Knitting is like yoga, a mindful exploration of the self. How you are on your yoga mat is how you are with your knitting and in your daily life. If you can't have your yoga mat askew, you may see that same tendency popping up in your craft. I oscillate between the desire to knit by the seat of my pants, and the need for perfection. When taking on the project of an argyle sock I found my deeply hidden OCD tendencies popping up, and needed my mellow yogic ways to help me through. The amount of one pointed focus, mindfulness and meditation this project of intarsia takes is amazing. Okay maybe some of it is my tired mom brain unable to stay on task, but really it requires a lot of attention.
I’ll start by explaining what intarsia is. Intarsia is a style of color work in knitting. By stranding different colored yarns you’re able to make designs like argyle where there are blocks of sections in different colors. The challenge with this style of color work is that you need to keep the strands from getting tangled.
How to mindfully manage your strands? Own the chaos. Be one with the mess. I live in a constant state of organized chaos and that is just what intarsia is: organized chaos. Once you accept that the stranded yarns will tangle it makes it much less painful. Before I accepted that this was the way of intarsia I fought with my knitting, cursed a lot and called my friends complaining about the pain of it. Then I had this aha moment where I realized this was part of the journey. Stop rushing, stop fighting it. Once I accepted that, it became much easier.
Now if the advice of, just let it be, doesn't jive with your flow. Here are a few tips that helped me keep things somewhat less tangled.
1. Clothes pins - these little babies are a gem that can be used for many a task in knitting. During this particular sock project I used them to hold down any tails that may get in my way or yarn that I didn't need at a particular moment.
2. Frequent de-tangle breaks - every three rows or so I would take a moment to untangle any strands that were getting too chummy. If I didn't, things would get a little crazy and rather than a one minute untangling it was a 60 min deep breathing exercise of getting things back in place. This slowed things down, but really whats the rush?
3. No distractions - normally when I'm knitting I have my baby crawling all over me, my husband talking to me, or my dog begging for my attention. There is no end to the distractions that can come up. However, when it is time to tackle something like an argyle sock I decided the best approach would be no tv, no wine, and no distractions. That may sound less fun than normal knitting, but I have to say it was a peaceful knitting experience. It also didn't have to be that way the entire time I knit this project. Most of it was I just needed to get into the groove and then I wasn't so easily dissuaded from my knitting.
4. Take your time - noticing a theme here? When working on any knitting it is good to be methodical. In particular when knitting intarsia and having many strands of yarn hanging around it is important to take care when turning your work. Notice if your strands are tangling as you turn and can you move the project and the yarn at the same time to keep the tangling to a minimum?
5. Smile - smiling makes any situation (almost any that is) better. If you find you are not enjoying your project. Take stock of why you are knitting. Is it a gift for someone you love? A present to yourself? Are you knitting to learn a new technique? Is it for your beloved pet? No matter why you are knitting can you find the joy in it? Maybe offering a smile to yourself and taking a step away will remind you that this is for fun and relaxation, not some kind of personal tourture.