Thursday, November 6, 2014

Learning from a Project "Post-mortem"

As the avid knitter I am, who would have thought I would have literally NOT enjoyed knitting 24/7. Boy, when I committed to becoming a test knitter, I was in for quite a surprise. I had signed up for three test knitting projects that were all due within a two week time frame. Little did I know, that each project would take me at least three to four days of straight knitting. That is almost two weeks without doing anything else. So, when would I sleep, eat, take care of my son, do homework, and take care of everything else in between to care for my family and basic needs. 
The good news was, with the help of my husband taking care of my son and other obligations and getting an extension, I was able to meet all of the deadlines. One of the designers was generous enough to offer an extension, after I had reached out to her letting her know that I need an extra few days, take it that I was working on the largest size for her cowl design. The downside was, that I was extremely stressed and could not enjoy the process, as much as I wanted to. By the end of the two weeks, I was extremely burned out. 

Being a test knitter, you are responsible for reporting errors in the pattern and offering suggestions to improve the way the pattern is written. So, here I was frantically knitting like a maniac, every spare moment I could get, and staying up until the wee hours of the night, barely eating, isolating myself from the world, taking a shower almost every two days and waking up before my son would to get these projects done. It turned out that, I made an error in one of the cowls and did not realize until I had already knitted quite a bit, where I did not have the time to undo and redo my work. Therefore, I made a note of it, and made a comment to the designer, that I had run into this error, and perhaps it is an area that needs to be more obvious, so that even a tired knitter can knit the pattern with ease. 
The most frustrating part was not being able to enjoy knitting these projects, it became a stress versus something I found relaxing. The problem was, I got too ambitious, as I saw the opportunities arise and over-committed to the number of projects I could handle in the time frame given. As I saw the projects go up for grabs, I stopped thinking and started clicking. If I was to do this differently, then I would not take on this much extra work. I would have to be realistic that a single day has only 24 hours, and make a schedule of how much time I really have per day, week, and month to commit to these extra projects. The key was to balance this projects' needs alongside the rest of my daily responsibilities and being communicative with the designers on my progress.

The most gratifying part of this project, was that I moved up in my knitting endeavors, where I could say that I officially test knit for three designers. Furthermore, one of the designers featured my work on her pattern page for her design that I knit. The good thing was that the designers were always available to answer questions and I would provide status updates, alongside show pictures of my progress along the way.  

The good thing was, that I was able to see that one of the projects was going to take me a lot longer than I had committed to, so knowing that the designer had offered me an extension if needed, I reached out to her early enough to get the extra few days. I quickly learned that it is best to ask for an extension earlier in the process, versus waiting until the last minute. The obvious constraints of this project was time.

Furthermore, there were other test knitters who were testing the same designs, but in different sizes, so it helped to read their feedback to get a heads up for any errors that I may have run into.

So, lessons learned for a very very long time, on how much I can really do in a 24 hour time frame. Therefore, when you make a commitment to any project, no matter how big or small, ensuring that you have the adequate resources to get the job done in a timely manner is always key. There is nothing like blazing through a project and having to juggle your life around it, especially to the extent of your sleep schedule and taking care of your family.


  1. It sounds like you learned a lot from the experience. I think sometimes we see opportunities like this and we bit off more than we can chew because we think it is easy and we forget how much time it actually takes to complete, while also factoring in previous engagements or responsibilities like that of another job or providing for a family. It sounds like even though it was tough and you learned from it that it was still a good project and experience for you. Do you feel that the overall outcome was worth the stress? (with the understanding that if you do it again to rethink how much to commit to and managing your time differently)

    1. Thank you for your comments. I do feel it was worth the stress since I was able to learn from the experience. Even though I was able to get the projects done, there were definitely some variables that affected the stress levels.

  2. As a quiltter I can see how the opportunity to be a pattern tester would be too appealing. This scenario can be a learning opportunity for all of us though. It is really important to evaluate exactly how much of a commitment a project requires. Sometimes, we can be blinded by the excitement a project may bring or the opportunity that may come from being involved. It us important that we ensure that we can commit in a way that allows us to be a positive asset to the project. This can be a difficult line to draw for anyone.

    1. Thank you for your comments. It is so true, that we can get blinded by the actual time frame required to complete creative projects. My ambition and excitement definitely got the best of me, and all we can really do post-mortem is learn from what worked and what did not. I will tell you that I have not desired test knitting since then, only because I have been so busy and I just cannot put myself through that stress again. So, I guess we can say I did learn something :)

  3. Krishna,
    I enjoyed reading through your post; it was nice to read about a project which was completed and provided learning opportunities. You seemed to have many variables that ended up playing out in your favor. I couldn't help but think about how things could have ended up differently if any of these had occurred differently:

    1. What if your husband had equally time-consuming projects to complete?
    2. What if you had not been able to received deadline extensions?
    3. What if you had decided to take on only two of the three knitting designers?

    It would be interesting to consider how any of these would have changed the outcome.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I feel that I would have gotten the projects done no matter what, but what may have been a sacrifice is the quality and the amount of feedback I was able to give the designers. If I had taken less of the work load, I would have probably just had more time to pick up the tasks that my husband had to take care of. Those projects were definitely a learning experience, where it really hit me how long each project actually took to complete.