Someone wants to learn to knit. They pick out a yarn, needles and an easy pattern for a scarf. They start to knit, they get the hang of it, now it’s getting easier, then it’s pushed aside because it’s boring. So much for knitting.
Has this happened to you or someone you know? Do you have works in progress that are sitting aside, waiting to be finished? I’ve been knitting my whole life, and I have to tell you, that it’s like root canal for me to knit a stockinette sweater. Whether you crave challenges or have a short attention span, it’s important to understand what type of knitter you are.
I asked a very social knitter friend recently if she wanted to knit a sample for me and she asked “It isn’t going to be one of those patterns where I have to look at the chart is it?”
I took a step back and thought about her personality. She knits in circles of friends and talks. She knits with one eye on her toddler and jumps up every 10 minutes to do something. She knits beautiful work but her knitting style is different from mine. She wants to come back to her knitting and squeeze in another 10 minutes of knitting without having to think about where she is in the pattern.
I don’t knit like that. I knit for long stretches at a time. I love to knit in the evenings when watching a movie (a good British murder movie even better). I don’t need to keep my eyes peeled to the screen. I can glance from TV to chart and understand both the movie and my knitting. It quiets that fidgety feeling that I get when sitting still. My hands are moving, my mind is working, and I’m engrossed in a good plot (hopefully). When I struggle, is when I'm working the same stitch over and over again, without any diversions. No shaping, no color change, no stitch change, just monotony.
There is a type of knitting for everyone and every scenario. There are times when you need a smaller project, for traveling for example. But it’s helpful to think about what type of experience the knitting project is going to provide before you decide.
I’ve been giving the psychology of knitting a lot of thought lately. I designed St. Kilda with this in mind. I put the exciting, fun, Fair Isle color work at the beginning, the hem, then when the fun part was over the sweater transitions to Stockinette so you can finish it up quickly before moving on the Fair Isle cuffs of the sleeves.
I found great enjoyment in working this type of Jekyll and Hyde project. My next application was the Melk Abbey Cardigan. With a lacey hem (that is easily memorized), the pattern changes to a combination of cables and openwork on the body but stops midway up (because we don’t want to get bored now do we?) and switches for the rest of the body. The pattern change holds the interest of the knitter and it ends up coming together quickly.
A yarn shop owner once told me “who wants to knit a sweater that you can buy on the rack at Kohls?” I think about that all of the time! There are basic sweaters that you enjoy wearing, but you don’t want to knit them. I love my little black Stockinette cardigan. I wear it over sleeveless dresses most of the summer, but I don't have the willpower to knit it.
I’m very much a process knitter. Don’t get me wrong, the finished product has to be amazing! It has to fit into my wardrobe and be artistic, intricate and creative. But it’s that “intricate” part that is necessary in keeping me engaged through the process.
I challenge you to do a little self-analysis about your personality. Then think back to past knitting projects. Which have you enjoyed the most? Which ones are the most gratifying? Which ones are you actually getting some use out of? If you think knitting shawls is fun, but your closet has a few finished shawls folded nicely and never worn, were they really that gratifying in the end? What excites you when you knit? Put this self-awareness into action when you pick out your next knitting project and see how it goes for you. Knitting is so versatile, just like knitters. You are unique and the process that you bring to your knitting is yours alone.
“Know thyself.” Thales of Miletus
Hello! I'm Donna Estin, knitwear designer, certified master knitter and instructor. I enjoy designing artistic knitwear that is comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.