In defence of multiple projects

Wherever stitchers meet, sooner or later the discussion comes up – one project or many? And I’d be perfectly happy to let everyone enter that discussion for themselves, if it weren’t for something I’ve noticed: that it often starts with a remark like “I really shouldn’t start another project, I’ve got two on the go already” or “Do you think it’s all right to start a new project when I haven’t finished the one I’m working on?” or something equally apologetic.

Now if you happen to be the sort of person who likes finishing one thing before starting another, even if that one thing takes three years, then that’s all well and good. But if you’d like to work on more than one project at a time, why on earth shouldn’t you?

About a week ago, that discussion came up in one of the embroidery groups I’m a member of. At that time (the situation is slightly different now) I had three works actually in progress (the Wedding Umbrellas, a small pansy, and Sarah Homfray’s crewel bird), four more hooped up and ready to go (a Quatrefoil in Madeira Lana, a willow tree based on a Dutch pop-up restaurant’s logo [don’t worry, I asked their permission smiley], a Hardanger design on hand-dyed fabric, and a silk & gold flower called Soli Deo Gloria), three in the design stage (Tree of Life, Mechthild the Medieval Queen and Hengest the Medieval Unicorn), and two kits (Helen Stevens goldwork and Sarah Homfray stumpwork butterfly).

Projects in progress Projects hooped up Projects in the design stage Kits

I will admit that a dozen projects is probably as much as I would like to have in one or other stage of progress at any given time; even I don’t usually have that many. But my point is that there is no need to apologise for this, or to feel guilty about it. Unless the multitude of projects stops you from finishing any of them, this variety can actually work quite beneficially! For example, yesterday I’d reached a part of the crewel bird which I didn’t want to do until I’d watched Sarah Homfray’s video about it, as mentioned in the kit instructions. Unfortunately, the video is not actually on her site; so I’ve emailed her, and in the meantime worked on the pansy.

Another instance: having finished the wedding project, my next big piece (not size-wise – I don’t really do big – but in complexity and time to complete) will be Soli Deo Gloria. But the bit it starts with (the French knots filling the centre) has thrown up the first dilemma of this design. This silk and gold flower is based on one I did some time ago, where I took a Kelly Fletcher freebie and worked it in completely different colours, stitches and threads (more about that in a later FoF). For that one, I used slightly variegated Gloriana silks; for this present one I’m using solid-coloured Soie d’Alger. The centre will be worked in two shades of golden yellow, but how? Blended, to reproduce to some extent the original variegation? In two distinct regions, with the darker of the two providing shading? Randomly dotted throughout the circle (as suggested in my coloured-in outline)? If I had just that one project on the go, I’d be stuck for something to stitch until this matter has been solved to my satisfaction. But as it is, I can ponder this question at leisure while doing some Hardanger, or crewel work, or freestyle embroidery. What’s not to like?

The variegated centre of the Kelly Fletcher flower in silk and gold The centre of the new flower - blended, shaded or dotted?

Having several (though not necessarily a dozen) projects ready to go gives me a sense of freedom; I can pick up whichever I feel like stitching – colourful or muted, big or small, counted or freestyle, simple or complex. If occasionally the range of choices on offer makes me indecisive, leading to an evening of no stitching at all, on the whole I think for me the benefits outweigh any disadvantages. After all, on evenings when I simply can’t decide what to stitch, I can always rearrange my fabrics or stroke my silks, or even write a FoF smiley.

4 comments on “In defence of multiple projects

  1. I am in awe at the range of your skills Mabel – particularly the very neat french knots and the wedding design. As a child I was only allowed one toy or game out at a time so this is one I have had to overcome. Now having 2 or 3 projects in progress, usually different styles and with cards in between those. Can I add that the comment ” Where do you find the time ?” usually comes from those who think nothing of spending hours “socialising” on media – everyone to their own.

  2. In anything connected with hobbies I think “everyone to their own” is a good motto 🙂 – some people are amazed by our willingness to spend many hours creating a picture which could be sketched or painted in a fraction of the time, and stitchers may be equally amazed by people’s willingness to spend many hours reaching the next level in a video game (although I know of people who enjoy both). As long as we enjoy it and it doesn’t lead us to neglect important things like human contact and whatever duties we have I can’t see much wrong with either.
    Thank you for your appreciative comments about both my knots and my wedding design!
    And glad to hear you feel you can enjoy more than one project now.
    (Digression – as a child I used to have a large tin (about 20cmx20cmx30cm) and sometimes I would set myself the task of filling it with things like a notebook, crayons etc and then using nothing besides the contents of the tin to amuse myself with that day. Can’t think why I did it, but I still feel it was quite a good exercise, even if only occasionally 🙂 )

  3. I keep trying to have more than one project on the Go! This usually means I have a Whole Bunch of stuff lurking in the UFO Drawer!
    I admire your ability to have multiple designs but most of all I admire your variety of projects/designs. All beautifully stitched. I think it must be because just about all that you produce are small and so don’t have time to ‘Lurk’!! I like to have one larger piece ‘on the go’ and then I feel I can pick up a small item such as a card, coaster or bookmark without losing the incentive to finish the larger design.
    Had to smile at your Digression. I think it shows how disciplined a person you are!!

  4. Keeping things small as well as multiple definitely helps, yes 🙂 . I do tend to have one project on that to me counts as “big” – which generally means it will take longer than a few dedicated evenings to stitch – but I definitely need the variation that lots of smalls give. The two medieval projects I will treat much like I did Ethelnute, in that they will sit in the background with absolutely no deadline or urgency, and I’ll do a few stitches every now and then with occasional bursts of extended stitching, and they’ll get finished whenever they get finished. I found that approach very relaxing on Ethelnute. Soli Deo Gloria I do hope to finish a bit more quickly, but as it is a design which is likely to have its final look decided while it’s being stitched there will probably be periods of less activity as well – and then it’s nice to quickly stitch a Quatrefoil or a little bird or tree!

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