They are done!! And Lila loves them.
Pattern: Mini Christmas Stocking Ornaments
Needles: 2.75 mm (US 2)
This is my big year-long project, and the smartest thing I did was develop a clear plan with obvious results. My goal was to knit 2-3 mini stockings every month, so I would be done in time for December 1st. I didn’t quite get them all done in time for December first, but I hung up the first twelve and Lila got pretty excited about the daily treat inside! I finished the remaining 6 quickly (I got off schedule, it’s true), and completed the set.
Knitting these has been such a joy! Each sock is small enough that you can cast on and finish it up in the same evening, but there will be lots of ends to weave in. The smart move is to finish the knits as you go, so that you don’t end up with an overwhelming number of ends to weave in or buttons to sew on. You can read some of my earlier thoughts on the pattern and process here and here.
The loops are made by casting on 35 stitches using the long tail cast on method, and then casting off. I sewed one end to the inside of the stocking, and then added a button on the other side. The button loop was made by holding some yarn out while weaving in the ends of the knitted loop for the stockings to be hung. if that makes sense.
This is the first time I laid out an actual game plan for a big project, and it worked SO much better for me than just generally ‘knitting’. I’d like to share my tips for conquering a big project on time (or on time-ish) so that if you are planning a bit knit in 2017, you will be ready for it!
How to Conquer a Big Knitting Project
Before you Begin:
– Get all the yarn together. Using a mini skein set for the colours took the guess work out of ‘matching’, but if you are going to search out yarn to match up complimentary colours, get all your yarn organized in advance.
– Figure out how many squares/socks/whatever you are going to need. For my mini stocking advent calendar, I needed 24. If you are knitting a blanket, you need to figure out approximately how many squares or shapes you need in order to make the right sized blanket. If you need 40 squares for your blanket and you want to finish in a year, then you need to knit 3.5 squares each month in order to accomplish that.
– Choose colours that you love, in yarn you are excited to work with. Because if you don’t really love the yarn, it’s going to be hard to keep up momentum.
– Put everything you need for the project into one project bag, to keep everything together. If it’s a physically big project, like a blanket comprised of knitted squares, get a big bag to corral all the squares and yarn and a smaller one that will fit inside for the current square/sock/whatever you are working on. Make sure you have everything you need in that smaller bag- stitch markers, small scissors, tapestry needle, etc.
– Figure out the timeline, and be realistic about the inevitability of getting off course. If you want to knit something for December, start in January. Don’t wait until September, the fall is always hectic and you are going to be rushed. This way if there are setbacks, or if you need to rip back substantially in order to fix a problem, you have time. And if you finish ahead of schedule, that’s the icing on the cake!
Getting Through It
– Chip away all year long. My goal was to knit 2-3 mini stockings each month, so that I’d have them ready by December. It was way easier to knit the socks when taking a break from another project rather than trying to churn out 24 mini stockings in November.
– Make the process easy. If you know that the project requires your full attention, then look forward to times when you can knit on the train, or on road trips, or any other times when you can sit down and focus on the pattern. If it’s a fairly mindless knit, take it with you everywhere so that you can work on it whenever you find some pockets of time. Having that smaller project bag we discussed in the first section will make this part much easier.
– Celebrate your progress as you go. Take photos! Splash it all over Instagram! Seeing how great it is looking in the middle stages and hearing great feedback from fellow crafters can be hugely motivating.
– Weave in ends as you go, so that you aren’t going to be faced with hundreds of ends to weave in at the end of your project. This not only will help keep the momentum up, but makes it easier to photograph when you are doing the previous step, of Celebrating as You Go.
– Don’t make this your only knitting project. Unless you want to. A project that has smaller parts and monthly goals provides opportunity for you to take a break here and there with the special big project, not just have it be your sole focus.
The Home Stretch
– If you are are getting near the end, don’t get cocky and think you can slow down. Keep. Going! You would be surprised how many projects stall in the last little bit, when the squares all need to be joined or the ends woven in or one more piece to go…. it can easily lead to a gigantic unfinished project.
– If you know that you have really busy times in your life – say, October is always crazy for work and December is… December, then plan around it. Push a little harder on your project in advance of those challenging times, so that your efforts don’t get derailed by the inevitable craziness that life will throw your way.
Lesser known fact- I started to knit a baby blanket for James when I was pregnant with him, after I found out it was a boy. It was a garter stitch blanket knit in rectangles with alternating, randomized stripes. As you probably have already figured out, I never finished it. Not only did I not give myself enough time to knit it (I was convinced I could do it in 3 months), I was using yarns I thought would look great together when viewing it online, but when they arrived the colours just weren’t what I had hoped. I made a few switches for different colours in similar yarn, but at best it felt like an ‘okay’ project. Needless to say, it’s languished.
Having completed this mini stocking advent calendar makes me feel so satisfied. The joy on Lila’s face every morning – and the request for her ‘little sock’ that often comes when she’s standing beside my bed before the alarm goes off and my feet have yet to hit the floor – makes me realize how I didn’t just knit 24 little socks, I knit a tradition, one that is setting the stage for all the Christmas memories she will gather in her lifetime.
One morning, I was standing near the bookcase pictured above,watching Lila reverently open her little sock to find out what treasure awaited her and Guy said to me, “You know, you are going to have to knit another set for James. Opening the sock is the best part, they can’t take turns on that. Not without a lot of fighting.”
So – January 2017, I’ll be embarking on another set of minis stockings! Are there any big knitting projects you would like to tackle in 2017?