Mindful Knitting Series: The Opposite of Autopilot

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.