When the Needles are Silent:
Surviving Knitter's Block

Nearly every knitter has experienced a slump at one time or another. Knitting slumps can be a result of stressful circumstances, over-involvement in other activities, or simply a lack of inspiration for whatever reason.

For many, stressful moments inspire a rush of knitting activity. Others find that stress stifles all desire to knit whatsoever.

If you're experiencing knitter's block, the most important thing to remember is that this, too, shall pass. While you're waiting, here are a few techniques that may help you kick-start the knitting process once again.

Sort Your Stash

Go through your yarn stash, pull out any yarns that don't inspire you, and either give them away, sell them, or place them in storage out of sight. If you're uninspired, the last thing you need is a dusty stash filled with good but unfulfilled intentions.

Whip Your WIPs Into Shape

Do the same thing with all your current works in progress (WIPs). Take them out from their hiding places and try to be as realistic as possible. Will you really ever finish them? Does the mere idea of looking at them send dread down your spine? Do you like the yarn but dislike how it's turning out?

Sometimes the circumstances surrounding an unfinished project can hinder your ability to finish it, especially if they bring up painful memories. For example, I was simply unable to return to a baby sweater I was knitting when my grandfather died.

Don't Be Afraid to Recycle

If any of these apply to your projects, it's time to do some recycling. Grit your teeth, rip out the yarn, and save it for something else.

If you'll never be able to look at the yarn without thinking of the failed project, see if anyone else would either like the unfinished project or the yarn. If you can't quite declare the projects dead, you can still pack them up and get them out of your sight.

Hit the Books

Treat yourself to an afternoon of browsing any old knitting magazines and pattern books you haven't used lately. Slumps can often occur if you've been repeating the same type of project and not challenging your knitting skills.

It's possible that your mind has moved on from your previous projects, and looking at new designs will open up the floodgates of inspiration.

Dump the Discipline

Slumps can also occur if you're stuck knee-deep in an intricate, complicated project, especially if you've tried to discipline yourself by saying, "I can't do anything else until I finish this."

Nonsense! Pick a quick-knitting project so you can experience the gratification of a finished project. I can't count the number of bulky sweaters that have gotten me out of slumps.

Teach Yourself Something New

Find a knitting technique book and pick something that has always intrigued you. Is it entrelac? Fair isle? Or perhaps simply different cables?

Try the techniques on small swatches without assigning them to a brand new project. Just getting the yarn in your hands again and discovering something new can kick-start your creativity.

Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns and Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns contain endless assortments of great new stitches and techniques to try.

Broaden Your Yarn Horizons

Try new yarns. If you're bored with your local yarn shop, get online and see what else is out there. If you need some guidance first, check out our yarn reviews to get started.

Budget-minded knitters can find fantastic bargains online, too. For our list of inexpensive online sources for yarns, click here.

Break Loose from Obligation

Are you bogged down by a long list of gifts you intended to knit for other people? Sometimes this sense of obligation can suck the fun out of knitting.

Take a break and do something for yourself -- perhaps a pair of soft booties, a small pillow (this is also a great way to try new stitches), or a quick sweater.

Trust me, the world won't come to an end if your gifts never get made.

Take it Easy

Most important of all, be gentle on yourself. If none of these techniques inspires you, don't push it.

Nothing can sap your creativity like forced knitting. Just relax, try to engage in other activities you enjoy, and trust that your knitting muse will return when it's ready.

Have you experienced a knitting slump? Tell your tale in our forums!

Previous reader comments

"I once got into a knitting slump when I was cornered into knitting a cardigan for a relative which was a boring colour and a very slow growing pattern. It was a extra large size raglan fisherman rib pattern. It took me 6 years to finally take the courage to rip out the finished back and fronts and start over in a simpler textured basket-weave pattern and a simple dropped shoulder pattern. I finished the new cardigan in less than 2 months and had a grateful relative and a much relieved consciense! After this experience, I decided not to agree to take on any projects for anyone unless I chose the pattern and the yarn myself, even if I have to change it over and over." msaleh, 12/30/2001

"When I get in a knitting slump, I sometimes start making cotton dishcloths. It is nearly mindless knitting, and you end up with something useful. Some years I give them to special friends as holiday gifts. Such a little thing, but they are so thrilled to get it. Then again, there are times when it is really just a knitting slump, and it is time to find a good book to read!" avawn, 10/15/2001

"I learned to spin my own yarn during a knitting slump. I thought it would make me want to spin more than knit, but after I saw that I could produce a quality yarn with my wheel and my drop spindles, I can comfortably work back and forth between the two. The knitting inspires me to spin consistently, and the spinning inspires me to knit with pride what I have spun. I just haven't figured out how to make a full time career out of it all!" belk, 9/4/2001

"Hello, and thank you for the information on the "knitting slump". I do have a tendency if I get a little lax in one creative project I will switch to cross-stich or sewing. However, this summer I purchased 2 of the most beautiful merino fleeces to spin on my spinning wheel. Add to that I have now fallen in "love" with German angora rabbits. Adding the angora to my merino will be a treat. Now just to have the time in this lifetime to get it all done. I was very pleased with the information about trying other projects to get your creative "Juices" flowing again." bkofruth, 8/30/2001

"The longest time I went without knitting started when my 2 year old stripped the needles out of a dolman pullover I was making for myself in a complicated travelling rib - 582 stitches from cuff to cuff. I patiently picked up the stitches and started over - next morning I got up to the same scene. So I gritted my teeth and picked it up again. Well, you can imagine how I felt when, on the third morning in a row, she not only found my knitting in its' hiding place but ripped it all out again. I threw the whole mess in the garbage, needles and all. Didn't knit again for 8 years. I tried to teach her how to knit, but she didn't have the patience for it." spinstersloft, 8/28/01

"I fixed myself a place in our family room for my knitting stuff, where I could knit. All my books and magazines were on a shelf within reach. I bought a gooseneck lamp with a halgen bulb to ensure I didn't have to squint to read my pattern. I filled a pretty basket with partially worked on projects and got a large, cloth lined basket to sit beside MY chair for the current WIP. Then I let everyone know: 'This spot is MINE!'" wehner, 8/28/01

"During my earlier knitting era in the 70's, I knitted a sweater for myself especially to fit my needs. I used a raglan pattern, knit from the top down, and made it 31 inches long to fit over the blouses/tops that I like to wear. I incorporated a wonderful little leaf design into the front panels, which meant increasing the design with the raglan sleeve line. Also, I used a special border on the sleeves and bottom of the sweater that would not draw in as does ribbing, as shown to me by a Korean lady. I knit this from a wonderful heather gold Germantown wool. This was a challenge for me to knit but it fit and was worth it. I wore it three times. Then, my husband dumped it into the washer with white clothes in hot, bleachy water. Needless to say, this sweater was not even half its original size. I cannot bring myself to knit an other sweater. I knitted small items for our kids but this tapered off as they got into high school in the 80's. I just quit knitting. From the internet knitting and Knitter's Review, I've become inspired again to take up knitting this past winter. My patterns were badly out of style and I've ordered books over the internet, too. I have been knitting facecloths, started a tea cozy, and have a baby afgan in progress for our new grandson. I hope to do a sweater this winter. Thanks to all you people out there and Knitter's Review for sharing patterns and for your enthusiasm!" Rita, 8/28/01

"Thank you!!!! This article could not have come at a better time. I am have been in a slump the last couple months and I am beginning to feel guilty about it. I have been wondering if knitting for the last couple of years was just a phase. I have several projects glaring at me each night from the knitting basket - a pair of socks that just needs the second tow finshed, my first attenpt at a shawl (a border 12 rows, each 350 stiches long, of garter stich is hard to get motivated about) and a half finshed sweater. This summer has been hectic and stressful with buying our first house, planning our wedding in January AND writing my thesis! I thought I would turn to knitting to help with the stress, but instead I have left it to get dusty. Thanks for your article it helps to know this is a slump and I am going to return to the knitting that I love!" lazylitn, 8/24/2001

"A slump is a slump no matter what creative activity you are doing. To be creative you have to fill your inspiration well. Creating empties the well. So what do you do? First and most importantly, don't panic! Relax. Do something fun for yourself. Go swing at the playground, bake cupcakes and stuff yourself, go to a toy store, an art gallery, watch videos, lie on the beach - anything. And don't worry about it. You need to take breaks from your creative activity. And before you know it, you'll have an idea and away you'll go. One other tip: stay away from knitting or whatever creative activity you were doing when you pooped out. You need to get away from it to recharge." sponges33, 8/24/2001

"I got out of a recent knitting slump by asking my 9 year old son if there was something he would like me to make for him. He designed a blanket using colors from the Minnesota Vikings football team. He drew his design on paper and we shopped for yarn together to get the right colors. We had a lot of fun watching the project develop together. He read a Harry Potter book to me while I worked on the blanket. It was nice to see something he designed come to life." fjfino, 8/24/2001

"My last knitting slump lasted four to five months. I couldn't even stand the thought of picking up my needles! Then one day, while browsing an online bookstore, I came across some knitting books. I decided to go to my yarn shop and check out the ones that interested me most (Debbie Bliss Books). I bought two books and my needles were clicking away soon after. I just needed fresh ideas to inspire me. *smile*" kderowin, 8/24/2001

"I experienced a knitting slump that lasted several years. Instead of pushing it, I changed to cross stitch... still artistically satisfying, but totally different. Eventually, a particularly yummy yarn drew me back into the world of knitting. It was like I had never had the slump. Now, my cross stitching has been shoved on to the back burner! I need to find a way these two can live happily side by side." Trudy, 8/24/2001

"I hadn't knitted for over a year - and then I got a computer - and then I discovered Socknitters. Now I have two pair of socks on the needles, a quick knit afghan almost finished, a top down cardigan almost done, and a crocheted sweater with appliqued leaves, grapes and flowers (my own design) almost finished (all I need to do is sew on the appliques). My biggest problem now is because I sit and knit and I sit at the computer a lot, my posterior is spreading too much!" lchjoh, 8/24/2001

"I have an extremely complicated Rowan Pattern that has sucked the creativity out of me. It is half done. I am going to take it to a seamstress and have a knitting bag made out of it. I love what I have done, but I can't face any more of the project. This way I will still have part of the project and actaully get some use of it. Lessens the guilt on the $200+ of yarn, and I'll use the rest of the yarn for something else. Hats perhaps, lots of them." VictoriaB, 8/23/2001

"Thanks so much for your article on 'knitting slump.' Back in April I taught myself something new--entrelac--and was knitting a 'throw' w/vengence (using knitting to help me quit smoking) and then BAM...a complete halt. Part of the reason is this throw is actually more like a queen size blanket (I sort of miscalculated when I started) but I realized many things reading your article. I've made so many afgans and the like, that I'm actually bored. And yes, the unfinished projects make me feel like a failure at times altho the unfinished business is becuz NOTHING I knit from patterns ever looks like the finished product even tho my gauge and yarn choice is right on. I feel much better now tho kuz I realize everyone goes thru this. Now I won't feel so bad just 'dumping' all the unfinished stuff kuz every time I look at it I feel awful. Anyway, thanks for the upliftment." C.J., 8/23/2001