Do you abandon knitting when you hit a tricky bit? Do you avoid patterns that seem too hard?
It’s easy to feel nervous about projects that push us out of our comfort zone. Especially if knitting is meant to be our solace from a hectic life. But there’s a little-known secret about knitting … it’s the ultimate lesson in grit, problem-solving and tackling hard things.
Your knitting can change your life!
THE WORRY CAN BE REAL.
Well, it sure can feel very real. When we’re confronted with stitches we don’t recognise, or a new construction, it can feel daunting! Even unusual yarn that doesn’t behave quite like we’re expecting can throw us for a loop … and don’t mention sleeves that go oooooooooon forever!
THE GOOD NEWS IS, THE REGULAR CHALLENGES KNITTING BRINGS ARE A GREAT WAY TO REMIND OURSELVES WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.
It’s worth trying something new with your knitting, even if it feels like it might be hard, because it’s a pretty low-risk way of … taking risks.
Our knitting is awesome at reinforcing the (sometimes tedious!) lesson that good things take time, that we’ll survive even if we have to start again, and that in the end, we feel great when we’ve hung in there, asked for help and given something our best shot.
SO WHAT DO WE DO? HOW DO WE TACKLE THE HARD STUFF?
Where do we start? What can we do to make things feel manageable? How do we get our knitting to the finish line with our nerves intact?
TAKE A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW.
It’s easy to get swept up in the complexities of new challenges. The details can be overwhelming.
Try taking a step back and looking at your new “challenge” objectively. What are you trying to achieve? A gorgeous new sweater? A cardigan to wear with your new dress? Are you looking forward to wearing a beautiful shawl for an evening concert?
Then, pretend you’ve finished already. Take an imaginary twirl and feel how fantastic it is to have made something so gorgeous.
Apparently, visualising a successful outcome is hugely helpful and makes all sorts of clever things happen in our brains. I love a good daydream, so I do it all the time ;)
START AT THE BEGINNING.
If you’re a list-writer, write down all the steps you’ll need take to get to the end. Your steps might include; choosing yarn, buying new needles, knitting the yoke, picking up the sleeves or weaving in ends. Make your steps as tiny and as specific as you like.
Writing things down can help to get all of our worries out of our heads and see that things aren’t actually as daunting as we first thought.
Plus, seeing it all written out can help with planning your schedule “backwards” if you’re trying to meet a deadline.
Getting started might be the most difficult thing you’ll do. Taking the first step is a really common stumbling block. If you have trouble getting daunting projects off the ground, choose a tiny or fun step as your first step. Your fun beginning might be choosing a pattern. Maybe you’ve got a design in mind and you need yarn. Perhaps it’s as simple as winding a precious skein of yarn or choosing the perfect project bag to keep it all in.
Then, do that step before you think too hard. You might find it gets your wheels in motion and gets you started on the road to success.
PLAN AHEAD FOR ROADBLOCKS.
If you tend to rush in and cast on all the things and then get sidelined by a hiccup, or if you put off starting because you see a problem on the horizon, listen up.
Trying out stitches, experimenting with unfamiliar steps and having a go at new techniques on a small scale can help alleviate worry about what’s to come. Sometimes we call it “swatching” (see how I snuck that in there … you knew I couldn’t resist mentioning swatching didn’t you?! )
You can learn more about swatching in my “how to swatch” post.
Swatching is a great way to calm your nerves, figure out where you need to ask for help and have a go at putting your own spin on things.
An evening reading through the abbreviations and knitting stitches you’ve not tried before can ward off problems on a larger scale later on. It’s much less stressful to unpick 40 stitches than 440!
KNOWING WHEN TO START AGAIN.
How often do we plough on, ignoring that niggling feeling in our tummies, knitting row after row, even when we know things aren’t right? Too often!
Unpicking, ripping, tinking or frogging our knitting is par for the course. It’s a rare knitter that doesn’t have to go backwards at least once every project!
Starting my knitting over and undoing an evening’s/week’s work has taught me so many useful things about life. In particular, it’s been a useful reminder to listen to my gut and to practice saying no.
On a practical level, if I find myself constantly looking at my knitting (not in an admiring way) or thinking about one particular part or aspect of my knitting … it’s a sign that something is wrong. It’s really hard to know when to quit, but with practice, I’m getting much better at taking a break, sleeping on it and knowing when it’s time to stop and try again.
Sometimes when we stuff up, we feel like hurling our yarn and needles to the other side of the room (sometimes maybe we do?!). Throwing a wobbly and giving up in frustration mostly doesn’t do anyone, let alone our knitting any good.
Instead, try taking a deep breath and keeping-on-keeping-on with a project. Every time we unpick our stitches and go back dozens and dozens of rows, we grow “grit”, and that’s a really good thing.
RUNNING FOR THE FINISH LINE.
Sleeves, second socks, the long slog to the bottom of the sweater … the struggle is real!
Sometimes e v e ry . s i n g l e . s t i t c h . seems to take FOREVER.
At this stage of the game you’ve got a few options:
- go faster;
- cast on something new.
Feel free to try everything except option 1. The first option doesn’t end with a fabulous new sweater/cardigan/shawl/knit.
There are tricks you could try: Knit socks and sleeves two at a time, keep a long section of stockinette for knitting and chatting, add a fun colour to keep things interesting, or plan your next project.
Personally, I like planning new projects. I’m never so inspired than when I’m in the thick of boring knitting! It’s positively meditative!
LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES.
Sometimes the worst happens and our finished project is nothing like we’d imagined. It doesn’t fit, the colours are wrong, or maybe it’s too stiff. It feels pretty disappointing.
Before you vow never to knit X, Y or Z again, take a moment to think about what you could have done differently? Maybe you rushed the planning step? Perhaps your project would have benefited from some extra knowledge, such as what yarn would have worked best? Maybe you knew waaaaay back near the beginning that things weren’t going well but you didn’t trust your instincts?
Ask yourself, what can you do now to avoid making the same mistakes again? Do you already know the answer but just need to put it into practice?
Think of your knitting as a wonderful opportunity to take risks in a safe space. Try to take stock and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Is there someone that could help you learn the things you need to know? If you need a hand, see it as good practice reaching out and asking for help!
MOSTLY, DON’T GIVE UP.
Don’t make excuses and put off trying hard things. Step out of your comfort zone from time to time. It’s just knitting and it’s good for you!
Tackle your projects stitch by stitch, row by row, and stay calm in the knowledge that if all else fails you can reuse your yarn for something else.
You can do anything if you put your mind to it. And knitting can help you learn how.
Isn’t knitting magic?!