When the Needles are Silent:
10 Tips for Overcoming Knitter's Block
Most of us experience a knitting slump at one time or another. These slow-downs can come when we least expect them, triggered by anything from stressful circumstances or over-involvement in other activities, to simply a lack of inspiration or, dare I say it, boredom.
Sometimes stress inspires a rush of knitting activity—but at other times, stress is what stifles our very desire to knit.
If you're experiencing knitter's block, the most important thing to remember is that this, too, shall pass. While you're waiting, here are a few techniques that may help you kick-start the knitting process once again.
1. Sort Your Stash
First assess your surroundings. It's time to go stash spelunking.
Pull out any yarns that don't inspire you, and either give them away, sell them, or place them in storage out of sight. This might be a little too "woo woo" for some people, but I believe yarn holds energy. When you're feeling bogged down and stuck in your knitting, start by shining some sunlight on your stash, letting in some fresh air. This article on slow stashing will give you some ideas on how to go about this. Bottom line: If you're uninspired, the last thing you need is a dusty stash filled with good but unfulfilled intentions.
2. Whip Your WIPs Into ShapeUnfinished projects can also hold energy—especially if you set them down in the midst of a difficult life moment. As you tidy up your stash, I urge you to do the same thing with all your current works-in-progress (WIPs). Depending on how long you've been knitting, this may be a simple task or a full-blown archaeological dig.
Be bold and be honest with yourself; take everything out of its hiding place. Look closely. How many of these projects are just a darning needle away from being done? How many others stand no chance of ever being finished, their designs already woefully outdated? Have the moths eaten that half-finished sock? Does the mere idea of working on them again fill you with dread?
Life is too short. Pick a nearly done WIP and give it a boost to the finish line. Then pick one you know you'll never finish and do something else with it. Maybe turn it into a pillowcase or smaller accessory? You'll free up some energy and needles for something new.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Recycle
If, after careful examination, you've deemed any of your WIPs unfinishable, don't just put them back—let them go. Do some recycling. Rip out the yarn, and save it for something else. Here's how I wash and recycle yarn from unfinished projects.
Some yarns hold such strong memories that we'll never be able to look at them without remembering that failed project. If you're facing such a yarn, see if anyone else would either like the unfinished project or the yarn. Ask online, check with your knitting group. If you can't quite declare the projects dead, you can still pack them up, send them away, and give them a better home with someone else.
4. Hit the Books
Treat yourself to an afternoon of browsing any old knitting magazines and pattern books you haven't used lately. Slumps can often creep in if we've been repeating the same type of project and not challenging our knitting skills.
It's possible that your mind has moved on from your previous projects, and looking at new designs will open up the floodgates of inspiration.
5. Dump the Discipline
Sometimes we get stalled by a particular project, especially if it's an intricate or complicated one—and we try to discipline ourselves by saying, "You can't do anything else until you finish this." It didn't help with your broccoli as a kid, why should it help now?
Nonsense! Pick something quick—a pair of fingerless mitts or a hat (the latter link opens a PDF of the Hill Country Hat pattern). Depending on how fast you knit, within a few hours you can experience the gratification of a finished project. I can't count the number of mitts that have gotten me out of slumps.
6. Teach Yourself Something New
Find a knitting technique book and pick something that has always intrigued you. Is it entrelac? Fair isle? Or perhaps simply different cables?
Try the techniques on small swatches without assigning them to a brand new project. Just getting the yarn in your hands again and discovering something new can kick-start your creativity.
Curious about socks? Here's a free tutorial. Have you never tried lace? I have a tutorial and easy scarf pattern to get you started. Ever made a triangle shawl worked from the top center stitch out? Here's a one-skein shawl pattern for you to try.
Or maybe you just want to go through your stash, grab a bunch of leftovers, cut different lengths of each and tie them together, and then knit yourself a Magic Ball scarf.
The possibilities are endless. Try something new.
7. Broaden Your Yarn Horizons
Could the yarn itself be getting you down? Have you been using a lot of one particular yarn lately? Are your fingers getting bored?
They say we should eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods in order to stay healthy, and I say we should treat our fingers to the same. Pick up even just one skein of something a little outside your comfort zone. Knit with it long enough so that your fingers can get past the initial "ohh, this is weird" response and start to detect new, intriguing nuance. It's good for you.
8. Break Loose from Obligation
Are you bogged down by a long list of things you intended to knit for other people? Are you working against strict self-imposed deadlines? Sometimes this sense of obligation can suck the joy out of knitting.
Take a break and do something for yourself—perhaps a pair of soft booties, a small pillow (this is also a great way to try new stitches), or a quick scarf. Trust me, the world won't come to an end if your gifts never get made.
9. 10 Minutes
Beloved by many, Fran Marrs was a longtime KR Forums member. Before she passed away in 2010, she shared an invaluable technique for moving through slumps. She called it her "10-minute rule," and it was simple: Work on a project just 10 minutes each day, no matter what. Before you know it, the project will be done. Slow and steady wins the race.
10. Take it Easy
Last but not least—and certainly most important of all—be gentle on yourself. If none of these techniques inspires you, don't push it.
Nothing saps creativity like trying to force it. Relax. Do something else. Me? I bake, spin, or take walks. Other people needlepoint, sketch, weave, you name it.
Don't worry that your love of knitting is gone. The muse will return when it's ready.