I have been using the phrase mindful knitting a lot in the last few years. I have believed in and used the concept my whole knitting life, but in 2013 I started using it specifically when I taught classes. It has really blossomed in my teaching of both knitting and spinning since then.
Perhaps it’s time to take a moment and define exactly what I mean by Mindful Knitting.
Mindful Knitting – The Concept
The concept of being a mindful knitter isn’t difficult to understand. It’s just about being aware, paying attention, focusing and yet relaxing at the same time. The idea of being mindful about anything is not to take stuff for granted, to appreciate and celebrate as well as fix and adjust. Paying attention is hard to do though, especially in something that is supposed to be enjoyable.
You need to be a mindful knitter – BY DESIGN. It won’t just happen on it’s own. As you knit this row, you casually review the row before. It’s not casual at first, of course, it’s something you have to train yourself to do. But it’s not difficult to make it a habit and then it becomes casual.You have to make the CHOICE and perform the initial moves that will create in you a mindful knitter. Why make the choice?
Everyone knits for different reasons. Everyone knits different things, for different people and in different ways. But one thing that all knitters have in common, to some extent, is the wish to do it right. You don’t start a project hoping to make lots of mistakes – you start it with visions in your head of perfection!
This, then, becomes your motivation. I can spend a little time creating a great habit that will bring my knitting closer to perfection. Or I can choose not to improve and then spend minutes, or hours undoing, or redoing to get my knitting closer to perfection.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”Aristotle
Researchers at Duke University have determined that about 40% of what we do comes from habits. Learning to knit has, we hope, created in us the habit of knowing how to create and use knitting and purling to form fabric. But how can being mindful become a habit?
Actions that are small and easy to do will become habits much sooner than big, huge earth-shaking actions – so start small.
At the end of each row, take a breath, and as you turn your work (in straight knitting or magic loop) take a look at your work. Does anything stand out as wrong or uneven? If it does then explore that. If it looks great, smile, and keep going.
What do you often screw up in your knitting? Is it reading a pattern? Is it getting the right number of stitches? Is it splitting your yarn, dropping stitches, or knowing where you are in the pattern?
All of these issues are a matter of focus. If you created small mindful habits around the places you make mistakes it might help prevent the mistakes from happening! If reading a pattern is tricky read it twice, review it with a friend, write all over it to remind yourself of areas of concern. And don’t just do this ONCE on ONE pattern. Create a habit of always doing this.
Focus on the pieces you want to be mindful of and create small habits to help you improve or expand the areas of your knitting where mindfulness will be most helpful.
I get frustrated with myself, and others sometimes because what I call mindfulness seems to be to be mostly common sense. When I read the “AND AT THE SAME TIME” piece in the pattern and then don’t mark it and, of course, forget. When I read through a pattern quickly and don’t go back to check, assuming that I know what I am doing. And then have to frog three inches. (that would have been last night in a nutshell)
There is a difference between common sense and being mindful, I think. We all make mistakes – no matter how much common sense we have or how mindful we are. Common sense is knowing that that I have to read a new pattern through completely before I start knitting. Being mindful is choosing to be aware that the piece should be square – but is starting to look rectangular.
Common sense is knowing that if I use a different sized yarn I have to manipulate the pattern a bit. Being mindful is noticing that the fabric is puckering in one place and taking the time to find out why.
Common sense is knowing that you can’t bind off 100 stitches with one yard of yarn. Being mindful is watching the amount of yarn and making some smart decisions about bind off options when I still have enough yarn.
Some of being mindful is being experienced. Once you are comfortable knitting then you can take the time and spend the energy to become a mindful knitter. But there are an enormous number of things in knitting – and in any part of our lives, really – that can benefit from making a simple deep breath, a pause, and a bit of focus into a constant habit.
I wish you all mindfulness!