Crafty Manoeuvres

We all know of that moment when we stop, and stare at our hands. When the project we are working on sits malevolent and scrunched, and we have the realisation. The knowledge descends that, suddenly, we are not having fun. As my friend Rachael put it:

Recently my knitting has become a chore. Finishing gifts and WIPs[1] and using old stash…I realised how much my ‘practical’ nature can sap the joy from my making practice.

Sometimes, these moments need to be pushed through, for one reason or another. Maybe it’s a promised gift for someone who would be disappointed not to receive it. Perhaps we feel an obligation to finish what we started. Or there is – heaven forbid! – a deadline to meet.

Aside from plain old-fashioned self-discipline, there are a few creative ways to get through these times. Let’s look at three ideas.

#1 - The Diversion:

Rachael decided to cast on “a big, simple shawl” using some of her own hand-dyed yarn, “just because”. I often use this strategy, and I find that working on something relaxing, that is just for me, just for exploration, refreshes my endeavours.

#2 – The Switch:

Doing something completely different for a time can also help. For me, this often means a trip to the garden. While standing there, aghast at the level of neglect, I often spy something that needs trimming, or fruit that needs picking. We have a rather wonderful bramble of blackberries at the moment, and I took a break yesterday just to unburden its branches. As the bowl of berries filled up, my spirits were similarly refilled.

What if we don’t have time for such diversions? In those cases, I usually suggest

#3 - Concurrent Refreshment:

I sit with my work, and listen to a podcast, or watch a documentary. If the work requires thinking, I keep my pen and notepad nearby, and pause when I need to write something down. In doing this recently, I enjoyed hearing from illustrator Christoph Niemann, who talks of creating “an armour of craft around you” when the going gets tough.

Niemann has this quirky advice for anyone stuck in a creative corner:

Throw in something that you’d usually regret, and that’s usually the most interesting part.

I found that advice refreshing as well as challenging. Related to knitting it made me think of bold colour choices, or playing around with gauge, or knitting something I’m really not sure will work out.

“In the best moments,” Niemann commented, “what happens is that design celebrates the world”. That’s certainly how I feel about knitwear and other fibre craft. And what makes wool a standout material to work with is its warmth.

I have a wonderful husband, who very much struggles with the transition to cooler weather. It’s a wonderful thing for me to be able to design and make things that ease the chill. For him, it provides necessary warmth. For me, a creative outlet and a way of celebrating the changing seasons.

So one final way I would suggest for getting through crafting doldrums, is to come back to your sense of purpose. Why are you making? Who for? Is all joy lost, or can you find a way to reclaim it?


An  Ashmore  diversion in the form of Justyna Lorkowska's  Royal Mile  shawl pattern.

An Ashmore diversion in the form of Justyna Lorkowska's Royal Mile shawl pattern.

Do you have any tried-and-true methods of persisting when your project has stalled?


[1] WIPs = Works in Progress