When I first started knitting, it took me forever to get the hang of the purl stitch. It made absolutely no sense to my brain, and I had to constantly practice to remember how to do it. It was probably the one technique I watched the most videos on to understand how to do it. I avoided patterns that required too much purling, because it slowed down my rhythm, since I had to carefully insert the needle and remember to wrap the yarn “backwards,” and I didn’t want to slow down. Even now, I’m still slower at purling than knitting, but a decade later, and I’m comfortable enough with it that I don’t need to avoid patterns that use it a lot.
Boredom with simple patterns set in quickly, however, and I soon started venturing out into more complicated patterns like lace and cables. I learned to use beads and quickly became obsessed with the little spots of sparkliness, and I added the anytime I could. A local yarn store held a class on stranded knitting, and then colorwork dominated my knitting projects, although I’m still not the greatest at keeping an even tension with my floats.
All of these techniques were so interesting to me, and the results so beautiful and stunning, that I stopped knitting plain things. My preferences became the exact opposite. Anytime I had to knit plain stockinette or garter stitch, boredom set in and it was highly likely that the project would never get finished.
And then I lost all knitting mojo. I couldn’t figure out why, but I tired quickly and my mind couldn’t focus well enough to knit all of these complicated projects I had in progress. “Mom brain” had hit. And it hid hard.
My days were so filled with remembering the next time I needed to breastfeed, or what time the next nap was, or keeping track of diaper changes, and waking up 2-3 times a night and barely getting 5-6 hours of sleep that I had no energy to knit at all. Months went by before I picked up my needles again, and when I did, I found that I made a lot of mistakes, kept forgetting what symbols meant in my charts, or I couldn’t knit more than a few stitches at a time before needing to tend to something, and then I’d forget where I was and make another mistake. My taste had even changed, and a lot of the projects I had started were no longer things I was interested in actually making. I gave up again for a little bit, because I felt really frustrated with knitting, since I could no longer knit the same way I previously did.
A few months ago, I embarked on tidying up the entire house, including going through all of my old projects. I donated about 5 trash bags full of yarn, threw some away, and frogged nearly every WIP I had. It felt so, so, so good.
At this point, I discovered why I had been having such problems with knitting, handling a toddler, and my lovely brain fog. I started a few projects that were all very simple. And something wonderful happened. I actually felt like knitting, and I finished things!
I finished a gnome and a hat for my daughter, both of which I enjoyed knitting. It didn’t feel like a chore, I didn’t make silly mistakes, and I even felt like working on them in the hour or so after dinner before bedtime that I could fit in knitting time. Having something that I didn’t really have to pay attention to, that I could set aside at a moment’s notice and still remember where I was, no multiple-page charts, no container of beads to worry about getting knocked over…glorious! It’s all I want to knit!
Beautiful, simple projects that show off the yarn, that allow me to knit without exhausting the last little brain power I have. I have finally learned to love mindless knitting. It only took a decade to get to this point, but I don’t see myself going back to the complicated fancy things for a while. Plus, I have tons and tons of variegated and self striping yarn that’s been neglected, because the fancy pants designs I was knitting never looked very good in those types of yarns. I am ready for some mindless, stripey socks this winter!
I am now a full advocate of taking a break and working on the simple things, or just doing something different in general. To me, it’s similar to watching the same thing, reading the same books, or eating the same thing over and over. As much as I love pizza, there’s only so much pizza I can eat before it makes me feel ill or I just don’t want to eat it anymore. I need a break to eat something else for a while, and then I’m ready for more. (I should note that this rule does not appear to apply to toddlers. She is perfectly content to read the same book every day, and probably would be okay with only eating donuts, pizza, and burgers forever if I let her.)
I’ve learned to love the mindless knitting. Not everything always needs to be complicated with lace, cables, colorwork, brioche, etc. Life is complicated enough; sometimes we just need to simplify the aspects we can to have the spoons to process what we can’t.