Planning and Evaluating a Project

Marcy Petrini



I was honored on Saturday to present a program to my local guild, the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild. In thinking about the topic, I drew on what I regularly do to plan at first, and then evaluate my own work at the end; I may not do it step-by-step as I had to present it by necessity, but the process is there.

Our group is very varied: weavers and spinners, with weavers who don’t spin and spinners who knit but don’t weave, and most people practicing other fiber crafts, like felting, quilting, sewing, basket weaving, needle work, etc. For that reason, I thought my presentation needed to be broader than just weaving, although as a spinner and knitter, I myself use the process of planning and evaluating for those fiber crafts as well.

A week or so before the program, I sent an e-mail to the group asking that they list all of the fiber crafts that they practice, in no particular order; and then, next to each, to list, in order of importance, why they do the crafts they do.

It seems obvious why we practice our crafts, but it isn’t. Furthermore, we may have a reason for one particular piece (weaving a sample for one of my Convergence® seminars) and another reason for another (weaving a scarf for the upcoming Guild exhibit). And our reasons change with time.

No reason is better than another and none of us should feel that any of our reasons are not legitimate. I told the group that they should go through the exercise of listing their reasons as honestly as they could, knowing that we would not share those. They are personal. But deep down inside we need to know because we won’t be able to evaluate our work truthfully if we aren’t honest with ourselves.

I speak from experience. I have known people whose wonderful pieces never seemed to please them. With more probing, I discovered that their stated reason or goal for a project (“I want to make a baby blanket for my granddaughter”) fell short of their unstated overall reason, unstated even to themselves (“I want to make pieces so incredible that Martha Stewart will feature them…”). I changed the story here, but the mismatches are equally striking.

Once you have thought about your global reason(s) for practicing a particular medium that you are about to use for a specific piece, then you are ready to plan. This is not the planning that we all do in figuring out our pattern, sett, yarn needs, etc.; that comes later. This is preplanning, as can be seen from this form.

PDF Form (it will open in a new tab): Planning a Project

The form is pretty self-explanatory, but you should think about your goal before you start, the limitations you have and the design considerations listed that are important to your project; perhaps you have others to add that you find particularly useful. One design consideration that is often overlooked is scale. I recently wrote a Right From The Start article about it (“A Question of Scale”, SS&D 184:18-22, Fall 2015). Look at the photo below of three fabrics all woven in a straight twill and the difference in the scale of the structure.

The article discusses not only the consequence of scale, but also ways to think about it, for example using software, simple arithmetic or hand drawing. They all have limitations; drawdown programs can help, but as I discussed in the article, two repeats of a pointed undulating twill with a 144 thread repeat sett at 24 ends to the inch could pose a problem for printing it all in one piece (and we should always use at least two repeats to check the transition between one repeat and the next). The article also provides information on how to manipulate scale when needed.

This pre-planning process shouldn’t take long, but it does help us focus where we are headed with that project. But don’t agonize over this! As I have said before, don’t spend more time thinking about the perfect project than it would take to do a good project. My husband Terry Dwyer says that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. In other words, “Just Do It!” I have taken on the more eloquent mantra from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a book that I worked through a couple of decades ago and still rings true: “Dear Creator, You take care of the quality, I of the quantity.”

Here is the form for evaluating a project that we will discuss in the next blog. Meanwhile, think about why you practice the crafts you do, a goal for your next project, do the pre-planning and the planning, and then – well, “Just Do It!

PDF Form (it will open in a new tab): Evaluating a Project  

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