Knitting Notes, Project Ideas

Knowing When To Walk Away… Temporarily

Today Patty exclaimed to me “I hate my knitting projects!  You need to blog about that!”  Patty rarely makes blog requests, so my ears perked up.  More than anything, her struggle is real!  Sometimes we get sick of our knitting.  Maybe we hate the fibers we are working with.  Maybe we’re working on a project that seems like it will never end.  

To get into specifics, Patty is working on her Throwback sweater.  This Andrea Mowry cardigan has a Fair Isle yoke.  Since it was a really busy day, I didn’t get all the details, but I’m pretty sure Patty is on Sleeve Island (when you feel like you’re stuck knitting sleeves FOREVER) and she’s concerned it’s going to be too small.  Plus, she’s making a the Striped Linen Stitch Scarf (a timeless Churchmouse pattern) using Brooklyn Tweed Arbor.  While Arbor is totally delightful to knit, linen stitch can be tedious and the rows are interminably long.  When it comes to Patty’s current frustration, I get it.  I’ve been there.  If you’re a knitter, chances are you’ve been there too.  

The biggest story of my own knitting frustration came years ago when I was knitting a brioche sweater.  It was done in pieces and seaming it together was difficult.  The sleeves were bunched and the armholes felt tight.  Voicing my frustration to my husband, I told him that I was going to throw it away.  My husband is no knitter, but he is my counselor in patience.  He told me to put the project away for a week, work on something else, and come back to it later.  Then I could decide what to do.  

Brioche Sweater
This is the sweater I wanted to give up on

Turns out this was awesome advice.  I whipped out a small project over the course of 5 or 6 days and returned to my brioche sweater.  With some time away from my sweater I was able to seam it together beautifully.  It became a favorite sweater and went into heavy rotation.  It’s one of those sweaters that teenagers compliment and are then super impressed when they learn I made it.  Teenagers are hard to impress!  My knitting experience is so much more rich because I didn’t give up on that sweater!  

As a knitter, I get to this place of frustration often.  Sometimes a project just doesn’t feel fun, or I become convinced that I’m not going to like the finished object.  I’m there right now, working on a sweater with a yarn that looks like gobbly-gook up close (beautiful when you step back, though!), and I happen to be on Sleeve Island.  The way I get through this is easy: distraction!  I just make sure it’s knitting distraction.  There are a few qualities I look for in my knitting distraction, to make sure I actually return to that challenging knitting project.  

First, I pick a yarn that is super yummy and delicious.  I like to pick a smooth, buttery yarn to distract me that endless project.  I just had a few days of distraction knitting up 6 hats for my best friends using Loopy Mango’s Merino No.5 and Malabrigo’s Rasta.  Choosing a yarn that has a lot of twist, like Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor, Madeline Tosh Vintage or Blue Sky’s Extra feels like it flies off my needles effortlessly.  

Second, I pick a project that isn’t too big.  I like these knitting distractions to take a fraction of the time my big project takes.  Generally, I think about the yardage involved and that helps me estimate how big of a distraction I need.  Sometimes I need something that is a 5% distraction (ie a hat made of super bulky yarn), a 10% distraction (a pair of mittens or a hat using a worsted-weight yarn) or a 20-30% distraction (a cowl or scarf).  I don’t ever go over a 50% distraction.  That would make me too distracted and I’d probably lose sight of the inevitable satisfaction I’m going to have from finishing that tough project.

Third, I pick a project that doesn’t require me to learn any new techniques.  I read through the pattern and make sure everything in it looks manageable.  A lot of times, this means I buy a pattern and opt not to do it because it’s just not the right time to start it.  I’ll move on to something that feels like coasting.  

Having said all of that, I want to give you some good projects for some distracted knitting.  If you haven’t read last week’s blog about gift knitting, check it out.  Most of the patterns mentioned in that post are very appropriate for distraction knitting.  Below are a number of other patterns that are perfect for highlighting some of those yummy yarns I mentioned above, plus a few more satisfying knits.

a couple of Chunky Walnuts

Chunky Walnut is a great hat pattern knit up in a bulky yarn.  Lots of increases and decreases make for a distinctive design that suggests a brioche stitch – but isn’t!  Patty and I both knit up this hat in the same week.  Hers is sampled at the shop while mine has been prancing around town with me.  Chunky Walnut was written for Brooklyn Tweed Quarry, but also try it in something like Madeline Tosh Home or Baah’s Sequoia.

Robberson… cool and cute!

Another hat pattern I love is Robberson by Charli Barnes.  This hat can be knit with 2 or 3 colors, depending on how you decide to knit up the brim.  This piece will be a breeze for anyone who has done a bit of color-work.  Knit up this clean and cool hat in something lovely like Falkland Aran or Madeline Tosh Vintage.

Speaking of color, I love the simple stripes of Windy Millé’s Marlow Fingerless Gloves and Beanie. Striping keeps these pieces interesting to knit as you get to change colors frequently throughout this otherwise easy knit.  Use an aran-weight yarn like Blue Sky’s Extra, Katia’s Cotton Merino, Queensland’s Kathmandu, to name a few.  

Barbara Cowl
The Barbara Cowl by Shannon Cook

The Barbara Cowl by Shannon Cook is a simple, squishy cowl that is worked flat and seamed at the end.  There’s something about this quick rows that keep your momentum going and let you see your quick progress.  Knit up your Barbara Cowl in any number of yarns.  Try Falkland Aran for something refined.  Knit it up in Fourteen for something luxurious.  Knit it in Vintage for some great depth of color.  

Our blog is filled with easily satisfying projects that will be a worthy distraction.  Just remember that it’s normal to feel bored, frustrated or outright spite toward your knitting project.  When you’ve committed to making something spectacular we tend to feel things.  It’s usually because we are learning something and challenging ourself.  Put down that troublesome project and give yourself a break.  Keep up your knitting momentum and give yourself a boost with something that will be certainly successful.  Soak up those positive vibes and return to your challenge with an attitude that propel your knitting forward.  

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