How The Need For Mindless Knitting Inspired Me To Swatch

Thanks to a variety of life challenges, I’ve been in need of mindless knitting lately and struggling to find it. I love to knit. It’s relaxing and gives me something to show for the time I spend watching movies on TV or just vegging on the sofa. But when I’m tired, only very simple projects work. If the knitting is too complicated, it’s frustrating instead of fun.

Usually, when I’m tired, I knit socks. I have my favorite pattern memorized, and big sections of it are just straight knitting. However, when I went digging through my yarn stash to find an easy project, I realized I am out of sock yarn. I’m even out of sock yarn leftovers, so unless I buy or make some fingering weight yarn, socks are out.

Buried in my stash, I found an unfinished sweater and realized this was a great way to do a lot of mindless knitting. Sweaters have their tricky moments, but thanks to their size, there’s plenty of opportunities to just knit. Seven years ago, I made a sweater from this same pattern. I thought this would make everything easier, but in fact, it’s where the trouble started.

The book Yarnplay has the sweater I'm making right on the cover. Also in this picture is the first version of the sweater knit in 2008.
The book Yarnplay has the sweater I’m making right on the cover. Also in this picture is the first version of the sweater knit in 2008.

The pattern is already marked for the size I need to make, but I had the bright idea of getting out the first sweater I made and measuring it to double-check the dimensions. I noticed that my first sweater has shrunk from washing. I’m using completely different yarn this time, doubling it up to get it close to the right weight. The yarn I’m using is left over from was a color-work bag that has never been washed, so I have no idea if or how much this yarn might shrink. If I want the new sweater to fit after I wash it, I need to make a test swatch and run it through my handwash routine first.

I'm using two colors at once and letting them run into each other to get a softer stripe going.
I’m using two colors at once and letting them run into each other to get a softer stripe going.

This seemed like a good reason to abandon this project. Just looking at the first sweater had made me do way more thinking than I’d planned on, and once I had a test swatch to work with, there would probably be a lot of math involved. (I like math, but not when I’m tired.) It’s even possible I’ll have to undo the work that I’ve already done* (and as you can see from the picture, that’s rather a lot of knitting to unravel).

Roughly three feet of knitting so far. I'm waiting to check my gauge to figure out if I'm done yet.
Roughly three feet of knitting so far. I’m waiting to check my gauge to figure out if I’m done yet.

Fortunately, knitting a test swatch totally qualifies as mindless. It’s just a little square. It wouldn’t keep me busy for all that long, but it would be easy to do, so I went for it.

My test swatch
My test swatch

My test swatch is still drying, so I don’t know yet if I will need to adjust the pattern to get the sweater to turn out right, but I’ve decided that even if I have to unravel the body, I will. That way my final project will be a success AND I will have plenty mindless knitting to do. But I’m really hoping I won’t have to. It will mean fussing with lots of little bits of yarn, and that is a little more complicated than I would like.

How do you select your needlework projects? Does fatigue factor into your decisions?

*No, I don’t ordinarily make test swatches. Most of the time I’m making socks from known yarns, and can just start knitting. From the looks of this sweater, I was looking for mindless knitting and dove in, then realized I was in trouble as I got close to the next stage and set it aside. Silly me.

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

4 thoughts on “How The Need For Mindless Knitting Inspired Me To Swatch”

  1. I always look at the trickiness factor before picking a project. Like you, if the pattern requires too much thinking it stops being fun. I hope that *someday* I’ll have all the time in the world so that I can knit all the beautiful sweaters and afghans I want. But in the meantime, I still with basic cables and ribbing (hats, scarves, gauntlets).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear I’m not the only one. Some days I can handle the more complicated projects, but I have to match it to my energy level. It certainly doesn’t make sense to knit something that isn’t fun!

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  2. I have run out of yarn, too! So recently, when the urge to knit arose, I had to look for my stash of unfinished knitting projects. I found a cabled scarf and finished it and was so pleased with myself. Then I found a shrug that was almost finished and completed that. It was intended for my 17-year -old granddaughter but now I am afraid she might not like it. I think it will make a nice bed jacket! As I write this, I remember there is a very long multicolored striped scarf in my knitting bag…an easy enough project that just might get pulled out and finished as I watch TV. I can only do simple projects when I watch TV! Perhaps I will have it completed before next winter! A visit to the two local yarn shops is now on my TO DO list. It will be a while until I can get there, but I have plenty of things to keep me occupied in papercrafting and quilting. I won’t talk about all of the other UFOs in my studio right now….! I hope I can find something routine and mindless in there to work on and get something finished in there too. If not…hmmm…that might mean I need to think. Ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with forgotten half-finished projects lying around! Sounds like running out of yarn has been a good thing for you! Happy knitting.

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