The Ideal Number of Knitting Projects to Work On at One Time

Five - Knitted

More than five knitting projects, you don’t make noticeable progress on any project. Decreases your desire to knit.

Less than five knitting projects, you are susceptible to buying random yarn. Increases your desire to spend money.

Exactly five knitting projects, you knit all the time, because you just could finish one project today or tomorrow and that would be glorious knitting warm fuzzies.

Variety is Key.

You need to have a variety of types of knitting projects for this formula to work. I recommend:

1.  A small-gauge Stockinette-stitch project, like fingering-weight toe-up socks 

…for knit-without-looking opportunities, like reading or watching a movie

2.  A project you have to look at but for which you don’t have to count

…for talking on the phone

3 and 4.  A couple small accessories you can work on at knit-night

…try basic knitted hats, cabled projects, simple lace

5.  A counting/attention-heavy project you work on by yourself

…lace sweaters, designing your own patterns

What I Want You To Do Now

Take a look at how many in-progress knitting projects you have going right now. Make some decisions about old projects you haven’t made progress on in years – if you don’t really want the end project anymore, or if you’re NEVER going to knit it, retire it!

Let yourself use the yarn for something else, or give it to someone who will finish it.

It can be such a feeling of relief when you narrow down your number of knitting projects to a manageable amount.

Caveat: none of this applies in December!

What’s Your Ideal Number of Projects?

I think I have seven projects in progress right now. Some of them are feeling left out, and I will attend to them shortly (probably when I finish about two projects).

Do you have a number of projects that feels just right for you? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

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About Liat Gat - Founder

Hi, I’m Liat, founder and video knitting expert at KnitFreedom.com. If you liked this article, you’ll love the tips you learn from our FREE video knitting newsletter. Get it now by subscribing here.

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50 Responses to The Ideal Number of Knitting Projects to Work On at One Time

  1. rickamy says:

    Hi Liat, I am new to knitting and found your site about a month a go, (ps thank you).
    As I am new, I cant even imageworking more than one project at a time. Amazing that someone would have more than one, not to mention 5, wholy-mackrel!
    Bravo, to those who can work on 5 at a time. Damn.
    For ME… I am putting so much ‘love’ into the one project and constantly thinking of that person as I knit (even if it is for me) I focus on basics and trying to master them. (and all of those crazy knit abbreviations-Ugh!)
    I love your commitment to sharing the basics.. I dont need a pattern, I need skill and practice and alot of ‘tinking’ (laugh). Again, anytime I can get to THANK YOU, I am gonna do it. :> amy

    • liatmgat says:

      Amy, you are the BEST! I am so happy you found KNITFreedom – your comments make me so happy! This is crazy – I wrote this post in 2008, when I was working at a yarn store, and everyone was knitting 10 things at once! I have 2 projects in progress right now, which seems more reasonable for where I am budget- and time-wise.

      Thanks so much for commenting and I hope you continue to let me know what you want to see more of! Hugs!

  2. Rich_in_NFPA says:

    Hi Liat! I followed your link from Ravelry. I love this blog entry but have to say I haven’t found any number of projects that deters me from making random yarn purchases! We’ve already discussed the S.A.B.L.E. (Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy) phenomenon and I really do try to exercise restraint but just can’t help myself. I even bought yarn on vacation although I already had 4 knitting projects and 1 crochet project with me. So much yarn, so little time… :-D

    • liatmgat says:

      Hahaha I know what you mean. You know, I’m not helping you any either – I just bought you some yarn while I was on vacation too!! :)

  3. Krysha says:

    I agree with Amy. The thought of doing more than one overwhelms me. I tell myself I can’t start another project until my one is complete, and then sit by my unused yarn that I am itching to work with to motivate me lol! My mother in law agrees with you about variety, so maybe I’ll start another ;-)

    • Liat Gat says:

      Wow that’s so disciplined! Maybe if you mentally divided the types of categories, it would still be like working on one (eg I have ONE sock and ONE hat)… haha the mind is so easily manipulated.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective! Let us know how it goes if you mix it up… :)

  4. Elaine says:

    I like to stay focused one one project at a time. It works much better for me and get the satisfaction of completion. I like to learn new techniques and try new yarns. The experience I get with each project enables me to knit my next item a little better, with my increased knowledge. I don’t have any little nagging guilt pangs for “too many irons in fire” as they say. Rather than start new projects, I favorite them in Ravelry. It gives time and space to make sure of my preferences.

    • Liat Gat says:

      What I love about this is that you know exactly what works and feels good for you. And using Ravelry to keep track of your desired projects can help quiet that “I HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW!” voice that we all sometimes hear.

      I think a lot of this has to do with just what we’re exposed to – if we live near a great yarn shop (or, heaven forbid, work at one) and go to knit night each week, we’re going to be constantly surrounded by new projects and yarns.

      If you live far from a yarn store or other knitters (like me, right now), it takes a lot more time and effort to start a new project.

  5. Brant Torres says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!! I have felt bad, because my friends make fun of my knitting ADD. I currently have 4 projects on the needles, and I want to cast on another (I need to get out of fingering weight land). I think this is the perfect number, and the part about variety is totally correct. I always need a pair of plain socks in a fancy yarn for traveling.

    • Liat Gat says:

      Hi Brant,

      Now you don’t have to feel bad anymore! A woman replied on twitter yesterday that she had at least fifteen projects (which I think is a lot)…

      And I totally agree with you: plain socks, fancy yarn. The perfect travel combo!

  6. Melissa S says:

    I like this post, it is so relevant to knitting life. I wouldn’t say I have any hard and fast rules (where’s the fun in that?) but here’s my answer from facebook (oops, sorry ’bout that)

    Four: one for the car, one for the television, one design in progress and a large project like a sweater for those days (MTWTHF) when i don’t want to do anything else all day long but knit!

    • Liat Gat says:

      Ooh, I like the idea of having a project just for in the car!

      • Hailey says:

        Can’t knit in the car :( It’s rather sad actually. Car sickness plagues me, and limits me strictly to conversation whilst on long car trips. (Max has been 21 hours…and I wish I could have spent that knitting.) It’s a great idea though, having a car project. So long as you’re not driving! Teehee.

        • Liat Gat says:

          Hailey, I know what you mean. I used to keep a little bottle of Dramamine from the drug store in my knitting bag! I also found that if I started out the trip knitting right away, I was really likely to get carsick. But if I hung out and chatted, then after an hour or so started knitting, it would be okay.

      • Trinity says:

        I never thought I would find such an everyday topic so enitlalrhng!

  7. Lourie says:

    I like to have three projects going. One on large needles, one on small ones, and one that might be a little too hard for me. That way, my hands don’t fatigue, and my skills keep progressing.

  8. Laurie says:

    I love this post. I have always been a monogamous knitter. But I have found times where I have gotten bored with a project or the project has felt like a chore which defeats the purpose of knitting. I have managed to get them finished but it was torture. I do find when I am bored with my knitting I do tend to buy yarn and a lot of it. I love the idea of 5 different projects. I think it will keep my knitting fun and interesting which,will keep me from yarn hoarding.

    BTW – I love your site. I am working through the Becoming a Knitting Superstar class – I am half way through my Magic Loop Worsted Weight Socks. I absolutely love it. Your videos are amazing. They are so educational and thorough. I am so glad I found you and your site.

    Take Care,

    Laurie

    • Liat Gat says:

      Wow, Laurie, thank you so much!! You make me so happy! You can work through the course and the blog archive just like your knitting projects – when you are tired of going step-by-step through the course, you can come here and learn a quick little tip here and there, and then dive back into the course. Thanks so much for your sweet comment. :)

    • Katey says:

      Hi to all knitters! I’m reading each and every note, and just have to give my two cents here. When I am totally bored with a project, my first instinct is to start looking around for something else to start, but I reign in that feeling and start knitting the guage every time I sit down and then knit something else, or crochet.

      For instance: IF the guage is 6 rows to the inch, each time I sit to knit on the boring project, I make myself accomplish 6 rows. After a few times of this, it is amazing how quickly you get to the spot that lets you decrease, increase, or otherwise, finish the piece.

      THEN I go out and buy more yarn for a new project. I usually keep 4 going at a time, including one in crochet to use different muscle groups and have a mental change.

      Great site here! Keep up the good work! I just found you and will be a fan forever! Katey

  9. Eve says:

    I wish I had known this when I first started knitting. I have far too many open projects going. Your thoughts about 5 being the correct number makes so much sense. I find I lose a lot of time trying to find my place in one of the many (I’m too embarassed to say how many) ufo’s I have in my knitting room (-: I now do my best to leave notes with the project, but even then it’s not working well. Thanks Liat for more great info!

    • Eve says:

      I realize something in writing my post. I absolutely love to start projects, but am not so good at finishing them (-: I need to find a motivator to finish. Believe it or not, I have a sweater (the February Lady Sweater) that just needs a few more rows knitted on one sleeve, buttons sewn on, and it would be done! I’ve had it in a basket for more than 2 years. So bad! I hereby commit to finishing it this year.

      • Liat Gat says:

        Nooo! Seriously?! Maybe it might help to get a group of knitters together for a “finishing” party – only bring projects that you could finish in one or two evenings, and help encourage each other to get DONE!

  10. Dorothy Menke Smith says:

    I am currently actually working on two projects. One is a lovely lace jacket I had planned to wear to my grandson’s wedding which was last July. The other is a huge simple afghan which I keep in the car and drag with me when I have to wait (dr. office etc.) There are three I have not touched. I think I will.

    Question: I have found on my Paypal history that I ordered two items from you that I don’t remember. Both were ordered 12/27/11 for $77.00 and $35.84. Please tell me what they are so I know whether to look in my computer or under the bed!

    • Liat Gat says:

      Hi Dorothy, I like that you keep one project in the car. That is a great idea! PS – you ordered Intermediate Scarves and Stitches and Become a Knitting Superstar – look on your computer! :)

  11. kathy olamit says:

    Alas, I have about a dozen WIP’s including some things from xmas 2011. Now I have fractures of my lt arm and probably won’t be able to knit for 6 months or so. I am going to go nuts! Luckily I enjoy reading and have many knitting books. So I guess that will be my new obsession–knowing everything about knitting except how to actually do it. Kind of like reading “How to” sex books without a partner for the follow through! Liat I just love your videos. kind of a tie between you and one other lady.
    But I bought your video class!

  12. JohnnyG says:

    I currently have but one pair of socks on the needles – the second pair I’ve done. I’m trying to stay focused on just this project for now, though I have plenty of needles for other projects if I “need” to.

  13. I had to laugh at this post, and many who share the same conundrum- I’m not alone! I thought I had some serious yarn obsession, like gambling fever. It dawned on me last winter after I spent nearly $100 just on storage bins (not that hard to do) and realized if I didn’t want to spend more$$$ on a room addition, I would have to get busy and knit up some of my stash!
    I currently have a pair of Wool-ease socks on the Magic Loops, because I love making socks, a partially completed vest that will challenge my constructive creativity, a super-easy mindless shawl on huge needles for when I need to just knit like a friend. 3 is a good number for me :-)

    And after living here for over 9 years, I finally got to visit a LYS, and am now hopelessly addicted to GOOD yarn….the kind I once only dreamed I’d be able to knit with-me, knitting something German I can’t even pronounce? HA! And I can ride to said LYS on my Harley and bring home yarn in my saddlebags without DH suspecting a thing! Score! living the dream. :-)

    • Liat Gat says:

      Hahaha you are so funny Sandra! It sounds like a wild-knitting-woman’s fantasy. You are not alone in your yarn obsession – it happens to most of us, especially after we discover a really good yarn shop. I like your simple balance of 3 projects of varying complexity. Way to go!

  14. Lourie says:

    My magic number is three. One project on large needles with worsted weight yarn and a lot of no-lookee rows for watching baseball games, one on small needles— usually socks, for a carrying anywhere project, and one harder than I know how to do project, to keep my skills progressing! The variety of sizes also keeps my hands feeling OK. Any more than that and I start feeling anxious about who’s feeling left out!

    • Liat Gat says:

      Hi Lourie –

      I love your approach to the projects you’re working on. :) We all have a little something different that works for us. It sounds like you really have it worked out to always have something to pick up and work on. Keep up the great work!

      Happy Knitting :)

  15. Pamela says:

    I think for me more than three is too many and I’m overwhelmed. I have an easy one that I don’t have to look at the pattern to do that travels. And I have one or two more difficult ones that require me to keep a pattern close I do at home. I’m a very slow knitter with not much knitting time in a week so any more than that and I never really see any progress on anything.

  16. Monica says:

    Hi! I have just found your blog, and am loving your videos! So clear and easy to follow, thank you!
    I think I should have followed your advice, and have done more than one knitting project at at time. I just fininshed my first attempt at a Kaffe Fassett sweater – and it took 7 years! Well, I wasn’t actually knitting the whole time, but I would get sick and tired of working with 23 different colours, and throw it into the closet – sometimes for years. I would not allow myself to work on something else, because my fear was I would never finish the darn thing. However, I think it would have been a wise decision to have had a secondary project – something simple – to work on when frustrated with the Fassett sweater – and I would have kept up my knitting skills. Long story short – darn thing is done (looks not too bad I must say), and I AM happily knitting a cabled cardigan in one colour – but am also knitting finger puppets on the side!

    • Liat Gat says:

      Monica, what an ambitious project you took on seven years ago! Oh my goodness – I’m so glad to hear that you finished it and that it turned out well.

      We all need a little distraction from the big projects sometimes. I think it’s great that you’re working on some adorable finger puppets while you take on your next big sweater project. You’ll have to let us know how it turns out. :)

  17. Victoria Arms says:

    Hi Liat, on the average I have 5-7 going on at a time. I found your site several months ago and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks for all the helpful information.

  18. Pat C. says:

    I really enjoy your website. Until I read that you have so many projects going at one time, I felt bad about having all the projects going that I do. Now I feel releaved, that it is okay to do so. I guess I thought it just showed I bounce from one thing to another without finishing them before starting another. Now I can see how logical it is to have various projects to work on, depending on where you are and the conditions. I currently have about 4 projects going. When I get bored with one project, I can go to another. Yesterday I started a pair of socks for one of my grandsons when my daughter asked me to make him a pair. I had made a pair about 2 years ago that she really liked. They were the toe up socks made with the magic loop method. I had gotten interested in making socks after reading a Debbie Macomber book that mentioned how to make them that way. I saw a you tube video on the method. Since it had been a while, I needed to look up how to start the toe, and that is when I found your website. Thankyou for all the great videos! I taught myself to knit (probably 54 years ago!) from a book, using some yarn mom had left from making hair for a clown doll, and for knitting needles, used 2 short sticks that had come in the middle of carmel apples! yes, back then, they were round, not flat like popsicle sticks. I used an embry board to file the tips smoother so the yarn would slide smoother. Later I was able to get real needles and went on to make useful things. I would take my knitting with me on the school bus and knit to an from school and on the playground at recess. Wow, I would have really loved having access to your videos and all this modern technology when I was growing up! At the time, I when throught the whole “Learn How” book, so I learned to knit, crochet, tat, embroider, etc. Can you tell, I lived out in a rural area and we had to make our own entertainment (yes, we did have TV back then, but just 3 major stations). I am glad to have learned all these useful things, for I love making gifts that are personal and especially for that person. Thanks for you great website, it is inspiring.

  19. SUSAN ROSS says:

    I have lost count of the projects I have. I know I have a sweater I have to remake (came out too big), an afghan for my grandson (started it 3 years ago), many small misc things that got tossed aside when I moved……..

    So, now, just having started machine knitting, I don’t want to finish any of those and only want to start new KM projects. I’m doing a baby blanket now. Who knows what’s next? However, it’s funny I just read this column – I have 3 different gauge knitting machines and was just thinking yesterday I could have a project going on each one of them! Yay for yarn loving happiness!

  20. Marge says:

    Just found a link to your web page and I love it. Will take me quite some time to read each item but I will plug through all just as I plug through my projects. There are always so many little hints that make things so much easier. Was thrilled to hear I am not the only one with more than one project going and that the best number to have on needles is 5. Just finished 2 head bands, pair of boot toppers, baby blanket, baby mittens and still have a sweater for self on the needles. I think I get bored and need new stimulation to keep going. Now I need to find another one or two, well maybe three or four projects to keep me going. Thank you so much for all your very helpful advice.

  21. zoeknitsinco says:

    I find that I have usually 3 to 6 projects going. It prevents boredom. I can suit my knitting to the situation. Sometimes I just don’t want to work on a project that I’ve been putting in a lot of time on. Either because of deadline or personal desire to finish already. Having more than one or two projects gives me the choice of what I want to work on, when I want to.

  22. Pingback: The Knitting Bucket List Revised | smashleestitches

  23. Whitney says:

    I just found this article (and your site) and I love it! Currently I am at a 3 project maximum. One for when I am in meetings or at knitting group, one complex project, and an accessory or two. I try to have projects on different size needles so I don’t fatigue my hand and wrist muscles too much. Thanks for your great work and keep the articles coming!

  24. Joyce says:

    I am a glutton for punishment! I have 3 pairs of socks on needles, a crochet baby blanket and about 5 cross stitch projects going. Short attention span I think! What I have found is I make myself work for 15 minutes on the project that I am tired of before I work on what I WANT to work on. Then before I know it, I am adding 10 – 15 min more each time because I am closer to getting it off of my list..
    Works for me!
    And I too Love Knit Freedom! Thank you Liat….

  25. Pat says:

    So happy. I keep one project in a bag I always take with me when I go out. It is usually a hat or socks. Easy to keep track of and uses those traveling, and waiting minutes.
    When I was remodeling my house I found a box with unfinished projects one was a lovely lace sweater in size 6. Alas the granddaughter it was for is in college now. I found a few others that I want to finish so hsve put them in a next project pile. I am currently working on a large afghan, socks, hats (preemies I make several at a time), and a double-knit cow.
    I took the cowl to work on when I had to go to the doctor for tests etc. I knew there would be long waits between tests. When I was in the examining room waiting for the doc, I was working on it. He came in stood and looked at it for a few minutes and said “You have too many stitches on the needles for the pattern you are making.” I turned it over so he could see the completely different design on the other side. He was wowed. Spent about ten minutes explaining to him how to do it. Turns out he is a knitter!

  26. Monique says:

    Hi Liat!
    So glad I found your site and thank you for sharing so generously! I find the knitting community to be very generous people in general

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