Slow Living Through the Art of Knitting

slow living through the art of knitting

The mere words ‘Slow Living’ conjures up all kinds of images in our imagination.

In my mind, slow living conjures up big pots of simmering homegrown food, a fire gently crackling, children laughing, stacks of good books that I’ve read and reread, seed catalogs full of opportunities, the scent of coffee, the taste of tea, jazz softly playing and knitting needles swiftly moving in my hands, as I watch the world surrounding me, a place devoid of haste.

The images conjured up in your mind may be very different from mine. If knitting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, I won’t blame you but I will share with you why it should be in the future.

Slow living through the art of knitting

Mindless and Mindful Knitting 

Knitting can be a mindless activity. For me, it’s been muscle memory work for years. Unless I’m doing complicated lace, I hardly ever have to look at my knitting. I trust my hands to do the correct motions at the right time. I can watch a couple of movies and knit a sock without even realizing it.

Knitting can be a very mindful and centering activity. I don’t have to look at my knitting. My hands can feel the stitches as they come up and know when to knit and when to purl. Stitch markers remind my fingers to do a decrease. I can get completely lost in the motions, move into a state of flow and lose my sense of time and place.

Knitting is one of the easier ways to begin a mindfulness practice. Feel and observe everything you do. Take in the motions of your hands. Sense the yarn gliding through your fingers and the texture of the different stitches. Soon you’ll find yourself completely engulfed by this fascinating craft.

Process Versus Project Knitting 

Knitters generally fit into one of two categories. They are either project knitters or process knitters. Mindful knitting may come easier to the latter group.

As a project knitter, you focus on the final product. The actual process of creating the item is often less important than the number of items you can produce in a year.

slow living

As a process knitter, the finished object fades into the background. You might not even particularly want it or have a use for it. What matters to you is the process of knitting. Every single stitch, the pattern you follow, the new technique you are mastering. That’s what makes you happy, that’s why you knit.

I identify as a process knitter but I don’t fit perfectly into the stereotype. Despite or because of muscle memory, I can vouch that this form of knitting can be mindful. Yet, the homesteader in me also wants a useful product in the end and knitting is a great way to keep me and my family warm.

The Materials Matter in Slow Living

Speaking of keeping warm, materials always matter. 

My husband, a skilled carpenter, taught me more than a decade ago to always opt for the best tool for the job. The materials matter even more in mindfulness and slow living.

The only way to figure out what makes you enjoy life the most when knitting is through trial and error.

Some knitting needles flow better  for you.

I learned that I enjoyed knitting so much more with wooden needles than metal ones. The sound of the needles touching, the feel of the material in my hands, even the way the stitches sit on a wooden needle.

This all brings me more joy than when I’m working with metal needles of any kind I’ve tried. And believe me, I’ve tried many different kinds. Through further experimentation, I learned that square wooden needles are my happy place.

When it comes to yarn, you have to experiment as well. I’m not a fan of knitting with mohair. Give me cashmere and I’ll go all soft and pet my yarn more than is acceptable in the knitting community.

I’ve also come to be quite particular about my choice of sock yarn. I will go into full flung mourning, should the brand stop producing it in my lifetime. It’s that perfect combination of pleasurable to knit with and long-lasting on our feet.

Knitting involves most of your senses. The more you can please each of them, the more you’ll enjoy life as you knit.

Choosing materials is all about using your senses too. What looks good, feels good, smells good, sounds good? But, please don’t taste your yarn. Even I, despite my excessive cashmere petting, have limits for inappropriate handling of yarn.

With Slow Living, When You Knit Matters

I’ve often fallen into the ‘never not knitting’ category of knitters. But different times call for different projects to foster that slow knitting mood.

If you’re having a conversation, your complicated lace project will not set a slow living mood. A basic sock or miles of stockinette on that sweater for your husband are better options. They add the right amount of ambience to set the mood for a long, deep discussion.

Pick up the lace when you are sitting by yourself listening to the fire. The children are sleeping and you have a good light source next to you. It’s the perfect time to get lost in your knitting. Just one more row before bedtime, right?!

You can also use knitting to ease your nerves. I’ve always knit before my exams. I used to frog it all afterwards because the gauge was insane and I didn’t care about the item. I simply needed my knitting (a clear symptom of being a process knitter).

Then I began to knit dishcloths before exams. There’s nothing like a tightly-knit dishcloth to relieve exam nerves. As a bonus, it scrubs off dirt even better once it’s done (the homesteader in me rejoiced when I discovered this).

Other places to counteract the stress of the moment with knitting are:

  • the doctor’s office 
  • on commutes 
  • in those pesky long lines at the bank or post office

Slow Knitting is Good for Your Health

Science found knitting to be good for us in other ways. Not only can knitting calm you in stressful situations, given you have the right kind of knitting at hand. The repetitive motions in knitting are also like a healing balm to your brain.

While knitting won’t cure you of anything, it has a positive impact on a wide range of conditions.

People with early stages of dementia have experienced a slowing down of symptoms.

Blood pressure can be lowered by knitting and so can anxiety and depression. 

It’s a great tool for creating community. Knitting lessens feelings of  loneliness and isolation and increases a general sense of well-being. 

It even has a positive effect on people suffering from chronic pain.

slow living through the art of knitting

In the End, It All Depends on You 

I hope, I’ve convinced you why knitting can be an essential and life giving part of a slow living lifestyle.

The fact is, knitting is not slow in and of itself. I saw this first hand during the years I worked at a yarn store.

You might hurry to reach self-imposed deadlines. You strive for an unrealistic number of objects knit in a year. Or you practice non-stop to win the next speed knitting competition you enter.

You can buy and work with materials that frustrate you. They can even give you an allergic reaction.

The same repetitive motion that is a balm to your brain can give you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if you aren’t careful.

Knitting can be as stressful as any other activity.

In slow living, the most important aspect is the mindset you approach the activity with. Only with the right mindset can knitting become slow knitting.

The next time (or the first time) you pick up your knitting, check your attitude. Conjure up those images of slow living before you settle in for a slow, mindful, knitting session.

(sources for health section: https://www.medicalbag.com/home/lifestyle/knit-one-purl-one-the-health-benefits-of-knitting/ 

https://www.mhanational.org/blog/mental-health-benefits-knitting)

Thank you to my newest contributor, Pia Sonne, a Denmark homesteader. Pia can be found on facebook and instagram under Busy Hands Quiet Hearts. Check out her blog, Busy Hands Quiet Hearts , where she writes about homestead topics, homemaking and Christian living.