This Knitter’s Take on Project Management

Knitting a sweater and managing a project are pretty similar things.  You work hard to complete a finished product that meets the customer’s expectations.  You try really hard to manage those expectations along the way.  You make mistakes and you fix them.  You adjust the work as you go along based upon lessons learned to date and from previous projects.  You ask a lot of questions from experienced folks and make adjustments based upon their input.

I think it’s time that some of the knitter’s lexicon makes its way into project management speak.  Here are a few new phrases and terms for everyone to consider incorporating into your next project!


When beginning a new knitting project, experienced knitters know to knit up a small, sample swatch of your project to see if you get the recommended number of stitches per inch to gauge your personal style of knitting.  Not everyone knits at the same tension, so sometimes knitters must go up or down a needle size in order to achieve the desired outcome that the pattern designer has created.  It’s kind of like project planning.  Experienced project managers know that one size of project management plan does not fit all projects. Some “swatching” of the project plan during initiation provides the necessary tailoring and scaling of customer expectations and the project team approach to getting the job done right. After all, who wants a cool, hand knitted sweater that doesn’t fit?    


Every now and then, knitters make a mistake during their projects.  They drop a stitch, a cable goes awry or their pattern just gets messed up in some strange way.  If you are a quality control type of knitter, you learn to check your work every row or two and fix mistakes quickly.  You also learn to use stitch markers as interim measurement points so that you find mistakes before you even complete the row you are knitting.  When you rip out your completed knitting, it is known as frogging.  That’s because you “rip it, rip it” out. Frogging is triggered by the knitter’s milestones and review gates, similar to how we construct our project schedules. Giving yourself the opportunity to measure progress and performance regularly, frog your mistakes and catch your omissions is always better done sooner versus later.


When knitting a sweater, you have one final chance to make it look great. This is a part of project closure, when you construct and block the completed garment.  Blocking involves either soaking the sweater in water with a wool wash and stretching it out to dry or using a steamer to smooth out your final product. Blocking smoothes out the uneven stitches, adds a little more room here and there, and makes the finished garment look and smell just wonderful.  This extra time at the end results in a better quality outcome.  Blocking sounds like an excellent new activity to add to project closure activities as we are rolling out the final result.  Making sure our project’s final product is blocked and our customer’s expectations and acceptance criteria are met the essential final step in a successful project.

There you have it.  Swatching, frogging and blocking during our projects just as the knitters do can help us achieve project success!  Happy knitting on your project endeavors!

Susan Weese

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