Mindful Knitting Series: Applying Mindfulness To Our Knitting Experiences

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.