Q for You: What’s your progress blocker?

Q for You: What's your knitting progress blocker?

I’m pretty sure “stuck on sleeve island” is the most frequent lament among knitters (which you know I don’t understand!) but I suspect we have a wide array of idiosyncratic responses as far as what part of the knitting process stalls our progress or even robs us of mojo, in some cases. No doubt for a lot of knitters it’s seaming, and thus the need to seam is avoided altogether. That’s another one I don’t get — seaming is like performing a little magic trick, although it does tend to put a halt to progress in that I only do it during daylight hours. So unless I happen to finish something on a Thursday night, have it blocked and dried by Saturday morning, and have a corresponding chunk of free time that very weekend, there will almost always be a lull while something awaits seaming. But the real mojo thief for me is picking up stitches.

Picking up stitches is the other thing I only do in daylight, so there’s that, but I don’t actually dislike it. In fact, the neat-freak part of me takes pleasure in that nice tidy column of stitches running up along the needle, in marking off matching sections and making sure I’m picking up identical numbers of stitches for perfect symmetry. I honestly have no idea why I dread doing it, and yet it is almost always the source of a disruption in forward progress. This poor vest spent three weeks waiting for me to have the right spot of daylight to seam it, after which I forged right into picking up armhole stitches in hopes of avoiding a cessation, but I picked up too few in my haste, and now I wonder how long it will be before I pick it up again. And I really want this vest!

So that’s my primary progress blocker and my Q for You: What is yours?

(Needles, removable stitch markers and notebook from Fringe Supply Co.)

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61 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your progress blocker?

  1. Seaming and weaving in ends…dear God, those are my banes. I’ve mostly resorted to seamless knits, and have taken to weaving ends in periodically because then you don’t have 30,000 ends to weave in at project’s end.

    But also, this year, unlike past years, I have decided to not leave a project as a UFO, no matter what. Just that change in mindset has helped me finish 6 projects since January.

    Also, I can relate to your comment about daylight. I might have to break down and get reading glasses because my current project with black yarn on size 2 needles was…challenging. If I can’t seem to do 2×2 ribbing without screwing up, clearly we have a problem!

    • I don’t dread any of it and will do any and all parts of sweater making without batting an eye.

      Rows and row of SS for a body? Sure, why not? Little sleeve tubes? How fun! Look how fast they go!
      Blocking? Well sure, the sweater is coming right along. Look how smooth everything is now.
      Seaming? Great, now it looks like a sweater!

      I am the same with my sewing. I guess I think every part of the process is a step towards the thing I really want.

    • I’m devoted to spit-splicing to make ends as few as possible, but that’s also another reason I prefer knitting flat and seaming over seamless things — I don’t mind weaving ends at all when there are seams to bury them in. But trying to weave them in on an seamless thing is the worst!

    • I eventually succumbed and got some cheap reading glasses for well, reading and other close work. It’s a miracle! I can see again! Worth having a play with them in the chemist or wherever has them cheap near you to see if they make an appreciable difference. I also got an eye test but the result was exactly the same as the glasses I had picked out. If your eyes are fairly equal the cheap ones are fine. Reading glasses tend to be quite small but I’d recommend larger lenses because they’re easier to look through, especially if you’re not used to glasses. I think the small ones are for people who want to hide them or peer over the top like a stereotypical librarian.

  2. Ugh! Set in sleeves is the current block. I don’t do it well being new to it so it requires my concentration.

    • That is a definitely daylight and concentration situation for me. I’ve only done it a few times, so it requires focus.

  3. Definitely seaming for me, and any other hand sewing. This is an issue for me in both knitting and sewing–sewing on buttons, etc. takes forever. I have a cardigan I finished knitting over 3 years ago and have been wearing it open because I can’t be bothered to sew in the zipper! I have 3 button down shirts that I finished sewing this winter that are still waiting for their buttons to go on.

      • I have worn 2 cardigans, even taken them to Denmark (they were my warmest), button-less all winter long.

        That’s how much I hate the button business. I always knit a belt for my cardis with leftover yarn because of this.

        I think this comes from never being satisfied of where I sew my buttons, they always look wonky, or close wonky, or make the cardi fall wonky. I dread this.

  4. All of the above fit my ‘excuse list’! That said, like Deepa said, I’m trying really hard to finish those UFOs this year, and checked two off of my list on Mother’s Day! That was a true gift to this mother, who had to share her grands with her ‘co-grandmother’.

    • It’s a great goal. Can I ask you — and Deepa, too — what are you doing to achieve it? Are you just not allowed to start anything until the previous project is done?

      • That is pretty much it… strict project monogamy. In the past I’ve always been flagrantly polyknitterous, tempted to cast on something new and “shiny.” Now I just persevere until the project is done. It can feel like a slog, but overall it has made me so happy to not have UFOs in various WIP bags taunting me. Also, I set myself a Ravelry challenge, and it is really gratifying to see the numbers clicking up.

        The other approach I have taken is to simply tote my knitting everywhere. I got some great zipper bags from The Yarnery in various sizes, and sweater or hat, shawl or mitts, I tote the project everywhere I go. Working on a row here, a row there…it has really sped things up and led to a cycle of positive reinforcement.

  5. Anything fiddly – it took me 3 weeks to just weave in the ends and sew on buttons to a cardigan. I mostly knit in the evenings after working all day and putting my 2-year-old to bed, so stockinette and Netflix is all I have focus for. Top-down sweaters are my recent favorites – only a few spots where I actually have to think!

  6. If only I could get started on a project. Choosing the pattern and yarn (if knitting)/ fabric (if sewing), no problem….then it sits there for that magical moment in time when I fell awake enough to embark on something new. Somehow, once I get going I’m usually fine.

    • That’s an interesting one, since it seems far more common for people (including myself here) to be possibly TOO hasty in casting things on.

  7. I am with Lynn. No part of the sweater slows me down and in truth, I find all those components part of the sweater process and I look forward to each. What holds me up is starting too many at a time; there is usually a point where I really want something done and I just drop everything else and zoom to the finish. The problem then is returning to the dropped projects again and starting yet another

    • This sounds like me! I usually complete a few little projects while working on something big, and it’s usually at one of those transition points that I start on something new. I find working on something quick and easy is refreshing, and I’m ready to come back and tackle that sleeve, or pickup those stitches, or weave in those ends.

    • Maybe Judy and Deepa will have advice on how to finish more things before casting on new ones. ;)

      • Gritting your teeth and committing your troth to the project at hand…that is the only infallible approach. :)

        You are permitted to look at the pattern for the project that is making flirtatious overtures to you. You are permitted to fondle the yarn. You are even permitted to wind it, so it is ready. You are permitted the flutters of anticipation. But! Return you must, to your one true (current) love. :) Only when it is blocked, and ends woven in, are you permitted to take up another dalliance.

  8. Daylight! Rather, poor lighting is my progress blocker. It’s not uncommon for me to wait for morning to get to the meticulous details that require good lighting that even my beloved magnifying work lamp cannot duplicate. It’s also not uncommon for me to set aside a project that I knitted during winter months until the season turns so that I can do the finishing work during spring time.

      • Yes! If you looked closely at some of my seamed garments, you can tell which ones I finished under artificial light during winter and which ones I finished when I had plenty of natural light to work with.

    • ha! That’s me lately. Stalled projects and can’t decide what to start in the interim, which leaves me with nights where I’m (gasp) not knitting at all! sob

  9. My progress blocker is when I find an error in the pattern..and I contact the designer..and “yes there is”..blah blah..I lose complete trust in the project…if I find it in an Erratta Listing..I am prepared….but when I have to go directly to the designer..ugh!
    Also..when I start a project..I like to set aside a special time and place..ALONE..to embark on the new journey! So sometimes..we (the project and I) have to wait.

  10. I don’t knit sweaters but I love knitting shawls. When they get larger and into pattern sections I wear down because I’m highly distractible and can “lose” the pattern in a heartbeat. So I count and count and recount every other row sometimes to keep the pattern accurate. I have to be alone because being distracted by others puts me off the count. (Especially thinking of a gift shawl for this.) In the gift shawl case, I read one Ravelry review of a person who “knit it up in a couple days” (fingering, 1,000yd shaw.) Really? I wish! Anyway, the last part of a patterned shawl is my bane.

    • Ah, that would be my second block: trying to do something complicated or with a large stitch count when others are around, television’s on, etc. Definitely learned to keep that knitting for times when no one’s around!

  11. Mine is fixing a complicated mistake. That has me setting it aside until I can face the mess.

  12. My problem is doing something other than gift knitting. I love making gifts for people – usually something small like a hat or a shawl – but I’ve only knitted one sweater for myself. I’ve started several, but they’ve been put aside and are collecting dust in my closet. Every year I resolve to focus on making some garments for myself, but somehow I just drift back to small projects for other people. I’m fully retired now and I’ve been thinking about dedicating some time every week to big-project knitting. I imagine going into my sewing room, closing the door, and spending an afternoon focusing on sweater knitting – no distractions!! Wish me luck!

  13. I like making sleeves – they go so fast! – and I like seaming – so near the end, I’ll be able to wear it soon!
    I really really really hate picking up stitches, even just a few. Right now I’m nearing the end of a sweater I’ve loved making but I have to do the front bands and you can guess what that means. I’m in the middle of one side – it took me a couple of days to knuckle down and pick up the sts – and have the other side, with the buttonholes, to come. Give me strength.

  14. ha! blocking. I have two entirely finished sweaters that haven’t been worn yet because I’m putting off blocking.

  15. Definitely picking up stitches, especially for a button band – sleeve openings are not quite as bad. Having just discovered the joy that is sewn on button bands, that will be my go-to from now on. Much rather seam than pickup!

  16. Honestly, my biggest block comes when I’ve finished something, and am looking for that next project. The sheer number of pattern choices, different weights of yarn, what’s in my stash, what do I have enough of, do I need to buy more….it goes on for over a week, before I might settle on a new project. Then, I may abandon that after a day or so, and go searching again. I’m always so happy when I finally get into the rhythm again, which is why I love really big, complicated projects….they never seem to end!

  17. Ribbing is the biggest progress blocker for me! While some people find stockinette tedious and boring, it’s ribbing for me, particularly when it’s ribbing for many inches on a hem or collar. And while I love the squish of brioche, I’m working on the Ronan sweater right now, I’m so close to the end of the brioche collar, but it’s taking FOREVER. I enjoy seeing quick progress in my knitting, so when it doesn’t feel like I’m seeing any, I tend to take longer and longer breaks in between working on it….

    • Oh yes — the things that are so slow you avoid them, thereby making it take even longer! Been there.

  18. Apparently sewing in zippers. I have a vest that has been knit for about 5 years. Just needs a zipper. I have the zipper. They sit nicely together on the sewing table. As yet, they haven’t gotten the hint and gotten together. I guess the chemistry just isn’t there.

    Other than that, I used to let seaming and ends slow me down, I used a blanket for years with “fringe”. :-)

    But I decided about ten years ago not to do that anymore. When I finish knitting something, I immediately weave in any ends that weren’t done along the way, and if it is a project with a lot of ends, I stop periodically and work on them. Seaming, the same thing. I try to just keep going until it is done. There is much satisfaction in a truly finished garment.

  19. For me, it’s running into a place in the pattern I can’t work out, and it needs time in my brain to work itself out. Or a big mistake that also requires my brain to do some subconscious work on.

    I find weaving in ends and seaming very satisfying. As much as I do blocking. It’s what makes the project feel really complete.

  20. The weather and season influence me. If I’m working on a winter sweater and spring arrives, I’m bad about putting it aside and starting a spring thing. But when fall rolls around, I’m sorry I didn’t finish the other sweater.

  21. Buttons are my nemesis. I’m always paralyzed by choice, and I don’t enjoy the act of sewing them on. The real reason why I pretty much just knit pullovers… ;-)

  22. Having a toddler has been my main source of stoppage. I get through some of the meltdowns by thinking about how I’m going to treat myself to knitting tonight (at last)! And then when the time comes, all I want to do is have a beer and watch, like, Game of Thrones. I have a seamless, top down, large gauge garter stitch sweater knit with balls with insane yardage — in other words, about as effortless as it gets — in the works since last October. I only have the cuff of the first sleeve and the rest of the second sleeve, so….maybe I’ll finish in 2025?

    • Oh, I’m with you! I was about to write how it’s sewing on buttons (my bête noire) and then I realized no, that was the Before Times. I used to knit every evening and in the car on the way to work (as a carpool passenger). I made so many things!

      Now I catch up on reading and email on the way to work (since that’s the only time I get to myself when I’m mostly rested). And just like you, though I promise myself knitting rewards, when I finally get the kiddo in bed and the chores done and have at long last made it to the end of my day, even getting out the knitting often feels like a bridge too far. I generally either straight-up collapse or I try to relax with some escapist TV and fall asleep within 15 mins anyway.

      I miss my knitting and my other making. This phase of life will pass, right?? I see people on the internet who have small children and knit/sew/make all the things… I wish it was inspiring, but more often it just makes me feel low (good thing I don’t have much time to be on the internet anymore either!).

  23. Like many others, seaming and picking up stitches are my progress blockers, but also hitting something new (e.g. super-complicated lace stitches with multiple steps, funky new cable…) that I know I’ll enjoy once I get the hang of but that I dread screwing up the first few times. :)

    • This phase will pass. And not only that but I was shocked to see how much I had learned during the period when I did a lot more reading about making than actual making. All that information was in there, waiting for me to tap. With kids 12 and 14, who can advise/admire but leave me (a little) space, I love my making right now!

  24. Mine isn’t exactly a progress blocker, but it is definitely a completion blocker. I hate photographing my finished projects. I dread trying to set things up to show them to their best advantage, finding settings with good lighting and some kind of interesting but not contrived background, and most of all I really loathe modeling my finished garments for photos. I will happily swatch, knit, seam, block, weave in end, sew on buttons, the works, but a project isn’t really complete until pics are posted on Ravelry and IG, right?

    • I hear you! I also hate modeling my knits (hair, make up, clothes… too much work to look presentable to be uploaded to the internet). I work from home, I am always in my pajamas! ;) LOL

      There are cheap (around $40) dress forms in Amazon. Find a corner close to a window, early in the morning, when the sun hits better. I also find that a “nice wood clothes hanger” works just fine.

  25. Transitions. I always get held up at transitions. Not bc I don’t like to do the next bit, but just bc it requires a change of mindset. If it also contains something tricky, that can prolong the transition.

    And then I get distracted during transitions …

  26. My big block is stress. Some of my days are really long, and by the time I get everything done and myself ready for the next day, all I have energy for is sitting in a heap. I don’t even watch tv!
    I’m a teacher and summer is coming, which means long mornings knitting in the garden with an audio book, knitting by the campfire, and knitting everywhere else too! I can’t wait!
    Until then, I do a row here and there between stacks of grading on the weekends.
    Only 4.5 weeks left!

  27. Currently it’s indecision. It wouldn’t be if I would buy more yarn but I am trying to use stash for a season to save money. So I have nothing cast on. So strange. Off to ravelry to solve this!! Trying to decide if I want to use the cotton from my stash for seasonal appropriate knitting or some merino and just make a simple pullover that’s been in my queue for years.

  28. For me, it’s having more than one thing on the needles at one time. Far from giving me the freedom to pick up whichever project I fancy knitting on in a given moment, I find I will only have enthusiasm for one of the projects and I will work on that to the exclusion of the others. At the worst, I end up not working on anything because I don’t have a clear view of which one I really want to work on.

    Actually, if I do cast on more than one project, it is indicative that I don’t really like the one I had on the needles first, but I don’t want to admit that to myself.

  29. My progress blocker is choosing patterns itself, so it means I can’t knit until I find something I really like to start. I’m a new knitter and I bought some of my favorite yarns that I wanted to work with for a long time, but I can’t, for the love of my life, find a favorite raglan sweater pattern suitable for chunky yarn (such as WAK yarn). It’s been around 11 days since I last knitted and I’m getting low on life energy…

  30. Picking up stitches and endless garter are my kryptonite. I do not pick up stitches well so I dread and do not do it. This is a little weird because I fearlessly do all sorts of tricky knitting but picking up stitches nicely defeats me. I must be the only person who has trouble with this because there is almost no instruction on how to do this well that I can find. The garter problem is just because I find it boring after a couple of rows. When I hit a long garter stretch on a project, I alternate working on it with the ‘reward’ of a more complicated project to get me through it.

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