellow and finished in white. I have some vague recollection that she also tasked me with weaving in many of the ends — at the time I thought it was fun!

5 reasons why I love crochet motifs

stack of multicolorful motifs in progress on a black background. in front are 6 centers, the stack includes the first 3 rounds for the "literary fragments blanket"
literary fragment motifs in progress
  1. They use up yarn from other projects.
  2. They are quick, so you can crochet one and feel accomplished.
  3. They are portable, so you can bring them when travelling.
  4. They are forgiving, if you messed up because you were distract, you
    didn’t mess up the entire project.
  5. They are small, nice for when it’s hot and humid outside.

They’re one of my favorite techniques and part of my toolkit when
when I swatch a new-to-me yarn.

a stack of granny squares on a small round grey metal table. the squares are primarily green. a ball of blue/grey/white yarn and a gold color 3.75mm crochet hook are laying next to the stack. the table is outside next to bench and a tree on a sunny day.

In addition to my chaotic chai granny hexagon blanket, I have
several other crochet motif projects I’m working on. One is my Literary Fragments Blanket; we bought new seating for our library room and I wanted a new blanket.
I’ll need approximately 400 of these tiny motifs! They’re worked in
various scrap sock yarns, most from my stash and a few from friends. You
can read my notes on my personal notebook. Another is a blanket
destined for Project Linus. M has gifted me lots of yarn scraps over the
years, many are superwash sock yarns and I still need to figure out how
to turn this into a cohesive blanket.

Granny Square Resources

There are many books and resources to help you create successful crochet motifs.

Edie Eckman published her Granny Square Guide earlier today. I enjoy all of her books including, Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs which I reviewed in 2009
at my personal site, Penguin Girl. I also recommend her book Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs which helped me expand beyond the simple joining I knew from my childhood.

Margaret Hubert’s books are useful resources that I often turn to for inspiration: The Granny Square Book (2011) shares 75 different motifs and Granny Square Flowers (2013) includes 50 botanical themed granny squares.

New-to-me author, Shelley Husband offers several ebooks through my library system via the hoopa ebook system. Granny Square Flair (US Terms Edition) was my gateway to her work. I found her approach novel, motifs are first presented in a
solid – the same color is used throughout. This makes a striking visual. I also appreciate how she shows how different color options can completely change the look of many squares. The photos are clear and she includes charts, written instructions, how approximate yardage to work the square with 8ply/DK/light worsted and a 4mm/G hook. Further she includes an infinity symbol with a crochet hook if it’s a square that can be increased endlessly into a really big granny square.

You can find some of my very brief thoughts on granny squares in this 2014 post technique tuesday: weaving in ends.


Are you working on a granny square project? Track your thoughts in a notebook or print out a planning grid. A spare crochet hook is always useful. If you like me and can never find them when you need one, order a needle to weave in all those pesky ends!

3 tips for washing wool

It’s my favourite time of year — I’m no longer the only person wearing and washing woolen items. Today I’ll discuss 3 tips for caring for items that are made with wool. While this post is written mostly geared to knit socks, it does apply to other woolen items. A future post will discuss both short and longer term storage (can’t wait? I’m a fan of cedar and/or lavender).

Tip one – skip washing for a week (or more)

For years I washed my socks every week because that’s how I had always washed the cotton/acrylic socks I wore. The social media campaign about wearing a wool dress for 100 days is what actually made me stop to reflect about how often I actually needed to wash my wool socks.

Now I’ll wear a pair, hang them to air out for a night or two, then give a sniff test. They tend to go straight back into my sock drawer. I will wear them several times before I feel they need a bath. I’ve noticed that the amount of nylon, the number of plies, and how I knit the fabric all influence how often they need washing. I haven’t made a formal study with recorded data, but I hope to knit a pair of socks from a multi-ply and high-twist wool/silk combo soon.

Tip two – cool water and no rinse wool wash

Can you wash socks in a machine? Yes, I did for years. It’s also why I have sock toys for cats and mug cozies. Sometimes I didn’t check the settings and the entire load ended up on warm (and therefore felted).

I’m a big fan of wool wash. You can purchase it pre-made as I’ve done for years. I’m about to make my own batch because I’m almost out and I’m not too keen on paying to have what’s primarily water shipped. I plan to follow this popular recipe with modifications based on other’s experiences and honestly what I have around the house. I’ve started to gather everything.

various cleaning bottles sitting on top of a white surface.

In the image above, to the left are the two bottles of no rinse wool wash I bought years ago. They work & I like them, but they aren’t easy for me to buy more of. On the right is a bar of hand-made soap I was given years ago, some liquid castile soap, essential oil, and some isopropyl alcohol. So far that’s as far as I’ve gotten in the gathering of supplies!

Tip three – roll, stomp, let dry 

I don’t have a wringer for handwashing (yet, I have an idea on how I’ll make one). For now, I roll items in a clean towel and gently step on it, rotating the roll. This helps to draw out the extra water and helps the items to dry faster. If the weather is nice, I let them dry outside in the sun.


I hope this post helps you care for your wool items.

Need to read more?

a plastic bowl with sudsy water and some knitting. a post it with "gauge" handwritten, a pen, and a small ruler is in front of the bowl

knitting stripes, a tip to “carry up”

The first time I worked a project in stripes I was confused what it meant to “carry up”. How did I do that? My sole reference book at the time simply stated: “Wrap the working yarn around the other yarn(s) every 2-3cm (1in). Make sure the yarns do not pull.”[1] Did I twist the yarns together to the right or left? How many times did I twist? What if I tried knitting the two strands together? At the time information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now, this was over twenty years ago. All I had was the one book, while full of techniques, wasn’t a successful way to teach this crocheter how to knit!

More importantly, I didn’t understand the value of swatching yet. Yarn was precious and I didn’t think that a swatch could help me learn new things. It was a way to figure out my gauge, that was it! I also thought swatches wasted my yarn. Yes, I know now how limiting that mindset was.

Now, with years of experience I know how to successfully carry up yarn for knitting stripes. Further, I can prove it.

TL;DR: The secret is consistency.

Ok fine, I hear you grumble. Does it really matter?

That depends.

What are your goals for the project? Will the edge of your fabric be prominent (perhaps the edge of a cowl joined together at the short ends), or will another stitch cover it to create a border? In this second case, it may not matter as much if at all.

Swatch Example

Since I now love to swatch, I knitted up this example to show how different inconsistencies affect the edge. I also knit up a bit with a consistent change. From a distance, this unblocked swatch isn’t extra loud about that edge.

knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. The striped sections are seperated by solid purple knitting.

Yes it’s a bit wonky, but the entire thing could use a blocking.

Let’s look more closely at this knitted fabric. I’ll describe the three sections starting at the bottom, the cast-on edge.

Inconsistent Edge Examples

inconsistent knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This swatch shows the inconsistencies in changing the working yarn.
click on the image to view larger

In this first stripe section, I twisted a few times one way, then switched to going the opposite, then returned to what I did at the start.

The inconsistencies for this edge are subtle. It’s likely no one would notice once it’s blocked and worn a few times.

Can you switch back and forth how you twist? You can, but I think you’ll find it easier to always do it in the same way. It turns into muscle memory and then you don’t even think about it.


inconsistent knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This swatch shows additional inconsistencies in changing the working yarn.
click on image to view larger

The second section was when I decided to first twist for a few rows, then for a few of the color changes I knit both yarns together on the first stitch of the change, and in the final few rows, I twisted again.

This is more obvious in its inconsistencies.

Is it clear to those who aren’t knitters? Probably not until they stare at it for a while after you point it out.

I find this type of inconsistency the hardest to create. The act of knitting the two strands together is a very different action than twisting. There might be a reason you choose one method over another, but I wouldn’t suggest mixing them in one edge.


Consistent Edge Example

close up of knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This photo shows the consistent edge.
click on image to view larger

In this final third section I picked up the new yarn the same way every time.

It should be no surprise that I think this consistent edge looks the best.

It was also the fastest sample to work. The first two took me about 15 minutes each. This one took less than 10 minutes.

Confession: It was challenging to intentionally make inconsistencies in this swatch. I had to rip it out a few times to make it happen.

For any other consistencies in this swatch, I had a feline assistant.

A black cat is sitting on a lap looking at the knitted swatch laying on a wooden desk.
My helper while knitting the striped swatch.

He didn’t spend the entire time on my lap either. He wanted to climb onto my shoulders.

Summary

The key to a clean edge is to be consistent in whatever method you choose for carrying up your yarn.

If you’d like to learn more about working with multiple colors, the best way to learn is to try different methods in a swatch. I like to write down what I do in a notebook and also record my thoughts on each method.

If you want to read more, technique and beginner books offer ideas and often clear photos of how different methods look. Remember, your public library can be a valuable resource, and don’t forget that many (all at this point?) also offer eBooks. I wrote about a few books I recommend in reference books – knit and crochet.

As you work certain designs you may find a benefit to using one method over the another.

If you’re working with multiple colors and can’t carry them all up at once, I recommend Xandy Peter‘s solution for weaving in ends as you go, it’s available as a YouTube video.

Crocheters, I’m working on swatches that explore why consistency is important for you too.

References

  1. Stanley, Montse. Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook: A comprehensive guide to the principles and techniques of handknitting. Reader’s Digest, 1993. p. 159-60.

Fixing Mistakes

If you look closely at my progress on the High Sierra Shawl in my last post, you’ll see that the edge looks different from other samples.

I read the instructions and intended to follow them, but my fingers did what they wanted. My eyes warned me it wasn’t correct, but I was too excited by the process and couldn’t wait to knit the next section.

Before this, I’d already knit the upper triangle section twice. The first two times I hadn’t paid attention to the stitch count or which was the right/wrong side of the work (perhaps watching Vera while working on it in the evenings wasn’t my best idea).

In any case, I was happy to finally have the number of stitches the pattern called for, so I left the bind-off edge incorrect and continued.

However, this isn’t a project no one will ever see. It is a sample for LGF Suris and definitely needs to look correct.

I didn’t want to fall further behind on a project that’s being worked to deadline. What did I do?

Fixing my mistake

I carefully cut a stitch to create new ends. Then I slowly unpicked and put the stitches on a needle.

Unpicking i-cord bind-off of the Upper Triangle for the High Sierra Shawl.

It took about an hour and a half to unpick the 83 stitches and figure out how to wrangle the extras that are cast on during set-up.

Why? Depending on how I pulled the stitches it would make the next one either easy or challenging to pick up. I was also mindful of where the cats were, they love alpaca and often hover nearby when I’m working.

After I finished and all the stitches were on a new needle, I laid the entire piece out to admire. Without the wrong edge it looked better even in this state!

All stitches back on a needle before reknitting the reverse i-cord bind-off for the High Sierra Shawl.

Then I carefully reknit the edging, with both my brain and fingers following the well-written and clear instructions.

reknitting the reverse i-cord bind-off for the High Sierra Shawl.

It looks much better now! I have extra ends to weave in, but that’s a small price for not correcting my mistake when I first noticed it.

Making mistakes

I’ve heard several comments over the years, the loudest one is that because this is my work, I don’t make mistakes. I do. I make many mistakes. Often. Repeatedly.

What makes what I do different is that I’ve learned not to panic (most of the time) and how to correct issues when they happen.

It didn’t happen overnight. Over many years and countless projects, I learned to read my knitting and fix the mistakes. Learning when I could drop stitches to fix a mistake, when it was better to rip out a section, or to cut a stitch took time.

Learning to fix mistakes

If you want to intentionally practice fixing mistakes, perhaps you can guess what I’ll suggest. It’s my favorite thing to do — create swatches and incorporate the issue you want to learn to fix. Perhaps it’s a tight cast-on row a better buttonhole, or even weaving in ends. Swatch!

Do you want to make something useful and a library of swatches doesn’t excite you? Sew them into a blanket or create washcloths!

I hope this post shows you that it’s ok to make mistakes!

Additional Resources

Here are a few curated links about reading knitting and fixing mistakes. I prefer still images and text over videos.

Books

See also, reference books – knit and crochet