Mindful Knitting Series: Seeing Our Stitches

Mindful Knitting Series: Notice the little details that are easy to overlook, and take the time to savor the mechanics of transforming that string into a beautiful work of art. atlasknits.com/mindful-knitting-3

Have you ever taken pause and watched how loops pull through the other loops on your needles? How wrapping your stitches a different way affects what appears in the fabric? Where does the yarn move between stitches? How combining two stitches together in different formations creates different leaning stitches?

This week’s blog post is about applying the mindfulness concept of being present and aware to seeing our stitches. It’s not about understanding them, it’s simply observing what is happening on our needles.

The best way to learn how to see your stitches is to practice watching while knitting. Notice the little details that are easy to overlook, and take time to savor the mechanics of transforming that string into a beautiful work of art.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself the next time you’re knitting to practice seeing your stitches. Notice that this week we aren’t concerned about why these things are the way they are, we’re only creating a habit of focusing on our stitches and the actions that we’re taking to create them and manipulate them.

#1: Wrapping The Yarn

· Which direction do you wrap the yarn around the needle for a knit stitch?

· Which direction do you wrap the yarn around the needle for a purl stitch?

· Are they the same or are they different?

#2: Stitch Direction

· After you’ve knit a stitch, how is the resulting loop situated on the needle?

· After you’ve purled a stitch, how is the resulting loop situated on the needle?

· Is the working yarn for the next stitch coming out from the front or back of the loop you put on the needle?

#3: Stitch Characteristics

· When you remove a stitch from the needle, is the top of the loop from the stitch you’re removing falling to the front or the back of the work?

· Is the loop from the stitch below combined with another stitch?

· Did this stitch create a stitch not connected to the row below it?

#4: Yarn Placement

· When you start a round, is the yarn on the left or right of your project?

· When you start a row worked flat, is the yarn on the left or right of your project?

· Where is the cast on tail when you work a right side row versus a wrong side row?

o Is this different when you use different cast ons?

· When you are in the middle of a row and you’ve completed a stitch, is the yarn coming from the stitches on the right needle or the stitches on the left needle?

#5: Needle Area

· When you’re inserting your needle into a stitch, how far do you insert it? Just on the tip? All the way past the tip? What happens to the stitch below? Does it stretch out?

· Does this differ when you’re creating different stitches?

· When you have created a new stitch, when do you pull the yarn tight? Is it when the stitch is on the needle tip, or on the widest part of the needle?

Starting to gather this information while knitting equips us with the data that we can use to adjust tension, see how stitches interact, and use that information to help us understand and really grasp the nature of how stitches connect and interact.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll discuss how we can take the data we gather through observation and apply it to identify issues in our knitting as we go along and fix mistakes as we come to them.

Next week Monday I’m kicking off the Knit Inspector Workshop – a free, online, 5-day event dedicated to helping you decode and decipher your knitting. I’m very excited to share what I’ve learned over two decades of knitting regarding reading stitches and identifying trends in stitches so you don’t have to be tethered to crossing off each stitch and row on your pattern.

I’d love to see you there, and you can sign up at bit.ly/knitinspector or at the form below.

Mindful Knitting Series: Applying Mindfulness To Our Knitting Experiences

Mindful Knitting Series: Taking inventory of our surroundings and our reactions while we're knitting helps us to shape ideal knitting times. atlasknits.com/mindful-knitting-2

Last week on the blog I shared the basics of a mindfulness practice as well as introduced how mindfulness can benefit our knitting. Mindfulness applied to my knitting world I like to call mindful knitting. This week I want to share with you how I’ve used mindfulness practices applied to my knitting life to make peace with some of the limits and imperfections that were causing me frustration and rocking my knitting confidence. Making Peace with Bodily Limits Sometimes I wish I was a machine. Machines don’t have to sleep. When a machine’s joints get cranky, they get oiled or maintained and are good to go again. Machines don’t have to deal with pain (at least I don’t think AI has gotten that advanced yet?) There was a time in my life where knitting was a means to an end for me. Knitting was nothing more than stitches to achieve a hat or a scarf or a mitten. I hadn’t yet learned to appreciate the process of knitting, and so I’d often push myself past my physical limits to the point where I’d end up with an inflamed tendon or a numb hand or with less rest than I should have. I did this because the feeling I got from finishing a project was worth more to me than the pain. However, this also often left me not knitting for a week, or two, or a few at a time. Recovery from an injury seems to take longer than preventing an injury in the first place. I started applying mindfulness to my knitting experience by developing an awareness of my bodily limits, and listening to my body to stop when I’m ahead. I learned to notice the tingling starting in my pinky finger, or that ominous little twinge bordering the muscle of my right shoulder-blade, or my head starting to feel heavy with the weariness of impending sleep. I started acknowledging those little signs and stretching or stopping instead of pushing forward, ignoring them, and giving in to my self-served fear that weariness was weakness. Our bodies are our vessels for interacting with this world. While they have their limits, they also give us the empowerment to do and create great things. To do those great things, knitting or otherwise, we need to listen to and take care of the bodies that allow us to do them. Otherwise we’re prevented from doing those things we love and spend more time in recovery, which isn’t nearly as fun.

Making Peace with Environmental Variables One day I found myself extremely aggravated while I was knitting and my old pal, temper, was coming out to play. It wasn’t the knitting itself – that was going just fine. It wasn’t the yarn – I was working with a wonderful merino / silk / cashmere blend. I went through my usual wellness checklist: hungry? thirsty? hot? cold? bodily needs met? All fine. However, it seemed like nothing was going right. Every row was a struggle. My focus was shot. UGH!!! Have you been there? What wasn’t fine is I was overstimulated. After an intentional pause for observation, I realized that because the windows were open I could hear the landscapers mowing the lawn and the TV was playing my Netflix show. On top of that, my cat was scratching her cardboard scratcher incessantly. I was audibly overloaded and it was affecting not only my mood but also my knitting tension. It made the little details seem harder and I simply couldn’t keep focus. I closed the window and turned off the TV and a lot of my tension melted away, then knitting was enjoyable again. On the other side of the spectrum: One day I found myself in the most zen knitting experience. My project was flying off my needles effortlessly and I was thoroughly enjoying every moment. I was sitting on a bench in the park, on a partly cloudy day with just the right amount of sunshine. The fountain in the pond was churning beautiful splashing white noise and the birds were cheerful. The breeze was warm. I took inventory then too, because I want more knitting time like that. It might be the lighting situation, or pets being pets, or dry skin making the couch extra scratchy today. It might be the downstairs neighbors bass bumping loud enough that the floor is shaking. A pair of headphones solves many of my less-than-pleasant auditory knitting situations. Taking inventory of our surroundings and our reactions to them while we’re knitting helps us shape our ideal knitting times. It helps us discover small tweaks we can make in different situations that can make our experience more enjoyable. It arms us with data to see whether in this moment we should keep on stitching or take a breath and shift gears to come back to our knitting refreshed later.

Making Peace with Mistakes Incorporating acceptance instead of judgment into my knitting process took some practice. Perfection the first time through used to be my goal and frustration boiled over when I made a mistake I had to fix. I’d feel ashamed and beat myself up for hours over some menial detail, even after I’d fixed it. It felt like I had wasted valuable knitting time ripping and reknitting. I’d redo a bindoff two or three times until it was perfect even though I knew it’d block out anyway. I started including the mindfulness practice of not judging into my knitting process. By that, I don’t mean that I give up a critical and aware eye and leave noticeable mistakes in my projects, but I do acknowledge and accept “oops” and their corrections as part of the process. Through this, my frustration while knitting has mostly gone extinct. I’ve also shifted my mindset to be happy about having more knitting to do when I do make a mistake. I love knitting – what does it matter if I’m doing it because I did it right the first time or am reknitting it for the second time? The act of knitting is my passion, not how many times I work the stitches themselves. When I make mistakes, I remember the fix. I’d spell a word correctly for years and then make a mistake on how to spell it in the spelling bee. I will always remember how to spell the words I got out on. Darn you, furlong. With knitting though – it’s typically not until I make a mistake that I truly understand WHY something is done a certain way. At that point I know, and it’s built into my mental encyclopedia for next time. Mistakes are a valuable learning tool but feeling terrible when they happen only reinforces our fear of making them. Join Me Live Tomorrow at 1PM Join me over on the Atlas Knits Facebook Page tomorrow at 1PM MDT where I’ll discuss this week’s blog post in more detail and add more of my personal journey!

Knit Inspector Workshop Are you ready to expand your mental encyclopedia? Join in the Knit Inspector Workshop. It’s free, and we’ll be putting on our detective caps and learning to decode our stitches both on and off our needles. Learn the ABCs of learning to read knits and purls, increases and decreases, and uncovering order in stitch patterns to help develop your mindful knitting skills. The fun kicks off on April 23, and once the workshop begins, the doors close. Make sure to sign up so you don’t miss out! Learn more and sign up at bit.ly/knitinspector.

Mindful Knitting Series: The Opposite of Autopilot

Mindful Knitting Series: Cultivating awareness while we're knitting can prevent us from unnecessary frustration and time-consuming mistakes. atlasknits.com/mindful-knitting-1

I used to have a long commute to my job at a software company. Most mornings, I’d enjoy taking in the scenes of my route from home to Boulder, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Rocky Mountain mornings are beautiful, and mountains seem alive with their varying degrees of mist and fog, with the light shifting as the sun rises.

There were some mornings though, typically days where I was particularly stressed or needed coffee, where I’d arrive at work and wonder what happened to the 45-minute drive. I couldn’t recall passing certain exits or even what music was on the radio. I had driven to work completely on autopilot.

How Autopilot Affects Knitters

Have you ever been watching 30 Rock (or insert your favorite TV show here), invested your mind heavily into the show, and next thing you know, you’ve stopped knitting in a ribbed pattern and reverted to stockinette?

What about knitting before bed and trying to finish that one last row half-waking and half-sleeping only to wake up the next morning and have to frog back the previous three? You might not even remember finishing the row.

I’ve experienced it, and I’m sure you have too.

Knitting autopilot is the phenomenon where our brain and muscles get so familiar with knitting that sometimes when we’re distracted our hands and minds revert to a default. If we’re knitting stockinette, that’s probably okay, but for more complex patterns, it can be annoying to find you have to rip back half a row because your hands reverted to stockinette. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone.

Mindfulness is the Opposite of Autopilot

Mindfulness is the un-autopilot. It is being consciously aware and focusing on the present moment, collecting data from ourselves and our surroundings and accepting it willingly. Gathering this data helps us make better-informed decisions about ourselves and our actions.
Practicing mindfulness is different for different people. There are many ways to practice mindfulness – like meditation, walking, yoga, or prayer. Some people aim to achieve a perfect zen-like fully-focused on breath state. Some aim for a silent mind. Some of us (like me) aim to achieve to acknowledge the present and escape from the everyday mind clutter that fills our waking thoughts.

If you’ve never come across mindfulness before, here are the basics:

  1. Dedicate some me-time to practice sitting with yourself and your thoughts.
  2. During mindfulness time, it is a no-judgment zone. The goal of this time is not to achieve perfect zen. The goal is to be aware of what’s happening, acknowledging it, and letting it go – all without judgment.
  3. Aim to pay attention to the present moment. What’s happening around you in the room? What’s happening with your senses? What’s happening in your mind?
  4. The mind will wander. It’s normal, don’t get frustrated. It’s easy for the mind to run away on a current of thought. When you notice it’s happening, gently and non-judgmentally return your thoughts back to the present.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Mindfulness is a way to connect deeply with yourself and the present moment, and to be aware of, acknowledge, and accept the way your thoughts run.

Some of us incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines for a variety of reasons. I have a daily mindfulness practice to help me in adding some breathing room between my thoughts and my reactions, as well as to learn to appreciate the present. Outside of my mindfulness practice, I am constantly thinking about and reacting to the future – the “what-ifs” – and preparing for them. Practicing mindfulness helps me be gentler with myself by acknowledging my thoughts as they come and accepting them as simple thoughts, then letting them go. It helps me in learning more about why I’m frustrated or upset, and about recurring thought patterns that affect my behavior. It helps me reduce the constant brain noise going on between my ears simply by being more present. It’s the break I need from the busyness of everyday life, and practicing helps me make more intentional choices all day long.

Applying Mindfulness to Our Knitting World

Cultivating awareness while we’re knitting can prevent us from unnecessary frustration and time-consuming mistakes.
Implementing mindfulness into our knitting benefits us in many ways.

Here are a few examples of how paying attention to the present while we’re knitting can benefit us:

  • Observing when we have our best knitting and worst knitting times throughout the day and adjusting can prevent knitting frustrations
  • Observing when to stop knitting based on warning signs like body pain or fatigue can prevent us from not being able to knit for a few days due to knitting injury
  • Observing how stitches are created and connect helps us learn to read our knitting
  • Observing what’s happening in our knitting allows us to fix mistakes on-the-go instead of ripping and reknitting

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing blog posts and live streaming ways that mindfulness affects our knitting and how we can practice becoming more mindful knitters. This series culminates in our next community knitventure – The Knit Inspector Workshop!

Join Me For The Knit Inspector Workshop

Put on your detective hat and learn the basics to read what’s on (and off) your needles. Enhance your knitting experience by learning to read your stitches and fix simple mistakes on the go instead of frogging them. By taking this workshop, you take a measure of control over your knitting and banish those unknowns previously manifested as fears like the fear of making a mistake, the fear of frogging work, and the fear of learning on your own and failing. Join me and uplevel your knitting skill from average knitter to knit inspector. The workshop kicks off on April 23 and once the first email is sent out, the doors close. 

Alternating Skeins : Own That Ómbre

Alternating Skeins: Own That Ombre: Alternating skeins is a technique that visually disperses the differences between hand-dyed yarns, creating less abrupt color transitions in a multi-skein project. atlasknits.com/alternating-skeins-1

Knitting with hand-dyed yarn is a colorful delight. Yarns that are hand-dyed have colors with rich depth and a stunning complexity. So why is it that some of the skeins are so different, and how do I prevent my project from turning into a blotchy, striped mess?

Because humans craft it instead of machines, hand-dyed yarn is prone to variation. Anything from water PH, amount of dye used, how the wool absorbed color in the dye-pot, and other factors make up differences between skeins, even from the same batch. Using hand-dyed yarns successfully takes a little more intention and planning than using super-consistent, commercially-dyed yarn, but it’s worth the effort for the unbeatable color and uniqueness that comes with its variations. Plus, we get to support our local artisans, and that’s a beautiful thing!

Alternating skeins is a technique that visually disperses the differences between hand-dyed yarns, creating less abrupt color transitions in a multi-skein project. Interspersing rows knit in the working skein with next skein produces a softer change and more even color distribution.

In this post, I’d like to show you how I set up my colors in a multi-skein project to ensure I get the smoothest ómbre that I possibly can.

Checking Color When Purchasing Yarn

If I’ve chosen a multi-skein project, my first stop is my local yarn store. I prefer to see the yarn in person and select skeins that are as similar in color as possible. If I’m ordering online, I cross my knitting needles and hope for the best, and try to leave a note at checkout that if possible, I’d love to have all of the skeins in the same dye lot or dye date.

To see how similar the color is between skeins, I have a few different methods. Regardless of method though, there is one thing I always do.

1.) Compare The Colors In Natural Light

Have you ever fallen in love with a color of yarn only to leave the store and realize what you thought you saw is completely different out in the sunlight? Many yarn stores keep their wares in boxes or bins filled with shadows and have yellowy fluorescent lighting that can play tricks with the color.

The best way to view and compare color is to take the yarn to a window with natural light. Even if it is a cloudy day, the full-spectrum sunlight is a better starting point for making color decisions.

Reading Color Value

If you’re not a color guru, an easy way to visualize the differences in color value (the lightness and darkness of a color), is to snap a photo with your phone and reduce the saturation to 0, converting it to black and white. Viewing in black and white makes it simpler to see which skeins are lighter or darker. If you’re already an Instagram user, snap a photo, choose Edit, find Saturation (the icon looks like a water droplet), and drag the slider all the way to the left.

2.) Reading Color For In-Store Yarns

Most yarn stores are very accommodating when it comes to checking for color matches and will allow you to take the steps below, as long as you are courteous and return the yarn how you found it. It’s polite to ask anyway – every yarn store is different!

Yarn In Hanks

To read the color for yarn packaged for sale in hank form, I untwist the hanks and lay them next to each other for comparison. I’ll step back and view them from a little bit of a distance to get a better feel for color distribution and any odd color tones. Once I’ve selected my skeins, I retwist the hanks and return to the shelf the ones who will have the joy of being adopted by another lucky knitter.

Yarn In Balls / Donuts / Skeins

To read the color for yarn packaged in ball, donut, or skein form, I see if there’s an end readily available that won’t completely demolish the skein. If there is one, I take the ends from two and twist them together to compare. Twisting them together allows me to see them right next to each other to see if there’s an obvious difference between the two strands.

If an end isn’t available, I try to pull a strand of yarn from each ball and hold the individual strands together to compare this way.

Checking Color At Home With Caked Yarn

You can also use the tips above to interpret the color of yarn in your stash, and because you’ve already taken the yarn home, you have a one more great option available to you: winding the yarn into cakes.

Looking at yarn in cake form is my favorite method. Being able to study the color variations from the top of the cake shows differences in hue and value between skeins. It visually distributes the color better and makes it more obvious to see the unique distinctions of each skein.

Plan The Project & Own That Ómbre

Since every hand-dyed yarn has subtle variations, I like to plan the order I’m going to use my colors – especially on projects over two skeins. I prefer to create as close to seamless transitions as possible, which blends into a nearly unnoticeable ombre/gradient effect.

To accomplish this, I arrange the skeins from light to dark first and see how they look in sequence.

If I’m not entirely happy with the sequence, I’ll also look at color variations. For this project, I noticed some skeins look yellower or bluer, and so I arranged them from most yellow to most blue.

I continue swapping the sequence of the skeins until I’m happy with a slow-changing, barely noticeable ómbre.

Once I’ve decided the order, I number my skeins for easy reference.

Thanks for reading Part 1 of 3 on Alternating Skeins. Next time, I’ll be sharing a few methods for alternating skeins on a knit-flat project. Did you learn something new from this blog post, or have an idea for another? Share in the comments below!


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