How can mindfulness change the experience of knitting? Today, we explore what a mindful knitting practice is and what it can offer.
Knitting While Distracted
This is a question that has been on my mind for a while. Whether I tackle a cable pattern or opt for a simplistic and soothing pattern (stockinette in the round, anyone?), I've noticed that knitting is an opportunity for mindfulness or mindlessness. By paying attention to my preferences for knitting projects, I'm beginning to pick up on when I am ready to tune in or tune out and, subsequently, when my stress levels are through the roof.
Knitting has long been an extension of my multi-tasking habit: Knitting and Netflix; knitting and talking; knitting and traveling; knitting and absurd amounts of caffeine and sugar. Obviously, this sort of knitting habit isn't always conducive to more complicated projects (not that it can't be done but, hey, I hate ripping back). Knitting and other fiber arts are often touted as a good activity to keep your hands busy while your mind is elsewhere whether that's lecture halls or movie theaters. So, that's how I've conditioned my knitting practice. It's snuck in during other activities.
Rarely, if ever, is it simply knitting and breathing. Knitting and being. At least for me, that is. Yet, I don't want my knitting experience to be dictated entirely by muscle memory.
Complicated cables. Delicate lacework. Precise increases and decreases. Counting each stitch. Tracking every row.
Or Knit 1, Purl 1. Moss stitch. Or garter. Or stockinette. A repetitive pattern that requires conscious attention only between rows and for the first few stitches until the muscle memory takes over. An exercise in consistency.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can take place either in stillness or through moving meditation (as is done in yoga). A mindfulness practice asks us to be fully present in the moment, to pay attention to our senses and our breath. I've been drawn towards mindfulness meditation over the last year or so as an extension of my home yoga practice. But knitting is also a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness.
The repetitive movement that comes so easily and the joy of creating something with my own two hands creates this powerful opportunity for presence. When I knit, I want to be there. Really be there. Mindful knitting is a simple step into the depth of the moment - a moment that I'm already inclined to want to experience.
I think that, perhaps, mindfulness can be found in any project. A simpler project might allow me to recognize each inhale or exhale as I work my stitches. Inhale - knit 2. Exhale - purl 2. A complicated project, however, demands presence, too. When I must account for every stitch, I must simply be fully present in order to not drop that darn stitch again. (Hence, why I often opt for simpler projects.)
Starting a Mindful Knitting Practice
To learn how to start a mindfulness knitting practice, I found Lanny Mihardja's post over on Handcrafted Mindfulness to be extremely helpful. Taking the time to pause thoughtfully before and after a few dedicated minutes of knitting has made all the difference. Head on over to her post for a simple guide to mindful knitting.
Instead of priding myself on "productive relaxation" (can that even be a real thing?), I'm working on turning my knitting practice into a conscientious habit, instead of a mindless routine. Don't get me wrong, I'm a total meditation newbie, and Netflix and knit isn't going to be a habit I drop. But I don't want my entire knitting experience to be dictated entirely be muscle memory; it's not something that my fingers simply carry on without my knowledge. Yet, it's difficult to know where to start. For now, I'll simply count working a few rows away from the TV as a victory.
It's amazing what comes to the surface when we let our stitches speak for themselves.
So, whether you opt for knitting projects like those described in Scenario 1 (ones, I'd reserve for special occasion) or Scenario 2, what can mindfulness bring to the experience of knitting? What might we notice if we give our craft some silence and space?
Let's explore how mindful knitting can change our process of making.