New Year, New Knitter: Active Roster

Hi everyone! Happy February! As promised, I’m back to share more about my journey to try and become a more disciplined knitter for 2021! As a reminder, here’s the structure I’m looking to put in place for 2021:

  1. Tackle the backlog: Review all current WIPs and UFOs and decide if I want to finish or frog (and I mean ALL of them), then start working through the backlog of projects
  2. Manage the current projects: Commit to having a rotation of a set number of active projects that span different categories
  3. Plan for the future: Resist the urge to drop everything and cast on a new project immediately. Make lists and circle back to them often. Add, modify, or remove projects as need be. Be realistic about the stash you have and the projects it can work in. Be creative about finding ways to modify patterns to bust your stash.

Before I launch into item two on the list, I wanted to give a quick update on item 1! I looked back at my finish or frog post to see how I did in January (and that last week in December) with finishing existing UFOs! I finished four of the UFOs that I said I wanted to finish, which felt great!

Flying Solo Cowl by Espace Tricot – this is sooo squishy and yummy! I love it and the colors are so handsome together. My husband even took it for a trial run outside for a walk and said it worked great to keep him warm!

Simone headband by Emilie Luis – such a sweet little project! Doesn’t take that much yarn and would make a truly lovely gift. Could easily swap out the cable pattern if you wanted a different design. When I make another one (because I definitely will!) I think I’d consider making it a little narrower, as I think it’s a smidge too wide.

Cabled Flax Hack for Ruby – I am so proud of this little sweater for so many reasons! I stepped up my cable complexity game, hacked a design to customize it for my purposes, reused a yarn that had been purchased for another purpose but refused to be knit at the appropriate gauge for the intended project, and made a sweater that fit my daughter great with some room to grow. Fun fact, one sleeve is definitely longer than the other… Ha! Better luck next time.

Heel Toe Do Si Do Socks (Quaere Edition) – a quick finish and a satisfying project to watch develop. The colors are so bold they make me happy every time I wear them. Love the Heel Toe Do Si Do pattern, great fit, easy repeat, perfect for self-striping yarns!

I did most of them in the same timeframe, so I got off to a good start, but clearly lost a little momentum. Adding some structure, or a rule around working in a UFO might help me make more progress on the list.

That brings me to the heart of today’s topic: limit your number of active projects in the roster.

For me personally, the key to success with this item is to have the projects span a number of different categories and considerations.

  • Size – While I’m always looking a new sweater designs (for me and my husband), I can’t have too many in the rotation at once, because they’re the type of project I get really into for a while (usually in the early stages of the construction where a lot of things are going on simultaneously), then need to put down. I find that I always need a break from the miles of stockinette, endless rounds of the body of the sweater, or those 600 stitch shawl rows (all the purling~~). If I have too many sweaters or large projects, I find myself itching for something smaller and will impulsively cast on something else. I also like to take a break from some of these heavier / projects to work on something small and light!
  • Gauge – I think my favorite gauge is a fingering on US 6s (common shawl gauge) or socks on a 2.25mm, but I like to have a variety of different gauges in my projects. I find as a daily knitter, it’s helpful to have different gauge projects for my hands and wrists to ‘recover’ and not fall into the repetitive strain category.
  • Complexity – I love a challenging project or a new technique, so I like to mix in a high complexity project to the rotation to keep my brain working as I knit. Carol Feller designs always scratch that itch for me, as do complex cabling designs, complex colorwork, or a complex brioche design with lots of increases and decreases. On the other hand, there are times when I just need a basic vanilla sock or some mindless shawl rows to get my hands moving and to watch a lovely yarn bloom into a finished object. This is also key for stash busting, as I have a love for speckled yarns or variegated yarns. Simpler projects let those yarns really shine, and let me start making a dent in that portion of my stash.
  • Recipient – I love to knit gifts for people, so I usually have a gift project or two on the needles. I love imaging how excited they’ll be for the item or how great they’ll look wearing it. In a similar vein, I want to do some service knitting this year (how cute are those charms, right?). I haven’t done any historically and I’d like to change that!
  • Time to finish – I love a quick knit! I’m motivated by finishing projects and love washing and blocking them (ask my daughter about the ‘knit game’ sometime). So I like to work in accessories or quick finish projects so I can get the endorphin boost from finishing a project!
  • Community – within my immediate friend group, I don’t have any knitters. So I turn to social media a lot to share my projects and get inspired by other knitters. I love to join knitalongs, mystery knitalongs, projects that are trending on social media, and test knits. These all give me a feedback loop of engaging with other knitters who are working on the same project and to be inspired by their beautiful WIPs.
  • UFOs – to help me stay motivated, I want to get into the habit of pulling in a UFO to my current roster of projects, so I keep chipping away at the backlog. Obviously, even as I finish UFOs, more get dropped in, but at least I feel like I’m making progress here. I think it’ll also force me to reconsider the pile I have decided I want to finish, and maybe result in me frogging a few more projects that I originally expected to.

I think my sweet spot for active projects is 4 to 5 projects. If I get any bigger than that, some projects that are mentally considered ‘active’ sit forlornly in the bowl and never get picked up. Then I get the mental burden of feeling guilty that I should finish that project, while not really wanting to. When the active pile gets too big again, I do a mini WIP review and decide what I want to keep as active and what should go in the UFO pile to be finished as a later date. I did this process a few weekends ago – see below for a WIP pile shot.

A few extra rules / exceptions I’ve given myself in this process:

  • Swatches don’t count as active projects – if I’m really motivated by a new project I see out there, cast on a swatch and trial run the yarn, the gauge, the needles, and my interest in the design once I’ve actually got it on the needles. The more I’ve embraced swatches, the happier I’ve been. There have been so many instances where I’ve leaped right into to casting on a project, only to realize a quarter of the way through that I hate the needle choice I’m using, or the colorwork feels too finicky, the colors are simply not working with the design, or the stich pattern just isn’t working for me.
  • Listen to myself as I’m working on a project – if I’m not loving it early on, do I really think I’m going to love it two-thirds of the way through? Or if I’m not feeling my yarn choice for the project – no matter how much I love the design – let’s learn from the choice and frog the project. That busy yarn that’s obstructing the pattern that made me fall in love with the pattern in the first place isn’t going to get any better.
  • Try to limit doubling up on projects types (i.e., two pairs of socks for the same recipient, two shawls, two adult sweaters). This might just be me, but if I have two pairs of socks on the needles, I have a tendency to favor one pair first, so I might as well save the active slot for a different project type.
  • Always have a pair of socks on the needles! I love wearing my handknit socks – they make me so happy and since I have small feet, they’re pretty quick to finish. I love watching my handknit sock stash grow. I enjoy doing the same for my husband too, though his feet are much bigger!

So what’s my current roster of projects, I hear you ask. Without further ado, here’s my active roster:

  • Bonita Shawl from Ambah O’Brien– lovely lace shawl design for my mom. Just got to the big increase section and rows have 600 stitches! So much purling in my future… Hoping to finish by Mother’s Day. New (to me) yarn company, lovely icy blue that will look amazing on my mom and a kiss of silk for added luxury!

  • Marled Flax for baby S – baby knits are so fun! Using up minis from an old advent calendar and holding double with a neutral Stroll handpainted that I’ve had for years. Loving watching this one develop.

  • Curling Mist Socks from Helen Stewart – first sock pattern from handmade society #4. Nice to finally find a use for this gorgeous firey color (originally bought for a Starflake shawl that I bailed on).

  • Love Note #2 – am I the only person who feels the urge to cast on a Love Note after reading Dana William-Johnson’s posts on MDK? I’ve had this yarn for over a year and knew I wanted it to be a Love Note sweater the whole time. My first one is lovely, but I just don’t love the cropped length, so I went down a size for this one and plan to make the longer length. Finally cast on a few weeks ago, midway through the lace section at the yoke and know this will be worn a lot once I finish it.

  • Intwined House Socks from Tif Neilan – it’s embarrassing how close these are to being finished. Lovely test knit – I know I’ll get a lot of use out of them once I finish. Yes, I’m breaking my rule about not having two of the same category, but I’ve got less than an hour’s worth of knitting left in these, and I want to get them on my feet!

What’s your roster sweet spot? Do you have any preferences on project mix for your current active roster? We’d love to see what you’ve got on the needles, let us know below!

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Meg Duncan

Vice President

(Term 1, Year 1)

Meg grew up surrounded by makers. Her mom, a master quilter, former Home Ec teacher, and 4-H club leader in Duluth, taught her to sew, embroider, and cook. She won a trip to the State Fair as the Dress Review Princess at 13! Another MKG member taught her to knit continental style 15 years ago. Meg can’t sit still and NOT be knitting, embroidering, rug hooking or sewing. Favorite thing to knit? Mittens! She loves taking classes and learning new things – absolutely amazed and inspired by all the amazing knitters in the guild! (she, her, hers)

Jess Dahlberg

Newsletter Editor

Jess learned to knit in middle school and attempted (but never quite finished) a few garter stitch scarves. Years later, she picked up crochet with her best friend in law school and eventually fell back into knitting. Ever since then, she's been a daily knitter (commuting time for the win!) and has never looked back. She enjoys knitting gifts for friends and family and loves trying new techniques. (she, her, hers)

Laura Haave

Great Guild Getaway Committee Chair

Laura learned to knit in 2003 by taking a four-week class during MIT's annual January Independent Activities Period. The class project was a striped hat knit in the round, and since that time, Laura has been a big advocate of 1) helping other adults learn to knit for the first time, 2) hats as a manageable first project, and 3) circular needles for everything. She enjoys thinking about knitting and planning her next project almost as much as she enjoys actually knitting. Laura is highly motivated by knit-alongs and loves to knit in community. (she, her, hers)

Anne Rojas


Anna Turk

Yarnover Committee Chair

While Anna learned to knit at some long-forgotten point in time, her commitment to the craft really began her freshman year of college. Sitting still has never been Anna’s strong suit, and giving her hands something to do while chatting with friends or watching movies in the dorm brought a sense of calm during this new chapter of her life. Once the sense of calm wore off (and no one else needed a scarf), she began trying new techniques, patterns, and projects, and until 2018 was primarily a self-taught knitter. After being intimidated early in her crafting, Anna feels strongly about creating a welcoming environment within the fiber community for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. She enjoys knitting and fiber traveling, test and service knitting, a good challenge (knitting or otherwise), and is likely to have at least 3 WIPs at any one time. She is also learning to spin and ply her own yarn! (she/her/hers)

Bonnie Swierzbin

Marketing Director

(Term 1, Year 1)

Bonnie comes from a long line of makers, so between their sewing and her own knitting, her Barbies had loads of one-of-a-kind dresses. She loves to buy yarn and knit while she travels, so she has a yarn stash the size of Cleveland and memories imbued with knitting; she can tell you exactly what baby sweater she was making on the overnight ferry from Rab to Split, Croatia, in 1985. When she isn't knitting, Bonnie is dyeing yarn and vintage textiles, embroidering, and making felt or silk paper vessels. She's happiest when she is learning a new skill or knitting technique. (she, her, hers)

Melissa Mintern

Technology Director

(Term 1, Year 1)

Melissa has been knitting for 15 years. She loves socks and sweaters. She is a new member who hopes to use her marketing background to lift up the MKG. While she isn't local to MN, she really loves the atmosphere created by the Guild. Melissa and significant other Al enjoy traveling, wherein Al graciously offers to drive so Melissa can knit in the passenger seat. (she, her, hers)

Nikky Heidel

Membership Director

(Term 1, Year 3)

Nikky was first introduced to knitting in 2012 when her visiting sister-in-law taught her the basics of casting on and the knit stitch. A few weeks later, she learned how to purl from her mother-in-law. From there, it quickly became a passion and she has taken on each new project with a desire to expand her skill and discover new techniques. She loves a good mystery (knit-a-long) and knits way more shawls than a single person can wear in a month.

Betsy Preston

Service Director

(Term 1, Year 2)

Betsy never had patience for knitting, until she found herself spending a lot of time at little league games and waiting for the last kid to emerge from the locker room after swim practice. With her background in graphic design, stranded colorwork has a natural appeal. Not to mention the practicality of an extra layer of warmth. Betsy has recently begun publishing her original hat and cowl patterns, which are available on Ravelry. (she, her, hers) (See our Service Knitting Page for more information about our current projects and donation process.)

Janet Ungs

Programming Director

(Term 1, Year 1)

Janet taught herself to knit from a small green and white paperback called “Learn to Knit” at the age of 10ish. Her first attempt at a cardigan, with some very heavyweight baby blue yarn, was done without checking gauge. As you can imagine, it was very large, but amazingly still lives in the closet of one of her younger sister‘s friends! To this day, she still struggles with doing a gauge swatch every time, although the journey of making the product is always fun! Janet loves to knit socks, sweaters, and hats, but blankets? Not so much. She likes color knitting as well as making cables. Lace? Not very good at that. (she, her, hers)

Rose Tobelmann


(Term 2, Year 1)

Rose learned to knit from her mother at the age of ten. She started knitting on the ends of small paint brushes. She continued to knit off and on through her teenage and young adult years and became a more avid knitter after taking a Norwegian sweater knitting class through community education. Today, knitting has become a passion and she knits for charity, herself, and her family her stash. She enjoys meeting other knitters and learning new techniques.

Kelsey Sorenson


(Term 1, Year 3)

Kelsey learned the knit stitch from her grandmother in middle school, and filled in the gaps enough to make lots of scarves for quite a few years. She began expanding her skills in college and is always looking to learn more. Kelsey is drawn toward projects that are seamless or include stranded colorwork. (she, her, hers)

Kelly Amoth


(Term 1, Year 1)

A visiting friend from Seattle taught Kelly the very basics of knitting (a twisted loop cast on and just the knit stitch) in 2008 before flying home. Turning to the internet (thanks!) Kelly taught herself through a lot of trial and error. Uncontent to keep knitting the scarf she’d started as her first project, she jumped into knitting a pair of striped mittens for her non-knitter, but very knitworthy, twin sister. Twelve years later the mittens are still in her sister’s glove box, and Kelly is usually horrified when she pulls them out and sees the mistakes she made using double pointed needles for the first time. Kelly loves knitting socks and is thankful for the many months of cold weather when she gets to exclusively wear her handknits. (she, her, hers)

Kathy Lewinski


Kathy has always been into crafts, but didn’t teach herself to knit until after college. She really got hooked while living in San Francisco when a friend opened a knitting store. To pitch in, Kathy started knitting up fun (and odd) things for window displays, as well as teaching classes. In the last couple of years, she has started designing her own knitting patterns (many of them available for free on Ravelry!) with toys and mittens being her primary obsessions. (she/her/hers)