Does knitting ever make your eyes glaze over? It can happen to the best of us! Here are tips for overcoming knitting boredom
“[What] bothers me a little is that I make the same patterns over and over, [both] because I know them by heart and because they are easy. I’d like to learn some new techniques and try some different types of yarns but I have so much in my stash, I feel awkward buying more.”
“Commitment. I have begun many projects but then I lose the enthusiasm to complete. I enjoy and respect the craft, but I often get bored and frustrated when a project does not finish within the timeline I am expecting. (Or is it that I am expecting perfection in my projects and am disappointed in myself?)”
“Finding projects that lead to a sense of accomplishment.”
“Boredom with large project, need smaller projects to finish quickly for sense of accomplishment.”
“Moving on. I keep doing patterns I love (which are many), but new things never turn out according to what I want, so I keep doing the same things.”
Each of the preceding statements, offered in response to the question “what do you struggle with most in your knitting life?”, points to the same issue: boredom.
I feel like boredom can be a dirty secret in the world of knitting. After all, knitting is supposed to be our hobby. If you’re bored with your hobby, where does that leave you?
After reading some of the comments I received from a question I once asked of subscribers, one can see two distinct kinds of knitting boredom.
One: boredom with knitting lengthy projects that require a significant investment in time (not to mention yarn!).
Two: boredom with knitting simple, quick projects.
I’ll confess right away that I have definitely struggled with knitting boredom, and with both kinds! They’re almost equal and opposite types of boredom, but they can definitely strike the same knitter.
In fact, fighting one type of boredom often can lead to the other type. It can be a vicious cycle.
First, we’ll talk the first type of knitting boredom, the type that can strike with a lengthy project. Next we’ll discuss knitting boredom stemming from quick and easy projects.
Why Isn’t My Project Growing Any Larger?!
Having knitted many blankets, a couple of cardigans, several pairs of socks, and the pullover sweater I knitted for my husband, I am very well acquainted with large-project boredom.
I wish I could remember whether it was Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) or Franklin Habit who observed the peculiar growth pattern of a large knitting project.
To wit, it is common to take the following steps:
A) Measure the length of a sweater in progress.
B) Knit the sweater for an hour.
C) Measure the length of the sweater again.
And still wind up with…
D) The exact same measurement you found in A).
I don’t know why this happens, but I’ve definitely experienced it! I’m convinced that part of the reason my husband’s sweater hibernated for so long is because it refused to measure anything but 5 inches for weeks at a time.
Anyway, all of this is to say that the trouble with large projects is that progress can be slow. Especially if we don’t have a lot of time to knit. And slow progress can lead to boredom.
Addressing Large-Project Fatigue
Are you in the midst of knitting a large project? Do you feel bored with it? If so, many remedies exist. Here are my own personal suggestions for how to address knitting boredom with a large project.
1. Identify the boredom’s source. Boredom doesn’t have to be inevitable with a large project. Consider why your current project is boring you. Is it just because it’s taking a long time? Or is it because you find the actual project boring?
There is a difference. You can still get through a large project even if you feel bored with its time commitment occasionally. But if you find a project you’re working on intrinsically boring, you might want to reconsider the project.
Here’s what I mean. Perhaps when you first began to work on an all-one-color garter stitch afghan, it seemed like a pleasant way to pass the time. But now you’re sick of the color and you’re sick to DEATH of garter stitch.
Assuming you haven’t already knitted half the project or more, maybe it’s time to reconsider your project. Maybe you need stripes. Maybe you need to alternate another stitch pattern — like seed stitch or slipped stitches, for instance — with your straight garter stitch. Or maybe you need to reconsider the entire idea of garter stitch and look for something more interesting.
Or, here’s a thought: maybe your problem is that the project is too complex. Does your project require intense stitch counting? It might be the counting that’s boring you. Perhaps then it’s time to consider simplifying.
If you’re quite certain that you’re bored with your project’s high level of commitment and not the pattern itself, read on.
2. Combine knitting with another form of entertainment. Movies, TV shows, podcasts, music, and audiobooks were all made for knitters and you’ll never convince me otherwise. If you’re tired of knitting a certain project because it’s taking so long, you may just need a little extra stimulation.
Rent a stack of movies (or, better still, check them out from the library) and watch while you knit. Find your favorite TV show on Netflix or Hulu and settle down for a binge. Lose yourself in your favorite artist’s music, or your favorite genre of music, on YouTube or Spotify or Pandora or Amazon Prime Music or iHeartRadio.
Use a podcast app and find topics that interest you. Check out OverDrive or Libby’s huge selection of audiobooks and settle in for listening and knitting.
There’s never been a better time to be a knitter requiring just a little more entertainment to get through a lengthy project!
3. Take a break. As long as you’re not knitting this project for a deadline looming closely, why not take a break?
I sometimes make myself promises to knit something else after, say, a certain number of inches or a certain amount of time spent on my large project. C’mon, Nicole. One more inch and you can work on those adorable fingerless gloves. This works amazingly well.
Or I’ll spend all of one day on a large project, and then the next day I’ll spend on smaller things. That works well too.
Reader’s Tips on Overcoming Large Project Fatigue
Readers of Knitting for Charity offered some fabulous tips of their own! Such as:
I find that slipping one of those plastic safety pin-like stitch holders on my most recent row before I start knitting each day, on a large or boring project, shows exactly how much I have accomplished. That can counteract the depressing stretching that can happen when measuring the fabric to frustrate me further.~Kathy
All of the above, plus take the project with you wherever you go, if possible, and knit while waiting for something or someone. I love to bake, so I whip up a delicious coffee cake and knit while it’s baking. Then I have a cup of coffee and a warm treat as a break from knitting.
Also, knit when someone is over at the house so you can knit and chat.
See if your LYS has group times. It is fun to knit in a different place and possibly meet new friends.
Make it a habit to knit a little at certain times of the day every day without fail. That piece of knitting will grow much faster than you think if you’re consistent.~Leslie
I have always found that I’m happiest when I have 5 or 6 (or 12 or 13) projects going at the same time. That way, I can pick and choose which I feel like working on at the time.
If I’m going to an appointment: I take that smaller project. If I’m chatting with people: I pick up the “no need to pay attention” project. Settling in for the night: I grab the big project.
Yeah, some stuff sits for a while – but I get around to everything in its time.~Cathy
Now let’s talk about the other type of knitting boredom: the kind that comes from quick, simple projects. Or, more to the point, the kind that comes from knitting the same pattern (or just a couple of patterns) over and over.
The Trouble with the Quick and Simple
We often hear that knitting involves only 2 stitches, the knit and the purl. But if you’ve been knitting for a while, you know that’s a little misleading.
Is a yarnover a knit stitch or a purl stitch? Does slipping stitches (whether to your right-hand needle or to a cable needle) count as knitting or purling? What about making stitches out of thin air? What about dropping stitches?
The point is that there are a lot of ways to fill in those little squares on a knitting chart. So there’s never really any reason to get stuck in a knitting rut. If you’re tired of a particular knitting pattern, by all means, it’s time to find something new.
But it’s not usually that simple, is it? We get into this kind of rut in the first place because it’s safe and familiar. Getting out requires stepping up and out, and that’s not always easy.
So let’s find some ways to step up and out of that knitting rut!
Resources for Stepping Out of a Knitting Rut
If you need a place to get started, YouTube is probably where you’ll want to go! Check out my article on some of the best YouTube channels available for learning new knitting techniques. You’ll find some fabulous knitting instruction here, for beginners to experts.
Be sure to check out the Knit Show with Vickie Howell, too!
Do you receive any knitting catalogs in the mail? I love KnitPicks’ catalog, even though I never actually pick it up to order yarn. But it’s a fabulous inspirational resource. When it arrives in the mail, I love to flip through it and enjoy the patterns. That often sparks in me the desire to knit a new project.
(If you’d like to receive the KnitPicks catalog, click here and request a catalog.)
Many yarn companies offer their own catalogs; just pick your favorite and request a catalog!
I also encourage signing up for yarn and knitting companies’ free e-newsletters. They make great inspirational tools as well. Some of my favorites are Lion Brand, Yarnspirations, Noble Knits, Berroco, Makers’ Mercantile, and Knitter’s Pride.
Oh, and here’s another idea: hang out in the Free Knitting Patterns directory right here on Knitting for Charity. I’ve got free pattern collections galore, all organized by category. Take a look and get inspired!
Finally, Clara Parkes put together a wonderful post all about breaking free of a knitting rut. It’s a very old article, but it’s still full of great ideas.
Whether you’ve been dragged into the doldrums by one large project or the same ol’, same ol’ patterns, you can shake yourself free!