If you want to up your knitting game

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.

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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.

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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.

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29 comments

  1. Excellent suggestions for how to kick-start my knitting. Thanks again!

  2. Very good tips – I’m determined to master cable knitting at some point. BTW Those HP scarves are fab!

    http://www.mancunianvintage.com

  3. Granny Squares interest me. I think I will make some to give myself a break from knitting 😀

  4. These are some great tips for getting out of a knitting rut! Inadvertently, I already followed one of them: I tried sewing a simple, boxy top back in July and it was an awesome experience.

    Next time, I’ll definitely try crochet or swatching!

  5. Hi!
    Thank’s a lot for this positive note. I just love how you turn a not so nice feeling (rut) in such a positive new enhanced mood or skills.

    I definitely will follow your suggestions next time.

    Sandrine

  6. Thanks for all these ideas! I’m following #2 right now, focusing on just one project before I work on anything else. So far, it’s gone well and I’m almost done with my shawl, just 24 more rows and a bind off! Then I’ll treat myself to some luxurious yarn as a reward. 🙂

  7. Michelle Dry · ·

    Completing a project no matter what is such a rush! I have found it to be quite helpful in getting me back to loving the art of knitting. Just knitting something simple makes your knitting so much more even. So there is a great benefit in that. I can’t cable easily. I am so impressed with your love for cables. Need to work on this. Wearing past projects is really great for feeling good about your crafty self.

  8. The suggestions that you have offered are great! I recently had to have hand surgery on both hands (long story – fell, cut hands on glass, long recuperation with therapy) and I could not knit for a few weeks. I was, however able to crochet sooner than I could knit and I did do some other crafty things, that I could manage. I am now able to knit and the idea to knit some swatches from a stitch dictionary is great! By the way, I love your blog!

  9. I also find that giving myself permission NOT to knit for a day or two or three helps me. When it feels like obligation it’s not fun anymore, and then what’s the point? Sometimes it’s because I’m busy with work and life or between projects and don’t know what to do next or I’m just in the middle of a really fantastic book I can’t put down (The Goldfinch…) or because it’s hot outside and I’ve lost my motivation or maybe I’m just really inspired to sew instead. And that’s ok. I’ve been knitting since I was 8 and I know I’ll never quit. A little break occasionally is all I need to remind myself how much I love it.

  10. Great post. I’ve been in a serious rut lately. Once I had made several pairs of socks, I got a little too overly obsessed with socks – but none of them are “easy” patterns, so they all involve following complicated charts and instructions, and none of them are easy to pick up and work on in smaller chunks. As a result, I ended up with a whole lot of (I mean 10+) new sock WIPs and not very many finished objects. Then I was feeling frustrated with my lack of progress with socks.

    So I started doing some test knitting and crochet. Discovered along the way that I really don’t love crocheting with worsted cotton (though knitting with it is fine by me), and also felt the true pleasure of completing 1/3 of a sweater (for a toddler!) in just one evening. That felt glorious, I tell you! Even though I have no toddlers of my own or any around me to gift to… I just really loved this lacy baby sweater and wanted to make it! But honestly, it felt so great to make serious progress on something!

    I think I need a little more garter and stockinette in my life – I’ve been complicating it with busy patterns constantly, and I need more variety I think! (I also seriously need to work on my WIPs!!)

  11. Knitting burnout? No such thing.

  12. Great ideas, I especially like number 5…I used to make jewelry, and it actually helped inspire me to work some sparkle into my knitting. Plus, jewelry supplies make great stitch-markers!

  13. #1 and #4 speaks to me.
    And the wool scarf I need to finish that last Spring I left to chill
    in cooler places than between my fingers.
    OK, you’ve inspired me, Glenna. I suspect you inspired yourself as well.
    We’re all in this together.
    On to new knitting adventures!

  14. Finishing things does get the juices flowing again.

    When I’ve been knitting sweaters or other longer, complicated projects that take a while to finish, switching to small things like hats or cowls that can be knocked out quickly is very motivating.

    Also I try to switch things up between types of projects. So if I just finished something that was on small needles and took a while, I try to make the next project I start something on big needles that goes much faster by comparison.

  15. Variations of all of these except the plain knitting I use always. I reward myself with a new cast only if I cast something off. I indulge my other hobbies and interest (i.e. Spinning yarn, dyeing yarn, writing, reading, designing, drawing etc.) I have realized for me I have to pick challenging knits or I get bored and quick. Good post.

  16. Great post! I feel much better now😊!

  17. Great tips. I’ve been doing a lot of small projects while working on my husband’s jumper. That way I feel like I’ve accomplished something!

  18. Reblogged this on girlwhoknitsandpurls and commented:
    How do you get yourself out of a knitting rut like the writer describes below? I have just recently finished up several UFO’s, and now I am looking at starting something new as a reward.. More about that in a later post.

  19. I just finished several UFO’s, so I am going to start something new as a reward. I don’t crochet or bead, so it is just knitting something new for me.

  20. Great ideas! Your posts are always super inspiring 🙂

  21. Mary Beth · ·

    Thank you for this! I just finished knitting a shawl for my sister’s wedding which took up the entire summer, and I’ve found myself less than inspired, knitting-wise. I’ve been working on socks, which I always love, but I’ve been wondering what to do next. I think it’s time to try the colorwork sweater vest I’ve been dreaming about since I started seriously knitting!

  22. I am a knitter and crocheter. I always have a crochet project going to do for a change up. I have my scared me projects but right now I am trying to get my W.I.P list down more before starting other stuff. I do have an order for 3 scarfs and a blanket but those have no due date

  23. For me, doing something else is usually what happens when I’m just not feeling the knitting love. Usually, after a break, I’ll rediscover the love and joy in knitting. I’ve been knitting for the vast majority of my life, and it’s always been on-again, off-again (more on than off since college). That’s one of the lovely things about knitting. It will always be there when you’re ready for it again.

  24. Good ideas. I’d add: flip through as many pattern books as you can and get inspired

  25. anastasia · ·

    #2 is what I have been doing. I have been trying to weave in ends & block some shawls. Also, by the end of winter I hope to reknit the sleeves of a sweater & finish the neckline of another & finish the sleeves on a 3rd. I apparently have an issue with finishing sweaters. I have a lot of shawls though.

  26. […] If you want to up your knitting game | Glenna Knits 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. more… […]

  27. I will forever relate to #2. I’ve gotten a lot better about finishing knitting projects, but I will always have at least 2 or 3 projects that are in progress… I will never be completely finished. 🙂

  28. These are some really great points. Sometimes I find that I get bored and don’t feel like knitting. The only thing that gets me going is either a deadline or the realisation that I’m not being productive. I try to have more then one project on the go, both knitting and crochet, but there are times when I feel like dropping my hooks and needles and picking up a baking tray instead.

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