How I learned to love slow knitting

When I first started knitting and crocheting, and for many years afterward, quick projects were delicious to me. I enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction and relief when I completed a project. I like finishing things. I don’t like putting them down, or waiting, or being patient. And I most certainly do not like boredom. But over the past several years, I’ve come to love slow knitting. Not the actual pace of knitting—if anything, my stitching is speedier than ever, but the pace of a whole project.

So, what happened between those quick knits and my slow-as-molasses, super-skinny yarn projects?

First: I ran out of things to make. I’m fortunate enough to have the things I need and want—clothes, hats, accessories. My family are pretty chock-full of that stuff, too, and they’ve all received handmade gifts from me over the years. I sometimes knit small things for my son, who is just a toddler and growing quickly, but I know it will only get worn for a few months, so I don’t do much of that.

Could I have just sold the things I was making? Yes! And I did that. When I was churning out the goods, I started selling them on Etsy. Because that’s what everyone tells you to do, right? Hey, you could sell those on Etsy! And boy, did I sell some stuff on Etsy. I ended up getting two bulk orders and knitting and crocheting myself into hand cramps and mind-numbing boredom while producing 50+ hemp soap savers and a dozen market bags. I was proud of my product and the fact that people wanted it, but I’d completely lost interest in the craft itself. All the fun had been sucked out. And nobody was willing to pay for what the labor actually cost. We’re used to cheap stuff, and most people don’t get paid enough to afford appropriately-priced handmade products. But that’s a topic for another day.

Back in my Etsy store days.

So, I took a long, long break from yarn crafts. I had a baby, too, which might have had something to do with the pause.

When I picked up knitting again this year, I was doing it for my own sanity. Being locked down during the pandemic while simultaneously taking care of a toddler and managing my own fatigue-related chronic illness pushed me toward to thing that has always given me joy and purpose since I was a child: making things. And I chose knitting.

These days I don’t even have long enough chunks of time to finish a quick project, and honestly, I don’t really want to.

It’s a little ironic, because I now knit faster than I ever did before. But I do spend time choosing patterns and yarns. I investigate instead of impulse knitting. I pick smaller yarn gauges and/or bigger projects. I knit only when I really feel the urge. I check my work. It’s become more meditative than exhilarating. Someday, when I have the time to concentrate, I’ll try more complex designs and stitch patterns to slow things down even more.

My first foray into big projects, a few years ago. Bulky yarn, but lots of space to cover.

In a way, my version of slow knitting is the lazier way. All I have to do is pick up my knitting, knit X rows, put down knitting, pick knitting back up again. I don’t have to constantly cast on and bind off and look at a pattern. There’s a lot of just mindless work in the interim. And boy, do I love it.

I know: what a knitting party-pooper I am! But, please know that I’m not sharing this in order to look down on those quick projects. I know I’m not alone in relishing the feeling of sitting down to start a project and only getting back up again when it’s finished and the ends are woven in (or not). I still make simple hats and mittens, and if I needed to make a gift in a jiffy, you’d better believe I’d be grabbing some thick yarn and whipping it up in a movie or two (which is like, 5 fragmented nights of movie watching for me now). But I’ve grown to enjoy it the slow way. I get the satisfaction of creating a piece that fits just right (because I actually gauge-swatched, ha!), doesn’t look like an amoeba (unless that’s the plan), and comes along with hours and hours of memories of whatever TV show or movie I was watching while I made it, and what was happening in the world or my life at the time. And I have all those quick projects to thank for my knowledge of different stitches and techniques, and the importance of gauge swatching and choosing your yarns carefully.

This will, no doubt, be the year of the pandemic sweater. I am absolutely tickled that more folks are using their social isolation and general 2020 angst to learn how to knit, and that they can find a plethora of patterns that work up quickly and give them a reason to try even more patterns. I remember when those “quick” projects were not as quick as I’d hoped as a beginner.

So, here’s to all the different types of knitting projects that exist. May they bring you joy, relaxation, a sense of accomplishment, and something warm for the winter.

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