Thursday, January 24, 2008

Relax, it's just a Sweater

Or a sock, scarf, wrap...

This entry is dedicated to all my writing students who've expressed sadness about having given up knitting because they "just couldn't."

I am blessed with a best friend who is a Pastry Chef. She has gifted me with tasty cakes, brownies, and cupcakes smothered in dreamy icing (all gluten-free). She also Gifted me with a piece of kitchen wisdom that transfers to knitting: relax, it's just dinner. So, I tell you, relax, you're just knitting.

I say this not to diminish knitting (ever) or discourage you from pursuing the technical expertise of a Master Knitter. I hope to achieve this rank someday, however, worrying about perfection in every stitch is not the path to knitting enlightenment.

In fact, worrying can inhibit any learning process and that probably goes double for knitting. Sometimes students who know I'm a knitter say, "I tried that once, but I made too many mistakes." Or, even, "my stuff didn't look like the pictures in the book." And, I ask, so what? An imperfect scarf can still keep someone warm. Did the project turn out so horribly that it truly couldn't perform its function? Would it really be so obvious that even a non-knitter would look and point out the flaws? I'm betting the answer is, "No!"

My students and friends, never let these things discourage you from knitting! Writers revise. Knitters find another yarn to knit with, different needles, another pattern. Writers and knitters keep writing and knitting. If they can do it, so can you.

So, how to banish the perfectionist that sits on your shoulder and whispers, "Tsk, tsk, those stitches are uneven." Say, "thanks for the information. I'm enjoying this uneven row and will redo it in a minute." Say, "get lost." Say, "It's a scarf and it'll be Ok." And it will.

Whatever you do, don't give up. Don't put down those sticks. Technical expertise (and knitting nirvana) is just over the craft horizon!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Artful Wabi Sabi: What's On the Needle Now

Some people who have seen me knitting in public have commented that they would be afraid that "good yarn" would be wasted on them.

I've been there. Said those same words. I mended my ways (pun intended)! You're worth the good yarn; try it. Artful Yarns pattern 92082 for a cardigan was suggested to me by my teacher (see Dedication) and was a good start in "good" yarn for me. The pattern is easy to read and uses two Artful Yarns: Cinema (cotton/nylon ribbon yarn) and Portrait (mohair, viscose, and polyester). Knitters Review ( has helpful reviews of yarn. The reviewer expresses reservations about the stitches snagging and looking uneven. As you can see, I don't accomplish machine-like precision stitches but I am happy with the results.

Knitting and Time Management for 2008

Do you have a knitting project you've always wanted to try? Want to make someone hand-knit socks? Go ahead: you have the power! Treat yourself to some knitting time: you're worth it.

Make your project a goal and do what it takes to make it happen. I've been through countless time-management classes and they've helped me in my professional life. It was an epiphany when I realized I could transfer that knowledge to my knitting. Here are some tips for you.

  • Make a meeting with yourself. Yes, an old adage by now but do you think they (significant others, children, even the family dog) will let you go out to knit with your buddies so easily?
  • Prioritize your projects. Christmas and Hanukkah are always on their way. Count back from the must complete date to figure out how much time you have for your project and how doable it is.
  • Knitting a sweater for Uncle Darrell is a huge task (since he's well over six feet tall) and may be overwhelming. To avoid UFOs (unfinished objects) set smaller goals that can give you momentum (and keep those stitches from turning too loose or tight with wide gaps in knitting sessions). Set a goal for the back, front, sides, sleeves, etc.
  • Reward yourself! Buy more yarn! Go to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for that double-latte Sip slowly while perusing the latest knitting magazine.
  • Remember to enjoy it! This is not another task on your plate. It's your hobby, passion, and stress-relief!

Britannica's entry for wabi sabi

On this blog, I'll use the "beauty in imperfection" explanation I first heard when I encountered the wabi sabi concept. Here's an entry from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The dual influences of East and West have helped construct a modern Japanese culture that offers familiar elements to the Westerner but that also contains a powerful and distinctive traditional cultural aesthetic. This can be seen, for example, in the intricate detail, miniaturization, and concepts of subtlety that have transformed imported visual art forms. This aesthetic is best captured in the Japanese concept of shibui (literally, “astringent”), or refined understatement in all manner of artistic representation. Closely related are the twin ideals of cultivated simplicity and poverty (wabi) and of the celebration of that which is old and faded (sabi). Underlying all three is the notion of life's transitory and evanescent nature, which is linked to Buddhist thought (particularly Zen) but can be traced to the earliest examples of Japanese literature.

"Japan." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Jan. 2008 <>.


This blog is dedicated to Yahoko Paradise of the Knitting Circle in Somerset, Massachusetts. She is the most talented knitter and patient teacher I have ever met. From an imperfect knitter and grateful student: Thank you for everything, Sensei!

Welcome: Pick up those sticks!

The meaning of Wabi Sabi, as was explained to me by a writer and best friend, is the Japanese aesthetic of beauty in imperfection and impermanence. "Perfect!" I thought, for my knitting blog. I am an enthusiastic if imperfect knitter. I also have a touch of the perfectionist about me. My knitting buddies and teacher have offered me encouragement and tips over the years to to keep me knitting and strengthen my skill set. I hope to pass this inspiration and information on to you.

You don't have to be perfect to knit something beautiful. I walked into The Knitting Circle at 30 something having never picked up knitting needles before. Within a month, I was knitting a sweater for my new son. Was it perfect? No. Beautiful? Absolutely! As a writing coach and instructor I have noticed that people have a hard time with the idea of drafts and imperfection. I explain to them that there are these things called learning curves. Even as you travel that curve you can create something meaningful and pleasing to the senses. Same thing goes for knitting.

Do not worry that your tension is not even or that you loose count of your rows. Just keep knitting. And knit some more after that. Know that any craft takes time and dedication and the time you put in is worth it. Your skill will improve and you can enjoy your learning process (and products) as you grow.

If I can do it, so can you! If you have come here to muse about knitting, learn something new, or just pass the time on your lunch hour, I hope you find information and encouragement to cast-on, bind-off, and finish that project.

Happy knitting!