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Readers,

One of two cartoons on my sewing room bulletin board. Imagine that every cat is another one of my “great” ideas.

I got such a thoughtful comment recently, on my post Spinning Plates Instead of Spinning My Wheels. Somehow I deleted the comment by mistake from the website but thankfully it was still in my e-mail. M-C wrote,

Congratulations on improving the project management, it’s always good to cultivate a bird’s eye view of anything you’re working on. I find it a bit puzzling, though. Do you really need these 9 projects to all be worked on in parallel?  You could have all 9 in your queue, but be working on a couple at a time, according to priority. Or whatever number would keep you from getting bored, no problem with flexibility there.

Thanks, M-C–what good questions!  I wish I could supply answers, but I’ve been sitting here with furrowed brow for minutes on end and all that’s been coming to mind are observations, so they will have to do for now.

  • I started the Project Management Daily Challenge as an experiment and kept an open mind about what I’d be able to accomplish. (But I was optimistic, of course!)
  • Nine patterns was a lot, granted, given that so many needed to be fitted. However, I was confident I could get through the fitting phase because I’d be able to book time at Sewing Hive, here in Columbus, for help when I ran into problems.
  • Also, nine patterns was a lot less than two or three dozen! (At least it was a single digit!)
  • I wanted to see how far I could go with two simple but powerful rules and no exceptions–otherwise I would be prone to overthink or suffer from decision fatigue. Those rules were:
    • Every day I will work on at least one of these patterns.
    • I have to work on each pattern at least once every 14 days.
  • My efforts were strongly affected by the shutdowns of businesses and the stay-at-home order starting in mid-March. Under normal conditions I would have been able to get individual fitting and pattern alteration help and gone on to sew garments.
  • On the other hand, most of my work could be done at home and only by me, and the structures I’d set up six weeks earlier held up well. When so many other people were coping with drastically changed circumstances and setting up new expectations and routines, I was grateful for the work I could continue to do at home.
  • I brought very few sewing projects to completion–just two knit tops and two pairs of pants–and that was disappointing. But under normal circumstances I would have had all my patterns fitted and gone on to complete many more garments, no question.
  • The silver lining was that relying on my own resourcefulness did build my fitting reasoning more.
  • Nevertheless, I got to a point with several projects where fitting problems exceeded my ability to diagnose and solve them. As happened with my long pants-fitting project, I found I was changing but not improving fit. (Jack heard of my travails so often that he coined a word: fit-tigue.)
  • Occasionally  my 14-day rule would work against me, and this is where I think M-C was questioning this system. I would have momentum going with one project, but another project was at the end of its 14-day “rest” period and I’d have to turn my attention back to it, reluctantly, to keep meeting the requirements of my rule. But it was helpful to notice when my reluctance to change horses was happening, so I could adjust the number of projects in the future.
  • I changed out the flared skirt pattern once, a sleeveless top pattern a couple of times, and entirely dropped the dress plan for a while to concentrate on separates. So I did thin out the herd from nine to eight patterns.
  • I did have a lot of projects, but a benefit of this challenge was seeing how much they had in common. A fitting lesson I learned in one project was sometimes applicable to another project, so I would reinforce the concept.  However, several projects might have the same problem, and I would come to the same frustrating stopping point and need outside help.

I hope these observations help at least a little to answer M-C’s questions. I think the experiment helped me gauge how much breadth and how much depth I want and can handle.  It’s hard to say in advance how many projects will be too many–you just start in, see what happens, and adjust.  I hadn’t anticipated a worldwide health crisis having an effect on my sewing productivity.

I wasn’t planning to stop the experiment after a set number of days, but it so happened that Pattern Review was going to run Sarah Veblen’s popular Understanding Knit Fabrics class again in late May, and I wanted to take it. Then I thought, to get the most out of it I should concentrate on the lessons and videos and do the exercises. Then I had a chance to take the t-shirt class at Sewing Hive, here in Columbus, and I was craving some interaction with other human beings as well as hands-on help.  And then I thought, let’s turn this into a knits-themed learning unit. This may be an example of balancing breadth and depth.

I was a little sad to say goodbye to the project rotation of the Daily Challenge, but I couldn’t make much more progress until Sewing Hive would be available again for fitting consultations.

And now, in recent days it happens I am working in depth. I’ve been devoting all my attention to one project, sewing a dress that was fitted on me for practice. Now I’m keeping my end of the bargain, sewing a test garment that’s looking like it could be a keeper.  So, as M-C might point out, sometimes you want to put one project on priority and see it through.

One hundred and forty days of project rotation has helped me see the benefits, drawbacks, and tradeoffs of the structure I set up and to expand my bag of project tricks for future planning.  I can design a themed project around a wardrobe capsule, or learning a technique, or using a piece of equipment.

Something, too, about officially naming a project or choosing a theme helps me see beyond the difficulties of the particular day to the greater goal.  I need both the right kind of inspiration and creative limitations to focus my energy.

Because without the inspiration, creative limitations, and focus, seeing my many ideas through to completion will be as successful as herding cats.

Funny–I just noticed the ironing board.