My brain and Fiona

I find my knitting brain in an odd place at the moment. I think that I’ve been putting a lot of my knitting energies lately into finishing things so that I can move on and start something else, whether something of my own or just an item that I want to make and check it off some kind of “done” list. And it’s great for getting things accomplished but not so much for the psyche after a while. In the last week I’ve been feeling a bit of the knitting ennui and a bit of the project fatigue and even some of the “but what if I’m a hack who will never have any more creative thoughts EVER” and, well. That’s never fun. At the moment I’m medicating myself with small, manageable-sized, travel-knitting projects and telling myself it’ll all turn a corner again at some point.

So, it was pretty darned interesting sitting in Fiona Ellis‘s class on Morphing Cables at the Naked Sheep on Saturday morning.


It was, make no mistake, a great class. I’m very glad I went. Fiona is a friendly and expert teacher and strikes me as the sort of person who could go from beginner basic to advanced crazy talk heirloom knitting in about 5 seconds, and would see nothing strange about this at all. Happily, all of us in the class had had some experience with cables before and were pretty game, so she started us all off a few floors up from the basic and after a bit of discussion of breaking down what cables are and how we get them, she had us go right into creating our own.

Yep. Did you know you can make your own cables, just from your own brain? I think I might have known this, but possibly just needed Fiona to tell me so. And really, you should have seen the swatches people were turning out in this class. I was a little bit intimidated looking around the table, for reals. There was a lot of intent work and exploration and graph-paper-charting and “let’s see what happens when I do this” sort of knitting.


Me, I spent a lot of time staring at my swatch, knitting a few rows, noting on the graph paper what I’d done, knitting another few rows, ripping them out and knitting them again, re-writing the graph paper, and staring at my knitting for even longer moments. And Fiona would go around to everyone and talk and give tips, and then get to me and steeple her fingers and ask “how are you doing, Glenna?” And I would say “UM. I have no freaking idea.”

As soon as we had the word ‘go’ I recognized I was going to have a challenging morning ahead of me, because it immediately became clear to me what exactly my creative process is. I absolutely suck at not having a plan. When I get an idea I have to mull it over for the requisite number of hours or days that it decides it needs until it is fully formed, and then I have a plan, and then I work towards executing it. And here we were asked to have absolutely no plan whatsoever, and just “go”. Ahahahahhahahahahhaha surely you must be kidding about this.


It was a little bit world-tilting for me and my brain went back to the “but what if I don’t have an idea?” problem. I have decided that I just need to tell that part of my brain to sit down and shut up and mind its own business, because it has nothing constructive to offer me. I’ll have an idea at some point, it all comes around when you least expect it. And the fact of the matter is I love cables and want to use more of them and have a few pretty specific thoughts on where I’d like to apply them. They’ll let me know what they want to look like, when they feel like it.

And now I feel a bit more as though I know how it works to do go through that execution process. Fiona had several key tips on how to construct cables and make them appear and disappear and morph, and how to try experimenting with them on a rainy day with nothing to do. I’d go back again.


At the end she showed us many of her samples of cabled items which she has knit into patterns and we all ogled and oohed over them. It reminded me I have my printed out copy of Bonnie all bundled with a small heap of Mission Falls 1824 that I need to get out there and knit this winter.

And in the mean time I’ll just be over here clutching my stash and being patient with my brain. It’s got work to do.


  1. I totally understand. I had knitting ennui while at Sock Summit. Yeah. But I’ve got my knitting mojo back in full force and everything from SS09 is coming back to me. Just needed to percolate a while…

  2. What an interesting class. It would scare me a bit as I rarely have any creative ideas that work and I would end up just sitting there and feeling rather silly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You need Elizabeth Gilbert!

    Sounds like a fun workshop!

  4. I was so excited the first time my friend showed me how to do cables. I’ve only knit one item with them, but I can’t wait to do more. That class sounds like it was a lot of fun!

    By the way – what kind of yarn is that? That stormy blue color is simply gorgeous.

  5. what an interesting idea for a class!! Sounds like you just weren’t in the right mood for feeling free and crazy with cables that day. I’m sure you’ll have some time soon where the mood will strike you, and you’ll be able to do all kinds of cool things to incorporate into your future designs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Other people’s creative processes always intrigue me. I remember the “a-ha” moment when I realized I could go off the page and knit my own patterns. But I haven’t experimented too much with cables. I tend to underestimate the ways in which a class would benefit that creative process. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that an exercise can be just that. It doesn’t have to go somewhere, lead to a product that day.

  7. Hang in there! You’re knitting mojo will return. It always does, right? Sounds like a fun class! I took a class on short rows from Fiona at Stitches West once. She’s a good teacher and such a free spirit.

  8. This made me think of stuff some of my artist friends talk about around giving themselves permission to make bad art, and just playing with materials, and that kind of thing. Somehow tricking yourself into playing around and being creative without an end goal in mind just to get those juices flowing.

    My friend Leah (@leah_art) is running and Art Every Day Month on her blog (which is called Creative Every Day) this month as a kind of non-writing alternative to NaNoWriMo. She’s got some cool updates and posts over there. (

  9. tinebeest · ·

    Creativity is one of those things that doesn’t really do an on-demand service. I once had a spell in art classes where the muse just left me on my own and it was scary. I’m actually not sure if she ever came back, I managed to hide behind the artisanship and craft of pencil drawing, but it didn’t involve the creativity you associate with an *artist*. And I’m positive that whatever was left has been killed off long since by the friggin’ PhD. So yeah. It’s not easy to be creative…

  10. it sounds very much like we have similar creative processes. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ok, mine is usually dealing with *fabric* and construction problems ( just how DO I get that piece of fabric to do what the client wants? Or, more rarely, so that it looks like the thing I have in my head) instead of yarn and needles and cables, oh my, but the process sounds familiar. Think about stuff. Poke the material around a bit. Think some more. Poke some more. Maybe sketch a bit, or research something historical that looks/feels similar. Let everything stew in the back of the skull for a week or more. Add caffeine. Repeat. ๐Ÿ˜€

    The creative process can be coaxed to work every day, but She is a lazy beast at best, prone to sudden long fits of productivity after long periods of somnolence. You have been very busy lately — let her nap. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If it makes you feel any better, and I am in awe of creative knitting process at this moment, and the fact you actually write real patterns (!!!) is terribly, terribly impressive. Can’t wait to see what will come out when the freeform cable thing gets done fermenting in your brain!

  11. The class sounds interesting & also scary. I will be brain dead if I have to come up with something creative on the spot.

  12. Oh, yes, I’ve known that ennui, and that clutching feeling of “what if it never comes back.” And I’m a planner, too. I so feel for you! But it sounds like the class was great, and the mojo always does come back. So far.

    I like being easy with the design process; when the idea (finally) appears, it’s great. But I don’t have to force it, because it’s not my day job. It’s for fun, a creative outlet for me. Perfect. For you, too?

  13. It sounds like you did a great job getting something out of a complex class. I admire your cables moxie!

  14. Sounds like a fantastic class. I love people who teach you not to just follow the rules but to be creative ๐Ÿ™‚

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