Staying Inspired: Five Fundamentals

2015_inspire2How do you keep that spark alive?

You know, the one that drove you to knit in the first place, that still makes your fingers tingle, even produces butterflies on occasion, in the presence of a gorgeous yarn, an exquisite piece of fabric?

I ponder this as I enter my 15th year of writing Knitter’s Review. The constant heartbeat of inspiration has always been, and still boils down to, five fundamentals. Lucky for us, the New Year offers loads of possibility for each.

1. Read

Thoughtful writing can be hard to come by these days. A new wave of online and online/print hybrid magazines blurs the boundaries between traditional knitting magazine and broader lifestyle inspiration.

My current favorite go-to is the UK-based Pompom Quarterly, which is available in both print and digital versions. It’s chock full of fresh, inspiring content that encompasses knitting as well as crafts in general, music, fashion, art, and food—always with an eye to good writing.

Now in its fifth issue, Japan’s Amirisu is another notable young online knitting magazine. It’s free to read, with gorgeous contemporary patterns available for purchase independently through Ravelry, plus a few small tutorials and profiles.

2. Engage

Let’s talk about Instagram for a moment, shall we? A recent report suggested that Instagram had officially surpassed Twitter in terms of total registered users, and with good reason. Instagram has become my daily source for tranquil, beautiful, inspiring connection with other like-spirited people. A well-curated Instagram feed goes perfectly with that morning cup of coffee.

Some of my favorite follows include UK farmer Ben Hole, designer/podcaster/aspiring mill-owner Ashley Yousling (aka Woolful), intrepid sweater-spotter Anna Maltz, and Snowqualmie Valley-based LYS Tolt Yarn and Wool. I also love peeking into the lives of Brooklyn woodworker Ariele Alaska and printmaker Jen Hewett, among many, many others. I’m there too and would love to connect with you. [Here are some more as of September 2016: British artist Kerry Lemon, Jessica Reed’s Cake Historian feed (if you’re into baking and geeking out about classic recipes), and the soon-to-be-released Laine Magazine from Norway.]

3. Go!

Armchair travel has its place, but so does packing your bags and going out into the world. Our 2015 calendar of events has never held more possibility for adventure, and this is even before we’ve had a chance to confirm and post all the events planned for the year.

Back in 2000 when I launched Knitter’s Review, I had yet even to experience Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival or Rhinebeck—the two compass points of the U.S. festival circuit. Today we can add many more events to our bucket lists, including Squam, the Edinburgh Yarn FestivalUnwind Brighton (fingers crossed it happens again this year), Shetland Wool Week, and at least a week of workshops at Harrisville in New Hampshire.

But you needn’t have a private jet and endless travel budget to see the fiber world. Peek at our calendar and I suspect you’ll find something very close to home.

4. Listen

Last year may have marked the final episode of Benda Dayne’s long-running podcast Cast-On (her final episode was fittingly called Epic Bind-Off), but Dayne has handed the microphone to an eager generation of new podcasters.

Give a listen to Hannah Fettig’s Knit.fm, Ashley Yousling’s Woolful, Pompom Magazine’s audio component Pomcast, and KnitBritish, which is dedicated to supporting wool that was grown, spun, or dyed in the UK. I expect that by the end of this year we’ll have even more.

5. Knit

This may fall under the category of “duh,” but let’s always remember to give ourselves a daily dose of yarn touch. This needn’t mean anything more than casting on 24 stitches for a quick swatch—or giving an hour to that glorious new cardigan on the needles.

Find new stitches and explore the unknown, whether it’s gorgeous colorwork yokes (that link to Kate Davies’ new collection of patterns also deserves a nod for being an excellent read) or reversible knitting. Surprise your fingers with a new texture of yarn, change fibers and thicknesses and twists and plies. Use different needle types or tips. Give your hands a work-out with new stitches or techniques that force new kinds of movement.

If you’re too bogged with unfinished projects to feel optimistic about the new year, now may be a good time to dust off Fran’s Ten-Minute Rule. Fran Marrs was a beloved anchor in the Knitter’s Review Forums for many years, and her rule was simple: Pull out a timer and give yourself 10 minutes a day with whatever project is stalled. Just 10 minutes a day, like Anne Lamott’s “bird by bird” approach, and you’ll soon find yourself with a pile of finished projects and freshly freed needles that are eager to hold your next project.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that a lifelong passion for knitting is more about connections than individual skeins. It’s about engaging with this wonderful, vast group of people who call themselves knitters. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: If you knit, you’re never alone.

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Dear Clara,
Thanks for this great post. Your thinking back reminds me that I met you in
Buck’s Harbor some years ago. Buck’s Marina is still there and so are you. Bravo.

All the best, BER

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