If you’ve been knitting for a longer amount of time – long enough that you’ve done enough knitting projects to think of yourself as “A Knitter,” then you may every so often start to find yourself in a rut. You still love knitting, you still look fondly at the yarns on your shelf and the projects you’ve made, but you’re just not feeling as excited about it at this particular moment. You want to push past that feeling and get back to feeling excited about your knitting again.
I think plateaus like this are a normal part of the pursuit of crafty-ness, and they happen to me still after 10+ years of knitting, too. They can also be opportunities to take your skills to another level, to push yourself towards a new aspect of the craft that will make you love it all over again in a new way. Allow me to humbly suggest a few ways you can up your knitting game, for the next time you might need that little push.
1. Get swatching.
Grab a stitch dictionary (from your shelf, the local library or bookshop, or your knitting friend who owns a bunch), and a yarn you feel like using, and just pick a stitch pattern and cast on a small swatch and go for it. Try out a new stitch pattern that catches your interest, no other rules. You can also use this as an opportunity to try out a new-to-you yarn, by just buying one skein of it and doing up a plain swatch and another swatch or two with different stitch patterns.
The great and wonderful thing about knitting swatches for the sake of trying out a new stitch pattern or new yarn, is that they have zero pressure attached to them. They will be successful no matter what size or gauge they are. At this point you are purely on a fact-finding mission to see what you like and don’t like. You can also use swatching as an opportunity to learn a new technique – perhaps by trying a cable, lace, or slipped stitch pattern – without the added challenge of making a garment at the same time. You’re just seeing what you like and what you can learn next. If you did a “swatch a day” project, or even a “swatch a week”, eventually you’ll start lining up a tidy little pile of practice swatches and you’ll know which ones delighted you the most, and why. You will have added to your knowledge and skill at the same time, and it may change the way you think about your next projects.
2. Finish something. Anything.
If you have a pile of unfinished projects that is starting to cast a shadow (metaphoric or literal), pick one of those and coerce yourself into finishing it before starting any other project. If you need to, assign a reward to the finishing of it – you get to buy yarn for a new project, you get to buy that fancy chocolate, whatever it is that entices you. Making something go from unfinished to finished will accomplish several things at once. You’ll have the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a task, you’ll have the finished thing to wear or use, and you’ll have one less bit of guilt casting a shadow over what you’re working on. It’s a win/win/win. Feeling good about what you’ve done already will help you feel good about choosing the next thing to do.
3. Knit something really boring, over and over and over.
One winter after I had been knitting for about 2 or 3 years, I knitted several ‘Harry Potter’ scarves as gifts. These are approachable projects no matter what your skill level is, since they are knitted in the round with stockinette stitch, and the only technical difficulty is in changing the yarn for the stripes. The real challenge, though, is that they are enormous. A scarf that is at least 5 feet long will use up enough yarn to knit a small adult-sized sweater, and I somehow managed to do four of them. This was a lot of stockinette. It’s easy, but boring, and I got them done because I had the deadline of gift season upon me, otherwise it would have been so easy to give in.
The thing is, though, after I finished those scarves and went back to regular knitting life, I noticed I was knitting a bit faster than I was before. Also, if my tension wasn’t even before that, it certainly was afterwards. Repetition and practice is half the battle with knitting skill, so if you have a big project like that to work on, the perseverance will pay off in more ways than one.
4. Knit something that intimidates you.
Pick a project that you love the idea of but have been avoiding because you are afraid of it. Figure out what it is that you are afraid of (perhaps a specific technique, the size of it, getting it to fit you right, etc), and then get to work. Work up to it in stages if you need to – do a project that demonstrates the same skill but in a smaller canvas, get help from a friend to measure yourself properly, take a class to learn new techniques or seek advice. At the end of the process you will be a better knitter for the effort.
5. Do something that is not knitting.
Once you start to really dig into your chosen craft, it is so easy to abandon other pursuits. (I used to do a lot of beading. In the olden times before knitting. Ah, those were some good times). But there is no rule that says you can’t still go back to something else every so often. Usually other crafts will be pretty good at informing each other in some way, and a brief dive into something different will leave you thinking about your knitting in a new way. One of the things that I have really been enjoying about my granny square crochet escapade is that it is still letting me enjoy playing with colour and yarn, just not in a knitting way. Thinking about colour is great, no matter how you do it. So are other crafts that help you think about garments, fabric, fibre, and attention to detail. If you’re having a knitting ennui week, ask yourself what other crafty pursuits your brain does want to spend time with that week, and give yourself a short knitting sabbatical. The yarn and needles still be there afterwards.
Have you gotten yourself out of a knitting rut recently? What’s been your best approach?
Have a great Tuesday, knitter friends! Until next time.