I decided to start knitting back in (*ahem*) 2004 after we got a cat. I know that seems counterintuitive…typically yarn + cat = what are you thinking woman? However, up to that point my main crafting hobby was cross-stitching and there were WAY too many pieces of embroidery floss and other scraps of things going on with that for it to be safe to do around a still-curious 9-month old kitten. Knitting was far more self-contained and easy to keep track of.
So, what have I learned since then?
Well, #1 is that knitting with a cat around isn’t as hard as you might think, at least not for me. Mine is more interested in sitting next to me while I’m knitting than trying to get into the yarn (though she’ll poke at it sometimes). The bigger issue is that my mother is TERRIBLY allergic to my cat so anything I make for her has to be thoroughly cleaned before gifting (not that I make her things often see #4).
#2 – It is impossible for me to be stressed about anything in life while knitting. There is a fundamentally relaxing aspect to the repetitive nature of knitting – knit, knit, purl, purl, knit, knit, purl, purl – that makes it terribly difficult to focus on anything besides the task at hand. And although I might occasionally get frustrated with the object I am making, I wind up feeling as though all of the other stressors have melted away.
#3 – Practice makes better. Okay, this isn’t one I learned just from knitting, but the sentiment is just as valid. It easily took me a year to complete my first real knitting project. Before that I had made various squares of things – this was before I discovered Ravelry and the wonderful dishcloth patterns I could have been trying – but had never completed an actual “project.” I set my sights on making a bag from a pattern book I had fallen in love with. The pattern itself wasn’t hard at all…essentially a long rectangle in stockinette stitch. However, I wasn’t very good at making sure all of my rows had the correct amount of stitches at that point so it came out a little crooked. BUT, I had finally finished it and that’s what matters. Eventually I found ways to train myself to not lose count (think stitch markers every 10 or 20 stitches) and after a while I found I didn’t need those “tricks” anymore. Now, I can even finish a pair of mittens or a hat in less than a week.
#4 – No matter how much love and care you put into creating something, some people just will not appreciate the gift. This was a hard one for me for a long time. I was so proud of myself for learning a new skill and for being the only one in my family to be able to do it. (I come from a family of crafty people…sewing, cross-stitching, crocheting – but no knitters.) Over the last few years I’ve made things for many members of my family and almost everyone has really enjoyed and appreciated what I’ve made. Others…eh, not so much. My mom appreciates the thought & skill, but won’t use anything I’ve made – it’s always “too itchy” (wool or wool-esque) or “too hot” (a hat). My husband just doesn’t wear hats or scarves or gloves. So I do my best to make things for people who I know will appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating a hand-knitted item and for anyone else…ah well, they can have gift cards (just kidding…mostly).
#5 – Pace yourself. Sometimes I’ll get on a full-blown knitting kick where I work on project after project without stopping in between. Some people can pull this off without repercussion. I am not one of those people. After a couple weeks of “intensive” knitting, I have to step back. My hand/wrist is usually the first indicator. It starts aching and my fingers start to feel uncomfortable. Then my brain starts to go. I start making stupid mistakes and wind up having to go back and fix the same row 3 or 4 times. This is when it’s time to walk away for a couple days. I think this happens with a lot of hobbies (and even some jobs)…sometimes you can only push yourself so long.
#6 – Find someone to play with. There are a lot of knitters out there and what seems like a solitary hobby isn’t really one at all. Quite a few people join groups that meet to chat & knit together on a regular basis. I would love to find a time and place for this, but it hasn’t been in the cards for me at this point. However, I have found my Nerd Wars friends on Ravelry and it’s been great. There are so many people on different skill and talent levels that it’s given me a chance to learn a lot and, more importantly, the courage to branch out and try to techniques and skills.
It may sound silly, but I think I’ve learned a lot about myself through my knitting hobby. I’m not always a “stick with it” kind of person – I frustrate easily. But you can’t just wear one mitten, so stick with with, I must. Besides, there’s just so much pretty yarn out there that is asking to be knit into fun things.
Monster Chunks, here I come!