spring Hyacinths and a heap of happy swatches

Beat the Winter Blues:
10 Tips for Kickstarting Your Inspiration

People are innately creative. We are a species of makers. But sometimes, and usually when we least expect it, that well of creativity dries up. We pick up our knitting and instead of feeling a spark of inspiration, we feel nothing—or, worse yet, dread.

The first time it happens, we fear the worst. Has our love of knitting abandoned us forever, leaving behind bins of yarn and unfinished sweaters?

No. The spark always comes back. We can do several things to help kickstart the creativity and set a better stage for when the spark returns. Here are 10 pieces of advice.

1. Retool
Try totally different needles than you usually use. Are you a wooden person? Go for metal. Accustomed to round needles? Try square ones. Is bamboo the name of your game? Go wild and experiment with a set of glass needles. Change your instrument, and the music they create will immediately sound different.

2. Go Stash Spelunking
You'd be amazed how many stashes are laden with gems we acquired long ago, tucked away for safekeeping, and then totally forgot—and how many stashes are also overwhelmed with yarns that will never, ever get knit. Pull out the gems, let them see sunlight, make plans with them. The other stuff? Be ruthless. Clean it out. Create space. Spring is coming. This article on slow stashing is a good place to start.

3. Play Stitch Roulette
Pull out your favorite stitch dictionary. Close your eyes and leaf through the book until you randomly stop on a page. Whatever stitch is on that page? Swatch it. Bonus points if it's a technique or kind of stitch you normally avoid.

Do you feel ho-hum about your current collection of stitch dictionaries? Take things to the next level: Get yourself a good Japanese stitch dictionary. You don't need to be fluent in Japanese to understand most of the techniques, which are charted and illustrated with excellent clarity.

4. Go Online for Inspiration
Make yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable, and pull up Pinterest. A lot of stores are using this site to advertise their products now; so if you do a simple search on the term "knitting," you'll be overwhelmed with product pictures. Add a few more descriptive words to your search, and the results will get more clear.

Some of my favorite pinners include Cirilia Rose, Clare Moran, Nicole Dupuis (aka Cocoknits), Lesleigh Brisson, Jaala Spiro, Ysolda Teague and Femke Dik, to name a few. (I'm on Pinterest too.) Give it a wander. Like something? See who that person follows, who re-pins their pins, click, click, click away, and before you know it, an hour has passed, your tea is cold, but your mind will be filled with all sorts of new inspiration.

5. Ease up on the Expectations
You heard me. Knitting is a pleasurable activity. It is not open-heart surgery, it is not an endurance contest, and nobody is standing by the sidelines admiring your fortitude. You knit for you and for pleasure. It's one thing if you've never finished a project in your entire life, in which case we might need to talk. But it's another thing if you've gotten yourself buried in a sweatshoppian list of knits that must be done now. Know the difference between motivation and masochism, and ease up on the expectations.

6. Take 10
Where the motivation is genuine, pull out Fran Marrs' 10-minute rule. Fran was a longtime KR Forums member who passed away in 2010, leaving us with countless inspiring stories and this invaluable technique for moving through slumps. It's really quite simple: Work on a project just 10 minutes each day, no matter what. Before you know it, the project will be done. Slow and steady wins the race.

7. Seek Company
Are you a solitary knitter? Do you venture out only on special occasions? Break the habit. Grab your knitting bag, check the calendar at your LYS, and seek out the company of other knitters. Learn something new. Online courses have been a boon in many ways—you can take whatever class you want, whenever you want, at your own pace, and even in your pajamas if you'd like. But they lack one of the most valuable components of learning: Meeting new people, making real connections, not just virtual ones. I still remember a class I took at TNNA several years ago, where I met Marly Bird, and we bonded over being the two "problem children" in the class. (I say "problem" only because we couldn't stop laughing.) That never would've happened in an online course.

8. Plan an Adventure
Take those connections one step further. Call a knitting friend and arrange a caper. Take a day off work, meet in a nearby town, and plan a whole day around visiting new yarn stores. Go out of your comfort zone. Visit a farm and watch the sheep, find a mill and see if they let visitors come in for a peek. Have more time? Check out our online calendar of events for a retreat, tour, or knitting getaway. Leave the comfy chair and your knitting will thank you for it.

9. Switch Fibers
Do you always knit with the same kinds of fibers? Are your fingers growing listless? Perhaps they've been trying to tell you something? Break out and try totally different kinds of fibers. Are you a wool-only knitter? Shock your fingers with some linen, or maybe one of the even more unexpected blends from Habu Textiles. If you're a charter member of the All-Cotton Channel, try a little Bluefaced Leicester. (Wool allergies? Go for bamboo, or silk-encased stainless steel, or maybe paper.) My point is, just like your taste buds and food, your fingers need variety. Keep them on their toes.

10. Listen to the Quiet
That's right. After all this talk about going out, visiting farms, taking workshops, and getting totally lost in other people's online worlds, I'm going to suggest you do the exact opposite. There's a time for listening to what other people like, what they've knit, the yarns they've stashed, and the projects they've loved. There's a time for learning and absorbing everything others have to teach. And there's a time for turning off all that noise and sitting down quietly with a really good skein of yarn. Pop its label, wind it into a ball, and cast on for a swatch.

The muse will return when she's ready.

 
 Comments