Felicia's Notebook

The Rule of Four

Last year, the holidays were a veritable freak show for me. I was crazy and stressed and in turn, it made the people around me crazy and stressed too. So I vowed, post-turkey binge, that I would start getting organized for the holidays earlier this year. And in June, as I was scouring the internet for wedding planning info, I stumbled on this “Organized Christmas” site and bookmarked it for now**. They’ve just started to ping me about getting started, and I found this interesting article about what they call the “Crafter’s Rule of Four“.

The concept is simple. Look at your pile of unfinished objects… if there are more than four of them or if any one of them is more than four years old, don’t start a new project.

This is crazy hard for me because I am helpless around the thought of starting something new. Casting on with new yarn is so… enticing. It’s an addiction that I know I’ve written about before, but I can’t help it. Second Sock Syndrome? I got it. In spades. Do I have more than four projects in the works? Of course. Try fourteen, at least.

The article has a few good suggestions, like “batching” your handmade gifts around a theme. Want to knit scarves or hats for the holidays? Knit multiples and then you can more economically use up your yarn. Plus, I imagine you get faster at knitting the same pattern over and over. And of course, there is always the suggestion of setting aside dedicated time for it. But I find that challenging too because I also want to set aside dedicated time to practicing my guitar, snowboarding, playing WoW and catching up on life at Downton Abbey. In the end, I do a bit of this and a bit of that and end up with no time and fourteen half-knit objects.

So how do you do it? Are any of you planning on knitting gifts for the holidays? How do you do it without making yourself insane? I’m so envious of knitters who start and finish everything and who don’t stash. Sometimes I wish that were me. But I’m bewitched by “fresh” yarn. Heh. I guess that’s why I have a yarn company. But really, how do you “do” the holidays? How do you finish everything (be it gift knitting/baking/cooking/cleaning/buying/wrapping/whatever) in time and still have time to enjoy and savour the holidays?

** I promise not to turn into Mary Turlington. If you haven’t met Mrs. Turlington from Christmas with the Vinyl Cafe, you must.


About Felicia Lo

founder + creative director of SweetGeorgia // designer + dreamer // wife + mama // dyer, knitter, spinner, weaver, youtuber + author // been writing this blog about colour and craft since 2004 // see what I am making @lomeetsloom and @sweetgeorgia.

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20 thoughts on “The Rule of Four

  1. siew says:

    As long as you don’t end up with a big metal tree! We listened to the Vinyl Cafe on our tip to Yellowstone this summer and laughed all the way there to Dave’s antics.

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      A friend burned me a copy of the Christmas stories from Vinyl Cafe and it totally brightened my season… I think I might make a tradition of listening to it every year. :)

  2. Kimberly says:

    I have a Christmas sewing/knitting list as long as my arm.  My current plan is to work on one easy project and one more challenging project at a time. I’m also knitting a couple of the same item (an Iris monster for each of my kids as well as my nephew) — it’s practically production knitting because I’m knitting up the bodies and limbs and saving all the finishing to do in one go. I’m hoping this will make things speedier. We’ll see. I feel mostly okay about my list right now but I may be panicking closer to Christmas.

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      Batching the finishing work sounds like a great way to go! And those monster dolls are so cute.

  3. Sarah Mac86 says:

    How funny that I read this just after leaving a vinyl cafe concert!

  4. Jody says:

    I’ve sworn off holiday knitting and never looked back.  However, I could definitely use some organization with the house decorating, cookie baking, present wrapping and card sending.   I’m going to spend some more time with the “Get Organized Week” article you linked to.  I don’t usually start Christmas planning until the day after US Thanksgiving, hence my need for help :)

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      Oh I know. I think I started holiday “planning” last year around Dec 12. It was a MESS. :)

  5. natalie buchmann says:

    ugh, I do not think you’re alone in this!  I have a really hard time with the finishing aspect of projects.  We’re talking everything is done, but it just needs to be blocked; or it’s blocked, but it just needs to be seamed.  Horrible!  Needless to say, I tend to try and find patterns that are seamless.  Even then, it takes me forever to weave in my ends (sometimes I even wear the garment without the ends woven in, or without buttons).  I’m also have a large stash of sweater amounts of lovely yarn (including some of yours, I might add).  As much as I can, I’m trying to “shop in my stash” when I come across a new pattern, instead of looking for new yarn.

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      Haha! Yes, I do that too… wearing garments without buttons… good to hear I’m not alone.

  6. Maryse says:

    I’m not sure if I should comment this post ;-)  I have only two WIPs and my stash is 6 skeins (for 4 projects).  I knit extremely slow, but I finish every “kind” of project I start before starting another one of the same “kind”.  Luckily enough, due to my insecurity, the second sock is my favorite because I don’t have to worry about the fit.  And with no stash, the good news is that I pretty much always swatch with “fresh” yarn…  Hope this helps… ;-)  PS  Your yarn is lovely! 

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      That’s such a cool way to think about the second sock!

  7. jenn says:

    i have a few rules around knitting for others and this includes Christmas knitting:
    1) i never knit anything for anyone unless i know that they either a) want it, or b) they will love love love it (and certainty is at least 99%)

    2) i’m a planner . . . . and i keep down my list to a minimum to maintain my sanity!

    i think it’s important to be realistic about what a sane knitter can manage.  i’m a big believer of quality over quantity.  those who don’t get a knitted item this year and really want one will be top priority next year . . . doing family “draws” by putting everyone’s name in a hat with your close family and/or friends is great too because it minimizes how many gifts are gifted and then you can spend more time on the one gift.

    as for Mary Turlington, i think the risk is very low that you will never turn into her!

    good luck with your Christmas knitting :-)  

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      I quite like the idea of doing that family “draw” so that fewer physical gifts are exchanged… but I think it would be difficult to convince my family of it. Hmm. 

  8. Louisa says:

    I was getting so totally frustrated with Christmas. Driving myself crazy with trying to make stuff or even buy things for people who had everything and could just go get something they liked better for themselves. Plus we have a really large extended family. I was absolutely miserable and dreaded December every year. So I did the unthinkable and swore off all gifts – except for the little ones. Now I neither give nor expect to get a present and I’m SOOOOO much happier! It was hard at first and I had to politely accept the occasional gift and admit that I had nothing for them in return. But now it’s generally understood by my friends and family and they’re even somewhat envious of my relaxed attitude! I say just join me in my no-gifts-for-anyone-0ver-the-age-of-12 and you’ll be much happier too. Then go out and buy yourself something that you really want! You’ll probably be able to afford it now that you don’t have to buy 27 tacky presents that the recipients probably won’t even like.

    And yes, I still do baking and turkey dinners with all the fixings for 30 people! Plus give occasional gifts whenever I feel like it any time of year. Works for me.

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      You sound so enlightened, Louisa! 

      Is it horrible to say that I’ve never gone to any of the GVWSG holiday potlucks and the main thing that scares me off is having to bring a handmade gift. It sounds ridiculous, I know, because it’s supposed to be such a small thing, but really, it’s turned me off going :(

  9. Gigi says:

    Oh me too!  I love casting on and have umpteen wantabe projects swimming around in my poor overcrowded noggin — not to mention another umpteen UFO’s lurking in every corner of my house.  The ‘rule of four’ sounds very sensible and a good goal to shoot for — someday.  Although, right now, I’m knitting like a mad woman trying to get cardis, hats, vests, socks, etc. made for Christmas, so all non-Christmas knitting is on hold for now. 
    I used the Organized Christmas website last year, and it did help.  I just wish they would tell us where to get more money for buying the gifts too ;).
    Love that pretty blue shawl you’ve got going and look forward to seeing it when you’re all done — maybe in February?

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      Good to hear that the Organized Christmas website helped you last year! Gives me a bit of confidence. Yes, I wish they could help with the money side of things too :)

  10. Jen says:

    So when are you planning your first trip up the mountain then?  I plan to be equally as organized (yeah, right) so let’s set a date.  :-)

    1. SweetGeorgia says:

      Opening day at Whister! November 24 ;)

      No really, I’m *this* close to getting a Cypress pass… only 7 more sleeps to decide if I’ll do it or not. This winter, I’m trying for more “balance”. Going to try not working 14 hours every day and maybe trying getting outside a little more often. If I get the pass, I might be more motivated to go. 

      How many days are you and Ray planning on going to Whistler this year?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Are there new episodes of Downton Abbey yet??!  

    I’ve mostly given up on the idea of making gifts for people – figure if I manage to finish something in time, then it’s a bonus, but I don’t count on it.  Although Peter and I do make soap for gifts – it’s one night, one big batch and voila, handmade gifts for our friends and family (something they’ll use too).

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