The Pseudo-Science of Polywipamous Opportunities (or 'Why it's necessary to have multiple projects')

Some time ago I wrote about 'Polywipamy' - the state of having multiple projects on the go at once. It's been on my mind this week because my list of projects is growing. When I started knitting, it seemed ridiculous that anyone should have multiple 'active' projects at the same time but experience proved there are many different reasons to do so. Some are practical  - e.g. you're knitting a black cabled cardigan and can't see it well in poor light, so you need another 'evening' project, or maybe one of your projects is a gift and can only be worked on in secret. Other reasons are less practical but no less reasonable - e.g. you are knitting a plain grey sweater for a tall person and it's taking forever, you need a quick colourful crochet project to break up the monotony.

knitting, brioche knitting, wips

And so to my current situation. I am still working on my biggest design project to date - I'm halfway through the knitting of it, which can really only be done at home (because I'm lazy, see this post), but still have some opportunity to knit whilst out and about which is why I cast on Askews Me Shawl.

Last weekend the shawl came everywhere (in my new knitting bag) and I made great progress, but now it's quite big and the rows take longer. Several times I haven't felt confident about making it to the end of the row before needing to put it down, so I didn't start another... and progress has slowed considerably. It is for this reason that, in my parked car during a hailstorm, I also started the Malvern Cowl from Crochet Yeah! (review).

Even if it's not something you do yourself, I'm sure you can imagine how this could quickly escalate into lots of different works-in-progress. It's not just a time issue but a case of matching knitting opportunities to the right project and I mostly have the opportunity for portable things. This week I reasoned that a 'scientific' evaluation - before casting on - might result in more productive use of my time. I've narrowed it down to three key factors:

  • Simplicity relates to the amount of concentration required. The less concentration required, the higher the score. Rounds of garter stitch = 10, highly complex lace pattern worked over a long number of stitches with irregular repeats = 0
  • Ease (of starting or stopping mid-row / repeat). While there is some overlap with simplicity, this is really about the ability to pick-up-and-put-down a project. If the rows are short and the knitting easy to read, a fancy cable might be easier to put down than a round of silk laceweight knit stitches on slippery 2mm double pointed needles.  A score of 10 = a project you can pick up/put down at any point without any concern. 
  • Portability is straightforward, but worth remembering that it applies not just to the project itself but to anything necessary to work on it. A single-coloured hat or sock, knit without a pattern would get a high score, but a fair isle hat with lots of colours and requiring a multi-page pattern from an A4 hardcover book wouldn't score so well (actually, we might need another post on increasing this score).

Using this system, it's easy to see which should be the on-the-go projects and which should be left at home. The extremes might look like this:

Of course these elements might also vary throughout the project lifespan. Askews Me (which has increased in simplicity but isn't as easy to put down mid row or to carry around) might look something like this:
Having only come up with it this week, I'm still working the system out. Let me know if you think I've missed something crucial in my effort to simplify, but please don't remind me that in the time spent writing this I could have worked on my big project - I'm off to do that right now. I'll be back soon with more brioche, stay tuned! 


  1. We are all guilty of this. My present projects number 3 cardigans, 1 large blanket and 2 baby ones, a lacy scarf, a pair of socks and a ginger cat that just needs sewing together. You seem to have this down to a fine art. lol

    1. LOL - if I think about it, I do, but when I let it get sloppy I find I get less done :D

  2. Your graph is the kind of thing my Maths student son would come up with!
    My main reasons for having Polywipamy are: I just fancy trying something new, a little instant gratification project is needed, a last minute gift requirement or I buy new wool and MUST try it straight away.
    I think it's perfectly normal!

  3. I think there is one variable you've missed: how much you love it.

  4. Excellent site I have bookmarked your site..

  5. So true, I have additional factors too, like how much I'm loving the project at the time


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