The Power of Portable Projects

As I sit here in a conference room waiting for my next meeting (in 90 minutes), I am brought back to this article. It has been on my list of articles to write for some time now. It just seems that it gets pushed a little lower on the priority list as the days pass. But, here I am with a perfect opportunity to capture those thoughts and put them together.

Portable projects, in my mind, are those projects that you always seem to have along with you. They have five characteristics, in my mind.

  1. Small enough to tuck in a purse or tote – not necessarily the whole project, but a portion of it that can be worked on the go
  2. A pattern that is easily memorized or compact enough to carry
  3. A project that can be started and stopped quickly. If you are working a project while waiting for an appointment, you don’t always have the luxury of knitting to the end of the row, repeat, or round
  4. Needs a minimal set of notions – you don’t want to have to carry your whole tool set around
  5. A project you enjoy sharing with others.

Knitting in public usually attracts attention, and it’s nice to meet new people over a small project.
Let me expand a little on each of these. Firstly, a small project is best for portable work. A king-size afghan really doesn’t travel well, unless you’re making it out of laceweight yarn, you probably don’t want to carry it around with you. I recently bought a Zelda bag from Offhand Designs, so I have enjoyed using it for carrying a hooded cardi project for my son. It’s a little bigger than I usually consider for “portable” projects, but overall a nice size.

For your portable project, I find it nicer if I am working a project where I have already memorized the pattern or can write it out on an index card. Fiddling with a large pattern or a book takes some of the joy out of a portable knitting project. I am less likely to pull out a project if I have to dig around for a pattern or book before starting. I enjoy pulling out the work and getting to stitching right away. That’s one of the reasons I make all my socks basically the same – toe up, circs or dpns with a heel flap.

I think the most important aspect of a portable project is that you can work a little or a lot and not have to worry about where you are in the project. It never seems to fail that I pull out my project while waiting for an appointment and before I can get halfway across a needle, it’s time to put it away. So that means the portable project needs to have an easily readable or memorable pattern so that you can examine your work when you return to it and pick up where you left off. A pattern worked in the round can be a good one for portable projects because you can count stitches if necessary and get to a point where you can resume the pattern. I have a nachaq that I am working on that works this way. It has a lot of cable designs, which is counter to my second point, but hey, not every portable project can satisfy all these needs, can it?

Minimal notions. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be working on a project and not have the tools you need to continue working. If you forget to bring a cable needle or stitch marker, you might be able to fake it with something you can find in your purse, but if you need something specific, it can be frustrating to have the time, energy, and desire to knit, but not the right tools. My most exasperating is not having the right size crochet hook to either repair a dropped stitch or for picking up stitches along my heel flap. My other frustration is not having a yarn needle so that I can finish my sock project rather than leaving a loose end to tidy up later. I know that I could just tuck those tools in my bag, but when I am in a hurry to get to wherever I need to go, those are the last things on my mind.

And the last part of portable knitting is to have a project that you enjoy sharing. I don’t mean that you have to teach someone to knit it, but isn’t it nice to be able to talk with a new friend about the great sock or fun sweater you are making? Wouldn’t you rather do that instead of complain about how long your king-size laceweight afghan is taking?

Let me close out by saying that I have nothing bad to say about those of you out there who would enjoy knitting a king-size laceweight afghan (and I am sure I will hear from you). I just can’t personally see myself doing one of those and the knitters I hang with aren’t much into that, either. Of course, now that I’ve put that out there, guess what will show up in my queue soon…

Last 5 Articles Added By Lisa Akers

About Lisa Akers

I'm a wife, mother of two, and a fiber artist. I have enjoyed knitting and crocheting items for my family for nearly three decades. I now use my experience to teach classes, design knitwear, and create unique clothing for families in the Denver area and worldwide.

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