The Gideon Method

Melissa’s newest cast-on, a poncho for Sasha, and the straw that broke the camel’s back the project that inspired this post.

“Startitis is great. Finishing ain’t so easy.” -Lynn Gideon

Yeah, Lynn. We HEAR you.

It’s 2020 and the fact is, we’re out of control. Or rather, our projects are. Completely, utterly, embarrassingly, hilariously out. Of. CONTROL.

We’d like to say it’s a job hazard. That it’s industry research. That we’re Creatives Who Cannot Be Bound By Time Nor Space.

But in all reality, we’re just two knitters who like to knit. And to Makers, is there anything better than starting a new project?

A tiny sweater Liz knit that’s completely finished, except for weaving in those pesky ends. We won’t say how long it’s been in this state.
Melissa’s Madewell Cardigan, cast on in May 2019, in anticipation of Joji’s visit to Michigan in July. Obviously missed that deadline.

The only problem with loving to create as much as we do (and we have a hunch you’ve got this problem, too) is that there’s just not enough time to do it all. Every single day, the number of new patterns, new yarns, new notions, new ideas that arrive earthside is astounding. Thrilling. Often overwhelming. This is our job, sure, but we still can’t keep up. We imagine you can’t either.

Makers love to start new projects. But finishing? Ay, there’s the rub.

A gradient honeycomb blanket that Liz started late 2015, as a baby blanket for Cecily, her four-year-old. All that’s left is half its I-Cord border and a good blocking.

We’ve tried all kinds of ways to keep on task and be accountable, to each other and to ourselves. Checklists. Planners. Journals. Weekly check-ins. Blog posts. Ravelry threads. Social pressure from our Saturday morning Stitch Circle (which always has more room, so if you’re reading this, please know you’re welcome to join us!).

It ain’t working.

Liz’s Community Tunic by Joji, also cast on in anticipation of her July arrival. Ahem.

Then we thought back to a conversation we had with our dear friend and customer Lynn about 3 years ago, about rotating a grouping of long-lingering projects in 12-hour stints, and we thought, yes. Yes. This makes perfect sense. This is something we could do.

Here’s how it works:

You corral up to five (5) projects from your pile, preferably WIPs that are sizable, hanging out on the needles for longer than two months and/or those you’re having a hard time talking yourself into finishing. You rotate through these five only, dropping or picking up new projects when and only when you’ve bound one off OR finished a 12-hour cycle, whichever comes first. You absolutely can keep introducing projects to your five–there’s no ‘rule’ about having to alternate between newbies and old WIPs–but once you’ve started the clock, you must maintain project monogamy until those 12 hours are up. When you’re done with your 12-hour block, if it’s not finished, your piece moves to the bottom of the pile; you will now need to work through four 12-hour segments of knitting time before you can go back to this project. Obviously, every knitter is different (we all knit at different speeds and have varying time in our allotted knitting schedules), so your 12 hours might span over a long weekend, a week–even a month. This isn’t a methodology that works only for people who routinely schedule marathon knitting sessions; this method works for commuters, lunchtime stitchers and for those who only have ten minutes with their morning coffee. There are weeks when neither of us knit much at all. That’s life, darn it. But every one of those little moments adds up and before you know it, with a plan in hand, you’re actually chipping away at something. You’re making visible progress. Shock and disbelief, YOU’RE FINISHING SOMETHING.

Melissa’s current WIP, the Copenhagen Cardigan knit with our November 2016 yarn club colorway ‘Bay Lane Bonfire’ + Ritual Dyes colorway ‘Scorpio’ on Fae.

For example: I started my Gideon Method on Tuesday morning, with this red sweater. I’ve knit a lot since then (rather than sleep, which is not by choice) and am currently 5 1/2 hours into this 12-hour block. I’m nearly halfway into my second sleeve, and because the button band is knit at the same time as the body of the sweater, all that’s left to do after the sleeve is done is to tack down the pockets, which makes me extremely confident I’ll finish the sweater before the 12 hours are up. That’s a good thing, because according to this method, if I wasn’t finished, it would move to the end of the line and that would reeeeeeeeally bum me out, as I had planned on wearing this sweater for Christmas 2019–I’m really ready to wear it now. (Insert eye roll emoji.) Next up is the poncho for Sasha (the picture at the top of the post), the project that started my current project anxiety. Once that’s done–and boy, I hope I can do it in 12 hours, because if I don’t, my No. 1 Mom pin might get taken away–I’ll move on to the Madewell Cardigan, then the Mon Manet Light, then the Plaid Friday socks. As these projects fall out of rotation (sweet, sweet success), I have some very specific yet vague plans as to what I’ll add into my Fab Five, including several top-secret samples in a new-to-us dyer (more info on that soooooooon!), a Hawkbit Cardigan in our Dunes yarn, a Mon Manet in Fresh Water Fiber and the first sweater I’ve ever knit for my husband–a plain pullover in mYak Medium in Tibetan Sky (his choice!)

But why now?

Before I started my plan on Tuesday morning, my knitting was stressing me out in a major way. Sashi had asked me back in December (about 10 days before Christmas) if I would knit her a poncho. She doesn’t ask for knitting, really, and she’s pretty picky about what she’ll wear, so of course I said yes. That very night we chose a pattern (Breathe Mélange by Heidi May) and narrowed down the yarn–she ended up choosing Malabrigo Rios in ‘Sand Bank’. When she woke up in morning, the first words out of her mouth were, “Mom? Can we talk about my poncho? I know you knit a lot of things, and I know you’re busy, but I was hoping you could finish so I could wear the poncho this year?”

Insert major Mom Guilt, because this isn’t the first time (nor the 10th, if I’m being honest) that I said I’d knit something for my daughter, and then somehow, it doesn’t get done. I have the very best intentions–we all do, don’t we?–but how do I change? How can I make good on these ‘promises’? Not just to my daughter, but to myself?

Liz’s Cedar Pullover KAL in Kelbourne Woolens Perennial in ‘Gold’, the PERFECT golden yellow for a Queen Bee.

Liz, too, got a hefty dose of Mom Guilt a few weeks ago, when Cecily asked when her baby blanket was fiiiiiiiiiinally going to be finished. Today’s the day, Sweetheart, she said. She stopped everything she was doing to work on it, and then. Well, you know. Life. She sent Cecily to bed that night with the blanket as-is–tails hanging from every direction, yarn still attached–and somehow, it didn’t quite have the same effect.

She’s also experiencing the pressure of too many WIPs and the overall feeling of treading water–and has been for a long time. She knit most of the samples for the 12 Knits this year, but it’s been waaaaay too long since she’s knit something on her List–and without a bona fide plan, she feels like nothing ever gets finished; the personal projects always get pushed to the bottom of the list when your knitting time is limited.

Her clock started yesterday (it took about 15 seconds of convincing to get her on board with the Gideon Method) and she’s currently an hour into her Cedar Pullover KAL–well below the sleeve divide (just a few inches from the hemline lace), which means she’ll most likely finish the pullover before the end of this 12-hour time slot. When she’s done, she’ll move on to the mini mohair sweater (just the ends to weave in!) and the honeycomb I-cord blanket for two quick-and-dirty, ‘attaboy’ finishes (we’re always going to take those little confidence boosters when we can get ’em), and then on to her Wool & Honey KAL, her Community Tunic, her Six and Seven Advent Shawl and samples in the aforementioned top-secret dyer. Maybe a sweater for Cecily in there, too.

“But I’m a Maker,” you say. “Knitting is the one place I let my creativity run wild. With knitting, I don’t have to keep to a schedule, I don’t have to check in with management, I don’t have to treat it like work. It’s my refuge and my sanctuary. I don’t want to mess with that.”

And to that we say, Amen. Yes. We HEAR you.

Liz’s Six and Seven Fiber advent calendar shawl, pictured here with the custom Fringe Hank ‘Indigo’ from AVFKW.

But.

Don’t you sometimes get overwhelmed with your WIP pile? Sometimes, isn’t too much of a good thing, well, too much of a good thing? And finishing. Wouldn’t you like to do it more often? You know, so that you could actually cast on MORE OFTEN?

Melissa’s Mon Manet Light in ‘Schomberg Sugar Maple’ , our yarn club selection from March 2017. I reeeeeeeeally want to wear this sweater this winter. Using the Gideon Method, I actually think this is a realistic goal.

Yeah. We thought you’d say that.

Melissa’s Plaid Friday socks. FYI, Thanksgiving Weekend 2019 has come and gone. This is Sock #1.

To be clear, Lynn didn’t come up with this method herself. It was introduced to her by a needlepoint group outside of Detroit in the 1990s. But to us, this will always be the Gideon Method. Thank you, dear friend. We love you. (We’ll let you know how it goes.)

Many of the enamel pins pictured here can be found in our online shop HERE, as well as several of our project bags, which can be found HERE. Others are gifts from friends.

(Want to read even more? Of COURSE we have more to say. The Gideon Method, Part 2 can be found HERE).


29 replies on “The Gideon Method

  • Dannielle Higgins

    OMG I love this idea! And better yet: I only have 3 current projects so this gives me the reason I wanted to start two more. 😀

  • kcc

    Must try the Gideon method — sounds like a great way to get organized in the new year.
    Love the gradient honeycomb baby blanket. Do you have the pattern?
    Thanks.

  • Trudie Bills

    Brilliant!! Of course we get overwhelmed with WIPs that are nearly (or barely) done. But this method (WHY didn’t I figure this out!!??) gives us the perfect opportunity to start and finish “new” projects…because WIPs not being worked on become new again when we pick them up out of their hibernation spot! Just a brilliant idea – now to gather up those pesky loose ends!

  • Danielle J Brown

    This is my year of purposeful knitting. I have like 170 things in my queue that have yarn matched to the top like 15 or 20 that never get cast on because I rabbit trail so much. So I chose 4 sweaters, 4 shawls/wraps, 6 hat and 6 mittens. I then wrote down to cast on a sweater in January, april, July and October giving me 3 months to finish. The same with the shawls/wraps. Then I alternated the mittens and hats every month. And I am planning on an adult pair of socks and a child’s pair of socks every month. It sounds like a lot but actually quite manageable. The socks are my travel projects and the other three I rotate in the evenings. So far it’s working really well. And I will get like 20 projects out of my queue by the end of the year.

  • kim

    Beautiful photos, awesome post. I am such a slow knitter that I try not to start too many new things and limit myself to knitting millions of HATS. Need a hat?

  • Elizabeth Cunningham

    This is exactly what I need! Much easier to do than going on a yarn diet. I’m going to pick my Fab Five today and start the Gideon method. I have so many to pick from but after reading your blog I feel better!

  • Jane Anderson

    Oh my gosh! This is perfect. I vow to start the Gideon method today! Last I counted, I had upwards of 75 WIPS laying around….and that doesn’t include the cast ons since that count. Brilliant!

  • Sandra

    What is that gorgeous purple yarn that you are using for the cardigan?! And great method! I have one WIP – which was a KAL for me that I put down to work on Christmas presents in 2018!!!! And I pulled it out the other day. I have 2/3 of one sleeve to finish. 2/3 of ONE SLEEVE AND I’M DONE! So, I’m totally doing this 🙂

  • Cheryl Ortwein

    What a great method!!! I have been rotating work on my three cardigans over the last two months but never thought of focusing on one for a twelve hour shift. This may be just the trick to get these done sooner than later and still give me room to cast on those little projects that are just too fun and gratifying. THANK YOU Melissa, Liz and Lynn❤️

  • Anne

    Abby is in DC from Chicago for a couple days, for work. At dinner last night, we discussed yarn for a “Beth” shawl, which she has asked if I”d knit for her. (You can imagine how my heart sang as I agreed!) However, she has experience, being the recipient of the long-waited-for “15 Month Sweater”, so she tactfully inquired how many years—“1 or 2?” I have promised 2 or 3 weeks from when I find (or dye) the yarn. My #1 MOM pin is riding on this! After this shawl is done, i’ll start to wrangle the WIPs!

  • Kathy Drabik

    Whether I try and succeed with the Gideon method, or fail, I LOVE reading your blog! I love all your posts, photos and sentiments! Melissa and Liz have made Wool and Honey a world class store that shares the love of making most heartfelt!

  • Nikki

    I have a similar ‘method’. I ‘assign’ a project to each day of the week. So when I knit on Sunday I’ll work on that project, Monday I work on that project and so on. Then I don’t have to decide what I’m going to work on. Plus I have a couple of ‘travel’ projects for waiting at doctors or other appointments.

  • Kim

    Great idea and motivation to get going on those WIPs. So are you saying you don’t start an actual new project, one that hasn’t been started at all, until you’re all through with your WIP’s? What if you have baby showers and things like that? Thanks 😊

    • Liz Neddo

      I’d say start with your new project as #1. Start your timer and you may be done in 12 hours. If it isn’t finished, you will be motivated to get in lots of knitting in to get that project back to the top of the pile.

  • Melinda - YarnderWoman

    I love this idea! I’ve been planning to allow myself one new cast on for every WiP finished. Perhaps I will incorporate this Gideon Method into my plans, too. 🙂

  • sneubieser

    I LOVE THIS! I am going to organize my five today – This is giving me the push to pull out the sweater I started for my son (which is just a basic Ragland) that only has a few finishing touches needed. I began it when he was a senior in high school for him to take to college. He is now 31 :(. I know- awful!

  • Sheila Dane

    Love this idea! I’d made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t start anything new in 2020 until I’d finished my WIPs, but I’m losing my mojo. This is the perfect solution. Thank you for the Gideon method.

  • Marlea Smith

    I’m not sure about 12 hours, but a range of types of knitting serves me well. I always have a volunteer project, there’s usually socks, there’s something quick and portable, and a massive project that may take many months. Depending on where I am (watching TV means nothing complicated, waiting at the doctor’s office means interrupt-able, sitting quietly at home means a complicated pattern, one of 4 knit groups means volunteer projects), I have a project bag ready to go. I also keep a list of WIPs and near-WIPs (planned but not cast on) on my opening computer screen so I don’t forget what that bag was for. I plow through (if one can have joy while plowing) many projects each year but only one really big one (doubleknit afghan, king bed coverlet, double yarn sweater). I only have 2 projects that have been put aside for more than a month and they’re both for me. I can wait.
    Yes, I wish I could do more, but that is with all of life.

  • Melissa Allen

    It’s so nice to hear that we all suffer from the WIP pile that never seems to get smaller and that we all suffer from MOM GUILT. 2020 was going (is going) to be MY year to finish WIPs. For every new project I wanted to start, I had planned to finish a WIP. I even told myself for every new skein of yarn, I had to use an old (not really old but you know what I mean) skein. However, it’s not too far into 2020 to start the Gideon Method. I have such ADD that I think rotating five projects could keep my attention. Thank you so much for sharing! May all of our WIP piles become smaller in 2020!

  • Peg

    This really sounds like a fantastic idea 💡. I’d like to try it 🤷‍♀️ I have horrible startitis, so the first step is to pick 5 wips 🤦🏼‍♀️ I don’t have a clue how many I actually have.

    I’d like to print this, without the pictures, so I have it as a reference. Any suggestions? I love the pictures, but I need the words!

    Did I miss how the name was derived? ☹️

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  • Regina Messa

    This makes so much sense. When I am on a tear to finish projects, I do something very similar. WIPs to me feel like a laundry basket of clean clothes that just need to be folded and put away. If I don’t do that before the next load, the basket grows until it seems like such a daunting task.
    I love all your projects and I look forward to hearing about your progress.
    Regina

  • Honore´

    Luv Luv this idea…can see it working in all areas of my life! I’m a wanna-be knitter and have about 5 projects that I’ve had anywhere from 34 years (still on the needles) to one I’ve not allowed myself to knit until I finish one of the other in the queue…so, I’ve projects just waiting! No longer!
    Cheers~

  • Roxanne Nigg

    Last year I organized my yarn and projects. I put all the yarn I knew what the project was in separate bags with an index card with the pattern name and magazine or book name for the pattern. All started projects were put in knitting bags and I set out to get all finished last year. As of today I only have three left. This year the goal is to start and finish as many of the patterns I have yarn for. I am now trying to keep my projects in progress down to three. One lace, a pair of socks and one medium concentration piece. I hope to finish the last three WIPs the first half of this year.

  • Tobey

    good for you. I dont knit but I think we could use this method in scrapbooking. We can set the time block for any amount of time. I think this would work for me on a daily basis to get something done.

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