Speed is relative

Last week a few of you asked me how I managed to fit so much knitting into my life. While I can’t say that I try to speed knit a sweater every week (or every month), I do manage to turn out a couple of finished projects each month, and not just small ones. So I do keep a decent pace, and a lot of that is due to simple experience. I’ve been knitting steadily for ten years now, and overall I’m faster than I started. (I’ve also noticed that my tension is ever so slightly looser than when I started, which I think is neat. It also means I really do have to swatch to make sure of things, darn it.)

There are ways to knit faster on a technical level – in other words to increase the number of stitches you’re knitting each minute – and there are people who simply knit extremely fast. I have known knitters who could turn out a sweater within a week just in their transit knitting time, but I am not quite that brisk. Mostly what I find is that my speed comes from the way I fit knitting into my life, and it boils down to three basic steps.

Lace panel cardigan in progress

1. Make time for knitting

I know it’s a tad obvious to point this out, but the harsh reality is that if you don’t knit, your knitting will not get knitted. Who among us hasn’t gotten to the end of a week completely shocked that the sweater we haven’t touched since last weekend did not miraculously start its own sleeves all by itself? I certainly have had my moments like that. There are days when I don’t get as much knitting in as I’d like, and some days pass without any knitting at all depending on what’s up that day. On the whole I make sure I’m spending at least a few minutes with at least one project every day, and gradually it adds up to finished work.

2. Find your Netflix groove, ditch the smartphone

It’s a habit of mine to knit while watching television, so much so that if I were not able to knit, I would probably watch way less television. Or, if I didn’t knit I would probably switch to something else I could do at the same time. Maybe I’d go back to needlepoint. (Knitting colonized all of my other crafting hobbies, and I regretted nothing.) So, if I’m engaged in what I’m watching then it is very easy to keep sitting and knitting. Honestly I would put Netflix on my list of favourite knitting tools, right up there with stitch markers and tape measures. Remember in olden times of, you know, four years ago, when you were watching tv shows on DVD and you had to physically get up to change the disc in order to keep going? HAH. We don’t even have that standing in the way now, and don’t even have to feel lazy about it since our needles are still keeping busy. The point is that watching TV enables my knitting. Something else might be your enabler – podcasts, radio, patio time with an iced beverage.

The hitch comes if I’m set up with my television/enabling time and I’m watching something I am only half-interested in or that I’ve seen before, because then my eyes are more likely to wander towards my smartphone. It is all too easy to be distracted. I stand a better chance if I just leave my phone in another room, or even flip it face down so I can’t see it blinking at me if I’ve got a new email notification. Earlier in the year I gave myself a talking to and deleted all the game apps off of my phone, because I realized I was playing games first thing when I sat down, not knitting.

You might do just fine for willpower against your smartphone, however. Maybe you don’t even have a smartphone or wireless internet, and your time constraints are entirely different from mine. The moral of the story is that there are about a billion things that can (and do) take up your time during the day, so if you want to make more room for knitting, you have to control the ones you can control.


3. Divide and conquer

This, in my mind, is the easiest “get knitting done” strategy, but it is also more of a longer term strategy. What you do is, quite simply, have different projects for different kinds of knitting situations. Lengthier stints at home on the sofa are for sweaters or anything complex, but sock projects are portable and can be stuffed in my purse for knitting in transit, or while waiting around, or just in case I have unexpected time and don’t want to sit idle. Plain ribbed socks and Pi Shawls have been my go-to projects for knitting at the movie theatre. (You don’t have to knit at the movie theatre, of course. Sometimes I really do sit back and shove popcorn into my face.)

The Mason Dixon ladies have a list in one of their books for places they don’t knit, including funerals, and there are also places and situations I will put the knitting away. You probably have your own list of these places also. However I would say about 90% of my social circle is composed of knitters, which makes it about 900% easier to knit even if I’m with other people, so I really recommend making friends with as many knitters as possible.

You Β can’t knit everywhere, and you can’t knit all the time, but you can knit a lot of places and can choose virtually any project you want if you really want to knit it. Versatility is your friend.

Where have you knitted today, dear knitter friends? Shout out to everyone knitting in cafes and on public transit, because those are my favourite.

Until next time!

Pattern: Sweater design in progress (by me)
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Purple Label Cashmere sock (‘lucky penny’ colourway)

Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock (by me)
Yarn: Socks That Rock Mediumweight, colourway ‘grawk’ and ‘hard rock’







  1. hospital waiting room today. my hubby is getting a transplant. it is saving my sanity for sure.

  2. I love this post! There are people who ask me how I find the time to knit and the answer is I don’t find the time, I make the time. I use all your strategies (though I really need to get better at making sure I always have an easy portable project available) (I also need to do better at putting away the iPhone!).

    Today, I’ve knitted first thing in the morning while reading on my iPad; tonight I’ll knit while watching my two current Netflix obsessions (Once Upon a Time with my kids and Bloodlines with my hubs).

  3. Dawn'l · ·

    I bring my knitting to work with me and try to get at least a couple rows done during lunch. Its slow, but its progress. Then I ramp up in the evenings for some power knitting in front of the tv.

  4. Not today, but I alway try to knit while traveling to and from my home town to visit family (3.5 hours each way). My parents and in-laws, including a BIL and SIL, live within 5 minutes of each other, so for holidays and birthdays we usually end up going to them. Since all of the husband’s hobbies are social and thus not doable in the car, we have a standing agreement that he drives and I knit. Since we usually drive in the evenings, winter doesn’t afford much time for knitting because of the early sunset, but once DST rolls around I can clock solid time on anything I would knit while on the couch.

  5. Reblogged this on KathiS Designs and commented:
    I could have written this. I would add “Books on Tape” to a favorite knitting tool. You will rarely find me without knitting in my bag and it is surprising how much knitting can happen in a few minutes accumulated over time. (I will admit I only buy handbags that will accommodate a small project).

  6. My issue was actually taking time to REST. I was knitting so much, that no matter how many stretches I did, no matter how many breaks I took, my hands and forearms wouldn’t stop hurting.
    I think it might be an inflammation issue as I seem to be able to get any kind of “repetitive stress injury” very easily. I was carrying my knitting everywhere. If I wasn’t driving, I was knitting in the passenger seat. If I was standing in line, I was knitting. If I was reading, I was knitting. If I was at work {because of the nature of my job, cubical and lots of down time} I was knitting. I couldn’t get the ache in my hands to stop. I have excellent posture and did lots and lots of stretches and tried to force myself to take a day or 2 off, but it wasn’t enough.
    I had to set down the knitting for weeks until my hands stopped hurting. Now I am timing myself. No more than 1-2 hours every other day or so.

    ALL the knitting is going SO SLOWLY now, and I feel frustrated by the lack of progress.

  7. Really enjoyed this blog. I do envy you having a social group of knitting friends. I do get together with 2 crafty friends monthly but otherwise I get my social knitting fix through Ravelry. I spend far too much of what could be knitting time reading and commenting on the posts!

  8. I have ergonomic issues with knitting, too. I can only do so much in a day. I do the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy as well, and while it leads to my having a zillion WIPs (I need time to pay attention to this… * put it down, start a new project *) it does help get the simple knitting done quickly. My favorite place to knit is during work meetings. That’s a guaranteed 1.5 hrs every week that I would otherwise just be staring into space!

  9. eeaajj2014 · ·

    I’m with you, I’d much rather be knitting than anything else! My dear husband is a saint he doesn’t mind that I buy more yarn, and he’s hired a cleaning service to come buy once a month. I knit at work during breaks and lunch. I turn down lunch invites because that cuts into my knitting! And a sure fire way to get the street lights to turn green is to grab your knitting!

  10. Some people call it baseball season for my two little league boys but I call it knitting season! I also have small projects in my purse at all times – finger less gloves for the baseball score keepers currently. Game starts at 5:30 so will get a good two hours in this evening!

  11. I also advocate for multiple knitting projects for different situations. With two little ones at home I have a harder time making time for knitting right now (which is why the sweater I started in January is still in progress, but it should get done eventually). But, yes, Netflix and knitting were made for each other.

  12. Mary Sherwood · ·

    And I thought I was weird! I have two televisions – one upstairs and one downstairs – and yep, there is a different project at each one! I’m also currently working on a third project, a gift, and have a set amount I try to get done each day. So, yeah, watching a little morning television helps me get a little jump on that!

  13. I agree with everything you say. I’d get more knitting done if I didn’t spend as much time surfing knitting blogs…but I love reading posts like this so it’s all good. πŸ™‚
    I am working on a largish gift project right now but for the moment there is a lot of mindless garter stitch, perfect for sitting through long meetings like one I had at the school this evening.

  14. p.s. I mind soccer season a little less when I can bring my knitting along!

  15. Linda A. · ·

    So, is knitting an addiction like any other addiction? If we’re doing it to the point of hurting our hands or feeling a need to do it even if it’s producing pain, what’s that about?
    People who have commented so far are in different places in their knitting experience.
    For me, it’s a way to relax. It’s a tactile experience (best produced with yarn that feels wonderful passing through my hands but that also produces practical results).
    But getting a result, so that we’re not left with alot of UFO’s, well, that’s Glenna’s domain and, Glenna, you provide quite an inspiration.
    Yes, speed is relative to available time. But, it doesn’t have to be insistent. There’s a difference.

  16. When I awoke this morning, first I checked my email and the news headlines on my iPad and then I knit a bit on the project that was also on my bedside table. After making breakfast, I knit a bit more before getting on with the morning chores. These first two, along with knitting in bed before going to sleep, are part of my daily routine.

    Today I also knit at the doctor’s office and the dentist’s office and I’m sure I will fit in a bit of knitting this afternoon and evening.

    By the way, I also finish multiple projects per month, so I think knitting during the “gaps” in your day is a very useful strategy for increasing output.

  17. I’m currently knitting in the dark until my baby settles, while reading blogs. I have found that I eat faster than my kids, and keep knitting at the table so I have more patience and don’t try to hurry them through meals. I keep TAAT socks in the car, and take the bag into stores with me so that if we are stuck in line I can get a few stitches in (or a whole color repeat while in the return line today). I also bring my spindle to the park, since I can be more mobile with that than knitting, and can keep up with both my girls while not being overinvolved with their play (the hazard of a naturally type A personality).

  18. What you said about the smartphone issue really got me – all those notifications have made me put down my knitting so often! Leaving it in another room is something I will definitely try.
    None of my friends knit, so I’m constantly making efforts to meet new people who do. My social circle has gotten used to me knitting and drop spindling on their sofas, though.

  19. Waiting at school for my son to get out today, tomorrow will be at the doctor’s office and Friday will be at the chiropractor.

  20. I totally agree with you on having something to watch/listen to while knitting (or crocheting, if it’s me). For me, it’s Gardener’s World (UK) on iplayer, or Harry Potter dvds in the winter! All the better if I’ve seen them before, as I can half listen, and put most of my attention into the stitches! If I have something to anchor me there, I’ll do more knitting. A tv programme/dvd is the best, as they last for a set time, so I’ll sit for a set time. Without the anchor, I’m up and about and doing other things like sewing seeds in the greenhouse, making cups of tea, putting out washing….the list goes on! I need something to give me the excuse to stay in one spot for at least half an hour so I can get some knitting done!
    Kate x

  21. Louise · ·

    I can relate to the woman(?) who had to her curtail her knitting. With mouse use at work and knitting at home and work lunchtime or breaks, I had to give my shoulder and hand a rest. It will be there when I’m ready.

  22. Adriana · ·

    My day feels hurried and incomplete if I don’t get a chance to knit. It is a way to recede from the endless phone / computer constant communication world we now live in.
    I have been reading about Eleanor Roosevelt lately and there are pictures of her, this seemingly tireless woman, roaming the world….and knitting!
    What a role model…if she could find the time to knit…I have no excuse.

  23. I too have recently been troubled by pain from knitting! I trying to limit my knitting to night time TV watching (1-2 hours) only as well as try to vary my needle sizes more frequently (aka not knit with size 1 needles for a month straight). But I agree that I only watch the amount of TV that I do because I am knitting πŸ™‚

  24. I love this blog!! So many like minds. I am afraid of multiple projects…afraid that one won’t get finished. But maybe I will try that. Well, off to my needles.

  25. I find myself distracted by my phone too often. I love knitting while my family watches tv. They’re entertained and I can work on my projects uninterrupted. I need to be more intentional about my knitting. I let other things sidetrack me. Thank you for posting this! It was exactly what I needed today!

  26. Ah Glenna, you hit the nail on the head about letting ‘technology’ distract us ….. starting today I am going to turn over my phone, turn off my laptop and GET SOME KNITTING DONE!!!! xxx

  27. BlondEngineer · ·

    Sadly, I can’t knit in transit, motion sickness. But once I’m home from work I have a rule that I must knit at least 1 row a day. I try to have different projects going to accomodate the energy I might have. So if it’s been a terrible day 1 row might be only 40 stitches, but if it’s been a good day and I’ve got the time and energy I can work a 560+ stitch row. That way progress may slow, but it never stalls out or stops completely.

  28. I almost always have a knit project with me all the time, it is when I feel its too big to take with me, it gets left at home and I have another one ready to go

  29. I have a saying – if I sit, I knit. So I knit whenever I am a passenger in the car, or if I am the driver, I have been known to knit a stitch or two while waiting at a light or in a construction line. I put that car in park, grab the needles and knit. I knit in the morning with my coffee, even if I only have time for a row. I knit in meetings, I knit at lunch. I knit when eating out while we wait for the waitress to take our order or bring the food. I knit in waiting rooms, I knit in meetings. I am never without my knitting.
    I do have two projects on the needles, usually. One easy to grab and drop (like socks or a hat) and one often a bit more fussy for watching TV. Things get done, don’t they?

  30. No knitting today. I have been saving my knitting for when I take my kids to the park, which is almost every day except we didn’t end up going today. (Honestly… Part of the reason we didnt go is because i dont have my next ball wound up yet). They play by themselves and I sit on the bench and keep an eye on them. My summer project has been a giant cross stitch, and I got a good amount of that done today while hanging out with my three year old while we played “driver”. Driver is the game she plays where she sits in the drivers seat in the parked car, totally abuses the electric window buttons, and we pretend that we are driving all the dolls all around the city and buying any number of cupcakes along the way. I can sit next to her and stitch and pretend to eat endless cupcakes and we can drive to grandmas house 68 times.

  31. Susan713 · ·

    My son has Tai Chi twice a week where they play soothing, peaceful music, and I knit lace (Bridgewater shawl right now. Finally on the border Woohoo!). Most days I do 10 min after lunch at work on an intermediate project like a sweater or simple lace, sometimes another 10 minutes before lights out at night. I always have a self-striping, plain-vanilla sock in my purse for waiting and for times I’m too stressed for the lace. Weekends I usually get several hours in either while watching tv or listening to an audio book. My husband loves to drive so I get knitting time when we go anywhere together. Sadly, I have a long commute by car that is impractical for public transport (I tried it one day, just to be sure. 2.5 hrs & 4 transfers). I am really hoping someone gets a self-driving car to market soon. I plan to be an early adopter.

  32. Debbie VanDerMolen · ·

    I always keep a simple knitting project (like a K2, P2 ribbed scarf, or a stockinette, in the round, hat) in one of my desk drawers at home. I knit on it while I read email, news stories, and knitting blogs – like this one.

  33. V o n n a · ·

    This sounds almost exactly like me. The phone distractions as well as Netflix and podcast being my greatest ally. I’ve only been knitting 7 years however but, I too have noticed my speed and gauge change. I swatch always because it’s a must. Why? My current projects give a good example. On one I had to go up a needle and the other I had to go down.

  34. I knit during my kids’ sports events and practices and keep easy stockinette heavy projects for those situations. I get a lot of stares and mesmerized children looking at the crazy lady knitting at a baseball game. My mom carries around her little yarn bag and knits socks everywhere we go.

  35. I’ve just started knitting and try to squeeze it in whenever I can but I have a toddler and a baby so it’s tricky. My biggest problem is that the bulk of my knitting is done in the evening when the kids have gone to bed. Unfortunately by this time I’m so tired that I make tons of mistakes! Ah well πŸ™‚

  36. Great tips! I try to bring my knitting with me wherever I go, just in case I get the chance to work on it! πŸ™‚ Socks are my favourite, as they’re nice and small.
    My boyfriend doesn’t really get the KIP thing, but ah well – it makes me happy πŸ™‚

  37. mjglenno · ·

    Knitting during conference calls saves me from how tiresome they are! I do it all the time. Yesterday I was knitting at work while watching youtube videos on how to do Bayesian hierarchical modeling. I need to learn it for an analysis I’m working on and the knitting keeps me from getting distracted and checking email, etc.

  38. TV knitting. Yes. I don’t know how I even watched TV before I started knitting. And I *always* have a sock or a baby hat or something equally small and mindless (in the round is great, because I haven’t quite yet mastered purling without looking) in my purse.

  39. I’m in a long stockinette slog on two projects currently. The toddler sweater comes to the playground with me and I knit on it there while walking around, talking to other moms/caregivers, and keep an eye on my daughter. The other is a one piece top down stockinette and garter stitch cardigan for me. I’m racing towards the hem and at ~200 stitches it’s a slog. So I knit on it when my Sims game loads up. It take about 20 minutes to load so I get ~3 rows done instead of just sitting there. My TV knitting is the yoke of a t-shirt in old shale lace. I’m about 1 repeat away from making the neck hole and I’m curiously reluctant about doing that.

  40. I keep a pair of socks, on the needles, in the car – my “car socks”. They are there for doctor’s offices, road work hold-ups, stalled traffic, waiting in line at custom check points, etc., etc., etc. I once knitted at length in line at an Ikea store, when the power went out and the check-out folks had to use adding machines – never waste knitting time!

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