And so the days are filled...

31 December 2007

What's next then

My mum tells me that among the first 'coherent' syllables I uttered as a babe in arms sounded something like "wet mouse". She liked to think I was asking "What next?" It does seem to be a question I love more than many other of life's imponderables.

While the 'what next' question hardly ever gives me pause when thinking about books, I find that with knitting, it is something I can ponder until the cows come home and still enjoy pondering some more the next day. I know I'm not alone - last month Theresa asked what project her readers were enjoying most right now, and many of them said 'The one that's still in my head'.

For me, the project in my head is often the most enjoyable because
1. I haven't had a chance to stuff it up yet
2. I haven't had to put in any hard work with a calculator rejigging numbers
3. It fits perfectly while it's still in my head
4. It doesn't take any time or commitment
5. It doesn't cost any money

The past week I've been trying to consciously look at what factors influence my knitting what-next questions. Here's what I've been considering.

Season & climate
Is it better to knit in advance of the current season? Should I cast on now for something I'll wear in early autumn? Or should I knit for the current season because chances are the current season knits require materials which I can cope with in the current climate? Or should I knit for the climate which dominates my wardrobe? If this is the case I might knit 1 wool sweater a year and no more, in favour of cool cotton summer tanks, light tops or wraps for chilly evenings.

As the old saying goes, knitting loves company. Sometimes it's compelling to cast on for something just because there's a KAL, or because your friend wants some company during the journey of a particular pattern. Sometimes it seems like everybody's knitting something so I should either a) get cracking on it now before I'm left behind or b) leave that pattern well enough alone because everybody and their dog has made it. I hardly ever succeed in completing KAL commitments (Forest Path Stole knitters keep quiet! And I'm sure the Hanami KAL people have blacklisted me forevermore. I never even cast that one on.)

Should the knitting basket have a consistently balanced series of projects representing all the relevant categories? Just when it seems I've come up with reasonable categories, they shift. And categorising knitting tends to keep me from trying new things outside the categories. Should there always be a sock, a sweater, a lace project, and a colourwork project on the go? Or should the categories run along the lines of mindless, some attention required, and atten-SHUN!

Mental space
I'm far less likely to be able to successfully and mindfully start a project if it's been a busy week at work or after 7pm. That said, some of my spur-of-the-moment decisions have turned out well. Projects that seem a little daunting tend to get put off until I am in a relaxed mental space. For example, I bought the pattern and yarn for Morrigan back in July. I swatched for it during a long weekend in October. And I had mentally always been setting aside this Christmas holiday to properly cast on. When I looked at it again this week, I changed my mind about needle size and that just seemed to put everything on hold for me. If I'm constantly putting off things that seem a little bit hard or challenging, when will I face up to the hard stuff which ultimately is the most rewarding?

Upcoming travel plans
I am planning on spending January 2nd - 7th at the cricket ground and it is a truth universally acknowledged that one must have a sock to work on at the cricket. Luckily I have Nutkin on the needles - but it'd be good to finish Nutkin #1 before the cricket starts so I can re-wind the remaining yarn and have less to carry around with me during my daily cricket ground triathlon. So maybe I should just forget about starting anything new and just focus on Nutkin?

Obligations, real and perceived
With Christmas out of the way I thought I was in the clear with gift knitting. But then there was a friend's pregnancy announcement last week so I really 'should' get going with that baby knit and have it out of the way early so it's not a last minute rush...

The stash
Should I approach what-to-knit-next on the basis of the most 'mature' items in my stash? But what about that stuff I just bought? It's way more pretty and exciting...

The 'hankering'
There is that little feeling deep down which seems to set the course. Last year there was a hankering for lace, colourwork, and a Hex Coat. Nowadays the hankering seems to be directing me toward things like blankets and cushion covers and cozy home like things. Cables keep drawing my attention. Knitting Nature still calls my name.

In the end what I usually do is cast on for everything that takes my fancy in any given moment and set each object loose in the Darwinian order of my knitting bag where the fittest, or most interesting, survive and the weakest end up keeping the Forest Path Stole company.

What about you? What's coming up on your plate and how do you come to a decision?