Q for You: What’s your knit-stitch happy place?

Q for You: What's your knit-stitch happy place?

I was telling some friends recently that the impediment to my finishing this Cline sweater as quickly as I’d like is that it makes me narcoleptic — I literally nod off right there on the couch. I always find stockinette dull (albeit occasionally in a refuge sort of way), but this is an actual sedative. Something about the soft yarn, the soothing grey heather, the stockinette motion. The fabric is a total dream, and I am actually still making pretty good time on it — and I have no doubt the finished sweater will be ace — but from a knitting perspective, it’s making me antsy, desperate for escape into something more satisfying.

In between nods I’ve been contemplating what it is that brings me that satisfaction. Is it a particular stitch pattern or type of knitting — cables, knits-and-purls, colorwork? It’s not about complexity, per se, but it is about watching the fabric develop and being wowed by it. The most pleasing projects are the ones where I can’t put it away at night — I find myself spreading it out on the couch next to me, petting it, admiring my progress, imagining those next few inches. But it’s also about my brain being able to settle into a rhythm — to identify a melody and hum along with it, as it were. I like stitch patterns that are the equivalent of earworms, whatever they might be. So whether it’s a memorizable cable motif or knit-purl combination, that’s my happy place as a knitter. (Peak examples being Channel, Gentian, Bernat.) And that’s my Q for You today: What gives you that sense of satisfaction as you stitch? Do you sink happily into stockinette, thrill to a challenging cable or lace chart, crave seeing colorwork patterning form in front of you? What’s your happy place.

EDITED TO ADD: I woke up this morning thinking about something I read a few months ago about “flow,” that state where your brain is happily humming along. This line stood out for me, and rings true: “This model suggests that we’re most easily able to enter a state of flow when we’re faced with a task that requires both a high level of perceived skill and offers us a challenge …” So flow comes from your brain being able to settle into a a groove but at a level where it’s like “this takes some skill” and “I got this” at the same time. I think that’s the difference between monotony and bliss! And why I’m reasonably happy knitting stockinette if I’m tracking spaced increases or something for my brain to groove on, just the littlest bit.

Pretty little gifts for knitters and others

IN SHOP NEWS: We’re still shipping over at Fringe Supply Co.! Within the US, we ship via Priority Mail, so in theory you can order through Wednesday morning and hope to have your package by Christmas Eve. Still, why tempt fate? We’d love to get your holiday gifts shipped off asap, if we haven’t already. In addition to knockout favorites like Field Bags and Lykke needle sets, we’ve got lots of great stocking stuffers, knitting group gifts, secret santa offerings: pretty little tools and balms, gorgeous notebooks, a variety of tool pouches, and who doesn’t love a gift certificate? If you need any help or advice, just ask! And thank you SO MUCH for all of your support this season and always.

Happy weekend, everyone—


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45 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your knit-stitch happy place?

  1. I’m working on bazillions (ok not that many) hats for the holidays, and trying to change up the patterns as I go because using the same pattern in 2-3 hats get monotonous. However, those cables in your cream sweater will make me swear and I cannot have that this close to the holidays. Santa is watching.

  2. At this point I really like reading chart, especially intricate yoke sweaters. But stockinette is my go-to for cozy early morning or evening knitting.

  3. I love the addictive rhythm of lace and watching it work up! That’s definitely my happy place. I remember a time when I found stockinette stitch boring, but I have really come around to love it over the years and look forward to knitting it. I especially enjoy that the mindlesses allows me to pick it up when my mind is occupied by other things, which is more often than not.

  4. I’m with Vanessa, but it has to be lace worked on the front side only. I can’t do with purl decreases.

  5. Since I knit a bajillion sweaters I find I’m most motivated to get to the point of separating for sleeves. It’s like this adrenaline rush to get to that part of a project. I think because I like being engaged in the increases and what not in the construction of a top down. I also love a good knit purl ribbing combo.

  6. What works best for me depends on the situation. I do a fair amount of “on the go” knitting where I end up in situations that involve waiting, and stockinette, garter, a rib of some sort, or seed stitch is great in that context. I don’t have to pay close attention to where I am and can just let the garment grow. Similarly, those patterns are great for “knit night,” where I’m socializing as I knit.

    Outside of that context, I enjoy memorizable cables or twisted stitches with an occasional foray into fair isle. They require more concentration, but I love following and anticipating the meandering path of my stitches. I also tend to relish the planning involved in designing garments with these embellishments.

  7. I agree with the watching the fabric form – that is what makes me happy. I also like a pattern that I can memorize easily so it requires a little focus but doesn’t drive me crazy – that’s where I find my rhythm.

  8. I love knitting socks, and I get a special little thrill when I turn the heel…every time I finish that last row before going back to working in the round, I stop and admire my cleverness! Countless socks in my completed projects, and it gets me, every. single. time.

  9. Every stockinette project has to be paired with a more complex project with which it can alternate. And there must be something good to watch, or listen to, or an amazing view, to distract me.

  10. I enjoy complex knitting, I get bored with things like ribbing and stockinette. However, with three toddlers I only get to knit the boring stuff for now as the more complex requires less distractions.

  11. I love that you say you pet your fabric. I do this too and really nice feeling fabric makes me love the project. Stockinette is perfect for end of day tired watching tv knitting. That’s my excuse for working on more than one project at a time.

  12. I love working a lace pattern in worsted weight yarn- my first real knitting projects were lacy baby blankets. It’s complex enough to keep me interested, knits up quickly, and there’s no fiddling with cables or sizing.

  13. Like Ellen, I have to alternate between a knitting project that is challenging (to me) and stockinette, on a daily basis. For example, I’ll knit a few rows of the Bulletproof hat with cables and a pattern that changes with each row in the morning or late afternoon in front of a comfy fire in the fireplace, and then I’ll switch to mindless stockinette in the evening while we watch a favorite show on TV…….no bodice-ripping Outlander while I’m cabling, please!!

  14. I enjoy intricate cables the most, because I love the satisfaction of being able to read my knitting and fix any little mistakes that crop up—it’s better if I don’t knit that stitch instead of purling it, but the fact that I have the knowledge the errors makes me feel good. But I knit three yoked sweaters last year for myself and my housemates, and every row of colorwork was like a knitter’s line of coke: I could not stop until I’d done “just one more row” and then suddenly it was midnight.

  15. Such an interesting question. I enjoy mindless round and round knitting like hats and socks and top down sweaters. But I also get a real thrill out of completing complicated patterns like lace and color work or cables – the more complicated the better. I guess it is about balance. Right now I am knitting two at a time leg warmers, using two yarns held together. The pattern is simple ribbing, but keeping those 4 balls straight and untangled is my challenge. It slows down my knitting dramatically, which is driving me crazy. But I. Will. Finish. These. In. Time. To. Wrap. Them. For. Christmas.

  16. Cables all day for me for my “flow”. I’ve not made Gentian, but have made many other hats by the designer. Irina has the best hat patterns. Complex, but with a regular rhythm – so satisfying to knit.

  17. Intarsia for complexity. Garter or stockinette stitch for soothing, mindless while attending meetings or watching movies at home. Even so, I still do colorwork such as stripes. Miles of a single colorwould put me to sleep,too. When I must knit something boring for a long stretch, I place a marker where I started, then I can see my progress for the hour or whatever. Seeing how much I’ve done gets my juices going.

  18. Lace and also combinations of knit and purl stitches for texture are what engage me. Although I love the look, I just can’t get into cables, what with the fiddly cable needle. I usually end up using a toothpick, as the rough finish keeps the stitches from sliding off. I need to learn to cable without a cable needle. Unless that is more fiddly!

  19. Maybe its being an artist, but this question took me straight to color. I knit small projects to satisfy my love of knitting and then sell them in our shop. I see I’m happiest knitting hats with hand dyed sock yarns (held double) in stockinette and watching the color ways unfold. Color makes me so so happy! And the colors are never exactly the same. On the other end of that is the need for a solid, natural wool and to follow a chart with a lovely pattern (usually a hat, sometimes a shawl.) So satisfying, with a huge sense of accomplishment. (Staying focused on a complex patter is not my strong point.)

  20. My knitting happy place has some combination of “simple, but interesting”. This is what drives my own design. I don’t enjoy being wedded to a chart for an entire garment, so when I first designed something with an aran feel, I came up with” Zora”, which has cable panels and perpendicularly joined sleeves, but also lots of stocking stitch. Similarly, I enjoy stranded knitting but I know my limits, so I invented the “Trellis Waistcoat”, precisely so that I wouldn’t have to deal with sleeves in fair isle (and the gzillion ends to weave in). And I came up with “Harriet’s Jacket” because I love garter stitch but need something interesting going on at the same time or I’ll be too bored to finish. When I do need to do a lot of plain knitting, I rely on audiobooks to get through it all. Thank you, Audible.com; I couldn’t do it without you!

    • Your public library will stream audiobooks to you for free. I don’t understand thanking Audible for its IMO overpriced and narrowly limited product. In this age of rule by profiteers, let’s appreciate what our taxes do for us.

      • Unfortunately, my public library here in Kingston, ON has a relatively limited selection of digital offerings. I choose not to have television and to pay for an Audible subscription instead.

      • I’m an avid audiobook consumer — they power my knitting, and also the more tedious aspects of my day job. There’s plenty of reasons to have qualms about the Amazon behemoth, but I disagree that you can ding Audible on either selection or price. With my subscription, audiobooks are ~1/3 of what I used to pay for physical media, ~1/2 of what I’d pay for digital elsewhere (and cheaper than what it cost me to rent physical media in the bad old days). In Audible’s early years the selection could be spotty, but those days are long gone. They are also now an audiobook publisher, and the quality of their in-house productions is top-notch (anecdotally, I’ve heard good things from both authors and narrators who have worked with them).

        I am a fierce supporter of public libraries, and use my library’s audiobook service when I can, but like Elizabeth’s library, mine has a very limited digital and physical audiobook collection. And the digital service has simultaneous user limits — I currently have a 21 day wait for every book I’m interested in. This purely artificial limitation (it’s digital — it’s not like there aren’t enough copies to go around!) is imposed by the service provider, Baker & Taylor, hardly a nonprofit. In my area, our inadequate public funding is paying for a largely inadequate service provided by a multi-billion dollar private corporation. Not sure how that’s a purer option?

        • I checked in later to this discussion. I love my library and get many of my knitting books there, but the audiobooks are often few and far between as others have mentioned. I have wondered also why there is a few weeks wait when it is a digital copy and not a hardcover.
          I would not criticize someone for buying a bestseller as there is often 100+ others waiting for it in a library que. Why chastise for getting an Audible version when someone wants access to enjoy right away?

        • Purity is a lovely thing. Bad, bad Baker & Taylor! And our public library system is evil because?

      • I’m standing by my previous comments and adding another. Audible’s telephone customer service denies having so much as heard of the Chromebook. They’re providing limited business to a select clientele and making a calculated profit. If you want to thank them for it, do so. Personally I don’t understand it.

  21. So many interesting comments, I agree with nearly all of them. Colour work makes me so happy, one of my best memories was when I unrolled a ball of Noro and made minis of the different colour changes, then knit tiny squares of each colour in the body of a child’s cardigan….it was wow. I am only able to fix ribbing and regular cables when I make a mistake…my favourite is to find a mistake in stockinette about two inches down. I am not able to fix a mistake within a diamond cable..yet. I am about to knit the Amanda cardigan and have been researching the projects of other knitted Amandas on Ravelry and the panelists remarks and tutorials. Is there any way to access the actual kal from 2014?

  22. I cannot knit stockinette while sitting on the sofa. I zone out and doze off. Not even kidding. I have to sit in a not-terribly-comfortable chair to get through it.

    Thing is, with every single thing I knit–except hats and mittens, because they go so quickly–I get to a point where I need a break, else I lose focus and never finish. Scarf, blanket, sweater, sock…doesn’t matter. I will sigh and think, “Ugh, just finish this row”, as opposed to, “I know it’s three a.m., but knitting fever dictates just one more row! Okay, maybe one MORE row!”

    So I’ll take a day off from knitting to work on piecing patchwork or to stitch a section of an embroidery project or to cut out pattern pieces for a shirt–or whatever. Whatever isn’t knitting.

    That day brings me back to my knitting refreshed and with my brain re-set, and then I can knit those cables or miles of stockinette with renewed appreciation for what the fiber’s turning into.

  23. Growing in length. I start a sweater and it seems like it is 2” forever,then all of a sudden it is 15!

  24. Some of my favorite patterns are ones where stretches of stockinette alternate with something more interesting, like a sweater with a lace pattern just at center front and back, that makes for a good combination of speed and engagement. I’m with you, I need a little something going on to keep it feeling slightly challenging, and a way to see that I’m making progress.

  25. Certain stitch patterns are fun to knit, others pure torture. If I am working on something big, like a sweater or even a scarf, I have to like executing the stitch pattern. Re stockinette, that is perfect for listening to audio books.

  26. I think any knitting in the round can get me to my happy place. It happens when the click of the needles gets rhythmic and continues uninterrupted. And if it’s colorwork on top of this, total excellence 😆

  27. There are two kinds of “happy place” knitting for me: with and without audiobook accompaniment. Without, I think I’m a lot like you. It’s got to be just chewy enough that I get a delicious flow state going. I, too, will literally fall asleep (or get unbearably antsy) with endless stockinette or garter. Chewy knitting in a beautiful outdoor or quasi-outdoor space is a deeply happy place for me.

    But with audiobooks, I adore the mindless knitting. My hands happily click clack without me even needing to look at them while my mind is deliciously absorbed in a book (I have *complicated* vision, I generally listen to audio fiction, and I’m very picky about narrators, so often reading with my ears is even more delectable than reading with my eyes). The knitted objects seem to drop from my needles with imperceptible effort. And if I try to listen to audiobooks without knitting (or some other mindless task), I fall asleep! So the relationship is symbiotic — books let me knit, knitting lets me read books.

  28. “I like stitch patterns that are the equivalent of earworms”.

    I know exactly what you mean. And if the pattern doesn’t supply it, I add it myself. Like with plain stockinette, I play number games or add a sort of sing-song. I don’t even think about it, I just find myself doing it. Like a mantra.

    I agree with whomever commented on the beauty of your writing, Karen. Even keeping up with you while traveling!

  29. If I’m under a lot of stress, my brain is already overactive with anxiety and stockinette and garter are both very soothing. If I’m relaxed but alert, a stitch pattern with some interest and good knitting rhythm proportion is best. (Finding that rhythm often involves swatching stitch patterns until I find that sweet spot of addictive to knit, plus functional good looks, plus compatibility with yarn type.) If I’m very relaxed and needing stimuli, that is when I knit cables. …I don’t often knit cables.

  30. I almost always knit while reading (on the computer so I just need to click to progress) or watching TV, so I tend to prefer stockinette I can just zoom through. I’m not very good with stitch patterns because it seems to take me forever to get them learned/established, and I keep making mistakes and ripping back. Admittedly if I can get over that learning curve they can be fun, and I kind of like the “Let me finish this one more repeat” feeling once you get going. WRT stockinette, though, I much prefer knitting sweaters in the round so you can see the project develop (rather than flat in pieces where it feels like I’m just knitting random geometric shapes). I think, too, that I tend to be a product knitter much more than a process knitter, so anything that starts to make the item look like the product I want is my happy place.

  31. Colorwork in the round is definitely the fastest and most fun for me. Like cables for some, with a stranded colorwork project I always get the “just one more round” feeling. Hats, mittens, and icelandic yokes just fly off the needles for me, while I could have an easy, stockinette project languish for months because it’s just too boring.

  32. I knit half of a sweater with a cable and lace panel down the back, each sleeve, and each front. (Gave it up for reasons unrelated to the pattern.) The combination of significant swathes of stockinette combined with short stretches of cable&lace were perfect. Just enough complication to be interesting combined with at least 3/4 of the knitting being mindless.

  33. “happy place” knitting for me is a shawl with just the teensiest bit of interest more than plain garter stitch. (paris toujours, farmhouse shawl, textured shawl recipe, etc.) i could, and do, make these on repeat. i buy more interesting patterns, and plan to, but then i always end up coming back to these comforting favorites. they’re like chicken noodle soup–always just right and soothing too!

  34. Pingback: Q for You: Do you add it up? | Fringe Association

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