By Lee Ann Dalton
We’ve all been there: knitter meets wool, knitter falls in love, knitter yells at everyone to “shut up, I’m counting,” knitter insists on “just one more row,” and it feels like the passion for the craft will always be that intense. Patterns pile up so fast in our Ravelry libraries that we can’t tell which ones we bought and which ones we just put there because someday we might buy them. They fill up folders on the computer, the cellphone, and the tablet, and let’s not talk about the boxes of loose patterns and knitting magazines stashed in you-name-the-weird-storage-area-no-one-will-ever-find (possibly including you, clever knitter, which is enormously frustrating but oh, so true).
We fell hard, promising handknit gifts to everyone; eating, talking, dreaming, breathing, blogging (remember that?) knitting. We were a yarn bomb, baby, and all our friends knew it because all our friends were knitters, it being just too painful to explain to anyone else why “sheep and wool festival” was not only a real thing, but a wildly exciting event around which to revolve one’s social schedule.
And then, the romance was gone. For some of us, it left slowly, or at least it felt like it, because if you’re still downloading patterns, you’re still kind of knitting, right? Some of us even continued to knit through the loss of mojo, though it felt more like just making something that needed to be made, rather than the thing one would most like to be doing, given the choice.
A Fickle Thing
Norma Miller, whose blog, Now Norma Knits, was one of the biggies, tells me that even though she hasn’t really got her knitting mojo back, she still gets the urge to knit something she wants to wear. In truth, she’s the only knitter I know who lost her mojo and knitted a sweater and several red scarves for the Red Scarf Project during this low period. But if you know Norma, you also know that her idea of doing something halfway is still a lot further than many of us will ever go. She feels that the loss of her knitting mojo coincided with the end of her blog and the beginning of her new steno business, which required most of her creative energy and the use of her hands on a pretty intensive basis for keyboarding. She had to cut back on her knitting just to save her hands from overuse injuries. However, she still keeps in touch with knitting friends, still goes to Rhinebeck every year, and still reaps the benefits of a close community of knitters who stick together whether they’re actively picking up the needles or feeling like they may never knit again. The friendship and the love carry through even if the craft takes a nosedive.
For my buddy Rachel Debasitis, who is not only a knitter but also an accomplished spinner, the knitting mojo leaves the building when extreme stress takes over her life. Her job requires her to put in a sixty-hour workweek, so if life changes hit at the same time, she completely loses the desire to knit, and ends up dorking around online. Worry about getting stuff done ends up consuming the rest of her energy, and she says it’s kind of ridiculous that the mojo leaves, because knitting relieves her stress. She’s been able to recognize this pattern, though, and can often head it off at the pass by switching projects or by spinning more, which inevitably makes her want to do something with the resulting yarn. She also gets a bit of a boost by finding a project she knows is just not working for her and ripping it out. Admitting something’s not ever going to be what she wants makes her think about what she does want out of a project, which gets her back into the swing of project planning and brings back the urge to knit.
Another wonderful knitter is novelist Rachael Herron, whose writing began with stories (both fictional and not) about her own knitting. Her loss of knitting mojo is a seasonal thing: it goes out the window as soon as the summer heat kicks in. She says, “I know that with the heat, I’ll never, ever want to touch my needles again. I mourn the loss of knitting a little bit, but I’m mostly okay with it. Then that first crisp fall day arrives with its scent of wood smoke and dying leaves, and my fingers start to itch with the need for a new project.” Rachael doesn’t see any harm in letting the knitting drop for a while, because her knitting mojo always comes back.
For some people, however, a possible return of knitting mojo is not only as fleeting as a summer rain shower, but its loss is a harbinger of much bigger storms lurking on the horizon. Just take a peek at knitting mojo threads on knitting subReddits, and you’ll hear from knitters who are mourning far more than the loss of their urge to knit. When something as deeply woven through a person’s psyche as knitting feels like it’s gone, it’s a good idea to check in and figure out if other important loves and passions are also gone. If you’re losing the ability to care about most things that usually make you happy, talk to someone about it. Talk to a few someones, in fact—including whomever is in charge of your medical care. No matter what anyone says, there’s no shame in asking for help when you’re sinking below the surface of your life and you can’t stay afloat. Depression isn’t sadness—it’s more like being swept by a tsunami wave of deadness and panic. Many of us knitters have been through this experience before, myself included, and if I hadn’t spoken up to a few knitter friends who recognized that I had lost far more than my knitting mojo, I would not have sought help as quickly as I did.
If it’s just your knitting mojo that’s gone, take a look at how the rest of your life is going. Are you everything to everyone but yourself? Are you going through a big change in your personal or professional life that has you reeling? Has every single electrical device that costs over a grand blown a crucial, death-dealing gasket all at the same time, making Mercury in retrograde look like a leisurely walk down Easy Street? (My hand is up on that one.) When the manure hits the spreader, my friends, sometimes it’s hard to do the one thing for yourself that might ease your stress, so I do the next best thing: I pattern-surf. Not the ones I already have, mind you, because obviously none of them are sparking me when my mojo is missing in action: I go for the Pinterest panacea, the boards that look like a million bucks (with a much better fashion sense than I currently have); the ones who keep up on the latest indie designers and dyers. And I pin patterns like crazy. Then—and this is key—I pull out all my yarn. I fondle it, I stare at it, I marvel at its beauty. And then, at least one skein of it starts to kind of hang around on my desk, talking to me. Suddenly, I find myself realizing that someone in my life has cold hands and probably needs mitts. Mitts are easy. Mitts are fast. Who can’t make a simple pair of mitts? I can make mitts. I can do this. Suddenly, I’m knitting something that’s almost instant gratification and I’m really kind of digging it.
Getting Your Groove Back
Barring a full-on sensory deluge to get you back into the swing of knitting, there’s always the healthy approach (not mine, but I aspire to it.) Even Franklin Habit, who, I suspect, could create an entire universe simply by using the myriad handwork skills he possesses, loses his knitting mojo. But he also has an incredibly sane view of the ups and downs everyone experiences when they do a particular craft for years: losing your oomph to knit isn’t a crisis or even a reason to worry if you’ve got other types of needlework or other artistic outlets in your life. Franklin weaves, crochets, spins, and embroiders (and rumor has it he can actually manage a tatting project without throwing it across the room), so he has plenty of other needlework methods to keep that part of his creativity going. He feels that a shift to another type of needlework allows him to come back to his knitting with a clearer vision of what he wants from a project and a renewed sense of what’s possible. He says, “Every creative thing I do informs and rejuvenates every other thing I do. Why limit yourself? Why worry if you don't always want to knit? Rejoice in your infinite variety.”
Phew. That’s a relief, isn’t it? The knitting will still be there when we want it again, so why fret? And I do believe my friend Franklin is giving me permission to take up sheep-shearing in the meantime. That’s a creative outlet, right? Here, hold my coffee—I’ll be right back, needles and yarn in hand, but in the meantime, I need to find me a decent set of clippers and a near-sighted sheep farmer. Wish me luck.
Lee Ann Dalton is a knitting columnist, fiction writer, poet, editor, runner, mountaineer, and aspiring naturalist. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter, and is not at liberty to say how many cats she really has.