A Needle Pulling Thread

I saw this mentioned on the blog of ‘Did you make that?’ earlier this week, and have just gotten round to listening to it. ‘A needle pulling thread’ is a collection of stories about the role of the sewing needle in our lives, and the programme introduces us to entrepreneurs, quilters, farmers, and prisoners amongst others. I’d really recommend a listen if you get the chance – I’d never before considered how a needle could be so important, and potentially harmful, to lives around the world. Here we learn how the needle is instrumental for memories, livelihood, friendships, rehabilitation and relaxation. Fascinating stuff.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04p7xls

needle pulling thread

Work in progress – a viewpoint from the middle of the pile

Work in progress. I’ve got quite a lot of that at the moment! Writing, marking, knitting…. And I’ve realised that they’re not all that different. This is my pile of knitting WIPs:

WIP pile

Here’s 7 of them. The jumper in the middle was technically finished, but I’ve decided I want it to be longer so it’s been moved out of the wardrobe and is hanging around waiting for me to be interested in it again. The white lace shawl, top left, is my long-term ongoing project of remaking the Shetland shawl. It’s so fiddly that I rarely pick it up – it’s been in this state for months now. I just need to make myself do it. Then there are the two obligatory single socks (I hate doing the second one – severe second sock syndrome always kicks in). Bottom left are some gingerbread men awaiting eyes and some hanging ribbon in time to decorate the flat for the festive season. Then, just because I didn’t have enough to do, I decided to cast on a cowl last night out of some gorgeous alpaca that I bought for a different project that didn’t work out so well. The red yarn in the top right isn’t technically mine, but is standing in to represent some of the Christmas gifts I have one the needles. Yes, there are more unfinished objects which haven’t made the picture. 10 WIPS in total maybe? I hadn’t realised there were so many ongoing projects until I sat amidst them all last night.

I do feel bad, I want the items to be finished so they can be used and loved as they’re intended to be. But equally I quite like having lots of projects on the go. Each one of these fulfils a different role and makes up a different component of my love of knitting. The lace shawl for instance is something I can do when I want a bit of a challenge, when I’m home alone and just listening to music or sitting quietly for a bit. At the other end of the spectrum is something like the jumper- just miles of stocking stitch in the round that I can do without thinking or looking – whilst watching tv or semi-supervising dinner simmering away. Socks make good travelling projects – simple, but portable. The gingerbread men are a bit of fun, and the cowl makes me feel like I’m using up stash yarn whilst giving the gratification of a quickly completed project. So depending on my mood or context, I’ve always got the perfect project to pick up! It just means that everything takes that much longer to finish, for they’re always competing with other projects.

What I’ve noticed though is that my academic work has started to resemble a pile of WIPs as well. I’m in the ‘writing-up’ stage of my PhD now, the part where it all gets serious. When I started writing I was using Microsoft word to type up chapters or sections of chapters, each in their own file. I was finding it quite muddily and slow, and so when I read about a programme called Scrivener designed to help with the writing process, I downloaded it at once. It suits me perfectly. All of my bitty little documents are now in one place, and it looks much more like a thesis. What is great about Scrivener though is the ability to focus down on small sections (whether that’s a chapter or a paragraph) and look at them in isolation or in context. So when I suddenly come across a quote that would be great in my literature review whilst working on my methodology I can quickly zoom to the section I want to insert it in without having to quit the programme and trawl through my documents to find the literature review and the appropriate section of it. (That’s a really bad description – I’d recommend looking at the Scrivener website if you’re interested, plus it does loads more cool stuff that I won’t even attempt to explain here.) Since switching to writing with Scrivener I’ve found myself to be more productive, but also a lot more jumpy. Whereas before I tended to try and focus on one chapter, I now switch between all the chapters. It’s good because I’ve started treating the thesis as a whole. But, like with my knitting projects, I’m not getting anything finished. I’m jumping between sections and chapters depending on what suits my mood or the situation. So if I’m not feeling particularly motivated I might label up all my figures in the almost-completed chapter 1. And then if a flash of inspiration strikes, I’ll go and fiddle with the structure in chapter 3, before adding in a linking paragraph at the end of chapter 2. I think I’m getting stuff done, but it’s quite difficult to tell for sure when you’re sat in the middle of the pile.

Anyway, I need to go and address a pile of marking. Which I’m also mid-way through. The biggest challenge is going to be ignoring the call of these newly-acquired beauties:

New yarn I’m thinking mittens?!