Friday, July 11, 2008

“Rotation Stitching” -- July 11, 2008

Rotation Stitching is a hot topic on many blogs these days and since I’ve received some general questions about rotation stitching I thought I would spend a moment or two and write a quick explanation. :-)

Rotation Stitching is a technique used by many stitchers to “rotate” among different needlework projects. The needle worker stitches on one project for a set time period or until they complete a specific section. They then put this project away and start on the next project in the rotation. This continues until the needle worker finishes stitching on the last project in the rotation when they then start over again at the beginning with the first project.

If a project is completed during its turn in the rotation, it’s moved out of the rotation and another project is added to the rotation in its place. There must be at least two projects in a rotation, but there is no limit except for personal preference, on how many projects are in the rotation.

There are many benefits of rotation stitching including but not limited to;

1. Minimizes potential for boredom
Which may occur if you are stitching on only one project.

2. Minimizes “Stitch Me, No Stitch Me”, call from other projects.
You can tell those other projects that they have to wait their turn and you’ll get to them soon!

3. Progress can be made on several projects as opposed to just one.
At the end of the rotation you can “see” all of your wonderful progress.

Rotation stitching is a wonderful tool which can help with some of the anxiety that you may be feeling about soooo many projects in your stash.

How do you decide on a rotation strategy? There are as many different rotation stitching strategies as there are different stitchers! I do have some helpful hints that I’ve learned while setting up and evolving my stitching rotation. :-)

Before you start a stitching rotation you need to figure out what projects are in your stash that still need to be stitched. These can be projects that just need a few hours of work or projects that are brand new. You also need to figure out what projects have already been stitched that might just need to be finished into something as you don’t want to add a project that you have completed stitching to your rotation.

The first recommendation I would make is to list what you have accomplished. Lay those projects out on a table or on your bed and go "Wahoo! Look at what I've finished stitching!" :-)

Now make a pot of coffee, a cup of tea, or a nice iced cold beverage and then lay out all of the projects that you want to stitch and go "Wahoo! Look at all of the fun I'm going to have!" :-)

I've found that this helps me when my mind starts whirring about all of the stuff that I have to stitch and how in the world am I going to get it all done! If I list or mentally review my accomplishments/finished projects, I can then, with more positive thoughts, focus on what I need to do. Also by listing what I need to stitch, this helps the mind focus on the specific items as opposed to worrying about everything! :-)

Sometimes this process involves making lists and crossing the items off, or lining up my projects up and going "Cynthia you are GOOD!" LOL

The first decision with rotation stitching is "What are my categories for rotation?"So gather up your projects and separate them into categories. I have several suggestions of categories that you might want to start with;

- Gift Stitching or Projects that will be Presents

- Almost Done Projects

- Small Sized Projects

- Medium Sized Projects

- Large Sized Projects

- Planning Next Project/Organizing Projects (choosing fibers and stitches).

- Organizing Stash

- Community/Charity Stitching

- Canvases from a specific Designer/Canvasses from a Series

- Any other Categories?

Once you've selected your categories you can then decide on the order in which you want to rotate through these categories. Don’t spend too much time on this step as you will be eventually rotating through all of the categories.

You might also want to consider if you should spend twice as much time on any of the categories or add that category twice into the rotation. For example, let’s say that you have a lot of ornaments that you want to stitch for presents this year. This falls into the category of “Gift Stitching”. You can decide to have two “Gift Stitching” categories if you want to be working on two different ornaments at the same time or you can decide that you want to spend twice as long on this category as the other categories.

The second decision with rotation stitching is, "How are you going to rotate between your projects?" In other words, would you rotate projects?

- after a set amount of time on each project?

- after a set amount done on each project?
For example, rotate after you have completed one area on the project such as a face or a square of the design before moving on to the next category.

- when the next category calls to you?

- when you are tired of this project?

There is no right way to rotate among projects. After reading many different needlework blogs, I have seen examples of many different styles of rotation. One needleworker stitches one needle full of thread for a project and then moves on to the next project. Several work until they complete a section. Many set different time limits from ½ hour, one evening, to one week per project. There is also no right way to select categories for the rotation.

What I have noticed after reading many different blogs is that most needleworkers who rotate their stitching like to have a variety in their rotation such as several smaller, medium, and larger projects to help maintain interest in the projects and in stitching. The needleworker can then have several smaller finishes while they are working on that very large piece.

Now look at your progress so far. You have decided your rotation strategy and you have grouped your projects into different categories. Now comes the fun part! :-)

Begin separating your projects into your categories. Don't worry if one of the piles is a lot bigger than the other! Have fun thinking about all of the fun stitching time that you are going to have. Yes, I know this can be difficult and we all get overwhelmed at what we have in our stashes, but you'll be surprised at how quickly you will be able to finish up some of these projects! :-)

As you do this, remove any projects that you have decided that you will never finish stitching. These can be set aside to be donated or to be sold. Removing these projects from your stash will help you concentrate on what you want to complete and will help reduce your stash. You will also have a better knowledge of what projects are in your stash which will help you decide if you want to purchase additional canvases. This may actually help with limiting the amount of new projects that you buy if you know that you have so many wonderful projects already in your stash. Okay, this doesn’t usually help me but it’s a thought! LOL

Now that you have your projects separated into categories, you are now going to prioritize your projects. Pick out the three that you want to complete first in each category. For the medium and large sized projects you might want to pick the top two projects that you want to complete first. These should be stored close to yourstitching area so as you complete a project the next one is right there and ready to be worked. Notice that I said “projects that you want to complete first”. The goal of a stitching rotation is to finish a project before replacing it with a new project. It is not to keep adding projects to your stitching list. :-)

Now that you've selected your current stitching projects, keeping the other projects in their categories, place them in more "long term" storage. Make sure that you do store them by category as you don't want to have to go through the sorting process every time you add a new project to your rotation as you want to spend your time stitching, not organizing! You will also be able to place newly purchased projects in their respective category so that they can be added to the rotation when appropriate. Labeled plastic containers will help with this part of the process. Don't worry about the projects that you are putting away as you will be getting to them later when it’s their turn in the rotation. They are just being put away temporarily. :-)

Pick your first project for each category and place these in or near your stitching area. You are now ready to begin your rotation! :-)

Have fun and remember that your rotation system is just a tool. If you find that your current rotation process is not working for you, then feel free to modify your rotation. For example, I've modified my rotation system and added two new categories. One is for "Cross Stitch" projects and the other is "Random Projects". I have a lot of cross stitch projects so I wanted to add a category for this type of projects. The random project category is for those times when every once in a while I like to mix things up by stitching on something outside of my normal rotation. There may not be a set project in this category as this category may include several different projects. To prevent these projects from being added to my rotation list and expanding my categories, I work through my rotation at least twice before I stitch on one of my random projects.

One additional tool that I've added is a simple chart where I've listed on the left side of the chart my different categories in a simple table. Because of my busy schedule (working full time, wife, and mother of two teenagers) I've found that I can't cycle through my categories one after the other. There are times when I'm just too tired to work on a complicated project that night even if it is time for it in my rotation. As I work on each category, I make a check mark for that category. This helps me to see where I'm spending a lot of time and where I might need to spend more time. Since I teach needlework to children and teens, there are times when I need to spend a lot of time prepping materials for those activities. I can then see that I've been spending time on these categories (several check marks) and it's time to move back to stitching for me. :-)

Please note that I've added a category for planning your next project or organizing projects. As you work down through the projects, you will need to select new projects to add to the rotation. You are going to find projects that may need more or new fibers (especially since we have soooo many new fibers now), or you may want to rethink about how you are going to stitch that project. As we develop as stitchers and as we become comfortable with new stitches and fibers, we may not want to use the stitches or fibers that we previously planned for a project.

Also, if you enjoy writing your own stitch guides, allocate time for planning the next project. If you don't enjoy writing your own stitch guides, and you decide you need help with a project, please consider sending the canvas(s) to a needlepoint shop. Many needlework shops will help design a stitch guide for free for a canvas if that canvas was purchased at that shop. There are also needlework shops who for a fee, will design a stitch guide and pull fibers for a canvas or set of canvases even if they were not purchased through that shop. If you have a set of canvases in a series such as a circus scene or a set of flowers in the same style, I would consider sending them all to the same shop so that as they write the stitch guides, they will also reuse fibers for the different canvases which would help with the cost of the project. The canvases in the series or set will also have the same look and feel. You might also want to contact different shops as there may be shops who have already written stitch guides for that particular line of canvases. Even though you didn't purchase the canvases through them, they may be willing to sell you their stitch guides and the fibers that they used.

There are many different needleworkers who have blogged about their rotation systems and many have labeled these posts. Start with your favorite blogs and search to see if they have labeled any posts with organizing, or rotation stitching. If you don't have any favorite blogs that you read regularly, you might want to start with my blog. I have several entries about my rotation system. In addition, I have links to many other blogs where the needleworkers "talk" about their rotation system.

You might also want to consider creating a needlework blog. Since I enjoy reading other needlework blogs, I decided to create one of my own. I’ve found that my blog has actually helped me to focus on my rotation stitching as I need to have pictures of projects for my blog! You can imagine this conversation with my family, “Not right now as I need to stitch so that I have something to post this weekend!” Well it doesn’t always work, but I try!!! LOL

Have fun!

Windy Meadow


Kathryn said...

That was a very complete and non-threatening discussion of rotation stitching. Too bad it will never work for me.

I travel too much and live in different places. There are certain projects that do not travel, so even if their "time" came up I might not have them with me in order to work on them. Conversely, I need a certain amount of "small" projects that I can stitch on planes. Once the plane lands, I may or may not stitch on them again. The only thing that seems to be working for me is Yearly Goals. Could you call that a yearly rotation? At least it keeps me focused on what I want to stitch and keeps me from starting too many new large projects. Although I think I may have been a bit too conservative this year and could have put a few more things on my yearly list. Next year the list will be longer.

Though I do agree that I also find myself stitching a certain amount so that the next blog post can show some progress. :-)

Love to Stitch 99 said...

I enjoyed reading about your rotation system though that would never work for me as I am way too undisciplined in that sense.

I like to rotate but when I feel like it and when rotating I always pick the project that I feel like working on. Usually I finish a section before rotating.

Let's say that I am working on project A, then I will complete a section before moving on to project B and it does not matter if it takes me one, two, three days to do so.

After that section is done, I look around and decide which other project that I have around me that I feel like working on that day.

What happens with this system of mine is that I am usually working on a project like I feel like working on, but that also means that some projects are not being worked on for long periods of time until I feel like working on them. In the end, there always come a day where I say, today is the day to work on that project that I may not have touched for a couple of months. It does not look like a real rotation system now, does it? (ROFL) It does keep me a happy stitcher though, which is the main thing and I also end up finishing lots of projects in any given year.

Pierrette =^..^=

NCPat said...

Nice job on writing that up! Now, get back to stitching that Santa hat! LOL

Carolyn McNeil said...

I have my own rotation plan. I usually work three projects at a time. One needlepoint project, One paint by number project and one latch hook rug project. I switch back and forth on a daily basis, depending on my mood. My own personal take on a really good idea!
An encyclopedia of needlepoint stitches…

Vonna said...

Wowzers! That is one well thought out plan of action....I am TOTALLY impressed. Me...rotation stitching doesn't work...I just am a stitch until it's done girl. :(

Coni said...

(laying on floor gasping for breath)....oooooooh! Thank you for such a comprehensive entry on rotations! I looked for something like this forever until I developed my very own rotation steps: 1) Plan rotation carefully for days and days and days 2) Go to Target to buy new containers for new rotation categories 3) Organize organize organize for days and days and days 4) Start carefully thought out and planned rotation 5) Do it for fifteen minutes and realize that this rotation simply won't work. 6) Fret fret fret fret fret 7) Gripe to sister who told you not to start a rotation in the first damn place 8) Lather, rinse, repeat.

Frontrange Stitcher said...

Fabulous post about rotation. And I get it! Thanks so much for sharing this with your readers. The way I re-prioritize, I can see me doing it to "The Macharana!" LOL Take care.

Possibilities, Etc. said...

Loved your comment on mine today - you can do it!! the CQ designing. I'm also pushing Pierrette to design her own ornaments. You very talented stitchers can do this - I know you can.

Jean D. in Littleton said...

Hi Cynthia,
I absolutely loved your Rotation Stitching article & just found it about a week ago---just by chance. Isn't Google wonderful? Anyway, a friend of mine is writing a newsletter for the Rocky Mtn. Region of EGA & she wants to do a newsletter to our members about stitching hints, ideas, thoughts & tips. I am wondering if you would allow
her to reprint your article in that newsletter in whole & giving you the credit for writing it? She would really be grateful if she can. And it in no way would be for profit or sold or anything like that. Just let me know & here is my email address so you can notify us. Thank you so much for your thoughts on a neverending issue all of us stitchers face.