Could you do a 12 month Creative Challenge?

Back in December I posted about my personal challenge for 2016, to knit 12 shawls in a year. (For those of you asking ‘why?’ I can only say ‘why not?’) So, did I manage it? Read on to find out!

Starting a Challenge: Have a Plan

Basic maths will tell anyone that if you want to knit 12 shawls in a year, you need to average one a month. I was keen to take on 12 projects I wanted to do, and to challenge myself to try new techniques. So I did some planning in December by:

  1. Searching through my knitting patterns to get an idea of the projects I wanted to take on
  2. Searching through my yarn stash to roughly match yarns to projects
  3. Having the Project One materials all ready to go to quick off the first project on the dot of January 1st!

I recommend using an electronic system for your planning, so you can easily make changes as you go. This might be a simple spreadsheet depending on what you’re doing. I used my  Ravelry queue* which is my electronic online queue of knitting projects I want to make. I just tagged the ones I was expecting to make with a 2016 tag. This approach meant it was easy for me to change my thinking, take things off the list and add things on during the year.

Snapshot of my Ravelry Project Queue, showing projects tagged as Shawls

I didn’t make life easy for myself – some of my projects are monster sized!  Here’s the details for the first half of the challenge. For those of you not into knitting, then admire the pretty pictures, mainly taken in the back garden of the Creative Coastal Home, whilst thinking about what creative challenge you would like to take on.

Project 1: The South American Lobster

1st shawl of 2016: The South American Lobster

This was a quick knit, the pattern being Spring Wrap by Rebecca Hill, published in Knit Now magazine issue 22. I was full of enthusiasm for the challenge and finished in 8 days flat. Full details of pattern and yarn are on my Ravelry* project page here: South American Lobster. The shawl was so named because I took the yarn on a trip all round South America with me, intending to knit on my travels (which I didn’t), and the colour just makes me think lobster!

Top tip: Start with a quick project to keep enthusiasm high

Project 2: Threesome


This may be where my challenge went off track. I chose a really large project because I was intrigued by the technique, a circle knit using short rows. So the shawl was created in wedges, instead of the more standard approach to knitting a circular shawl from the centre out. Here’s a close-up:

Close-up of the centre

The pattern is Lace Medallian Shawl from the beautiful book Wrapped in Lace by Margaret Stove. The yarn was some pure wool purchased on Ebay – always good for a bargain! The project took 3 months, and was widely travelled, including weekly trips on the train to my job in Manchester and a holiday to Iceland. Why the project name? No, it wasn’t a kinky project! There was a special knitted triple decrease in the pattern that I abbreviated in my head to ‘threesome’,  and the name stuck!

Top tip: Get a big project/part of your challenge out of the way early on

Project 3: Watchet

Watchet Shawl

It took me just under a month to create this, using yarn I hand-dyed a few years ago. The pattern is Watchet (hence the unoriginal project name) by Hunter Hammersen, from the book Curls. The new technique learnt was the backward loop cast on.

Watchet pattern close-up

The project took about a month and gave me added confidence I could recover lost ground and complete the challenge.

Top tip: If one aspect of your challenge puts you behind schedule, tackle something easier next to get your confidence back

Project 4: Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

This was my first attempt at knitting with beads, and I learnt a fancy crochet chain cast off as well. The pattern is Diospyrus from the beautiful book New Vintage Lace by Andrea Jurgrau. No fancy logic in the project name here – it’s an autumnal colour, and it has leaves in it.

Top tip: ensure your challenge involves lots of aspects you actually find challenging and interesting, to keep motivated

Project 5: At Last

At Last

Another month, another shawl completed! The pattern is Rainy Day Shawl by Anne-Lise Maigaard and you can buy it online from Ravelry* here. The project name came from having had the yarn in my stash for a very long time, it’s another one I hand-dyed. I finished at the end of June, so knew I was still behind schedule but having made up time.

At Last stich pattern close-up

Top tip: Keep on going and have faith you can do it!

Project 6: Happily Ever After? Unlikely

Happily Ever After? Unlikely Shawl

Shawl 6 acquired it’s name because the pattern is called Happily Ever After, by Meilindis Designs. And once I’d started I got the distinct impression this project was not going to end up Happily Ever After for me. For starters the yarn needed hours of untangling to wind into a ball. The yarn, a blend of silk and camel, shed all over the place. If you ever think maybe your wardrobe is missing a hint of camel, seriously, get over it and move on. Then I kept mis-counting on stitches and needing to unpick rows and start again…. the whole project took a month and only sheer bloodymindedness kept me going to the end.

I think my issues were far more due to the yarn (*&%£$ camel and silk) than the pattern, so here’s the link to the pattern: Happily Ever After Shawl

Top tip: Expect your challenge to be challenging! You can still do it. But never, ever, consider using camel hair in any project. Leave it to the camels where it belongs.

The Half-Way Assessment

By the time I’d finished the first six shawls, it was half-way through August. So I wasn’t exactly on track, but the challenge still felt achievable, with effort. I’d been scarred by camel and silk, and learnt a host of new techniques and acquired some nice new items for my wardrobe. So I decided to keep going and up the pace in a bid to complete the challenge. Head back for the next blog post to see how the rest of my knitting challenge went, and for more tips on how manage your own creative challenge! Do you have a creative challenge in progress? Do you need any advice or have any top tips to share? Leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page.

The early stages of the challenge

*Ravelry is a fabulous creative resource for knitters, crocheters and other crafters. If you haven’t checked it out yet, get over there!

Amazon links to the books referred to below

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