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The Zen of Knitting

Achieving Zen

A few weeks ago I had occasion to question the zen of knitting and wonder at the inherent dichotomy that underlies the craft.

Knitting provides a fascinating link between creativity, spirituality, and our inner demons.  Knitting provides expanding opportunities to be as creative (or not) as you desire.  Creativity opportunities span from making alternate yarn choices for a pattern, tweaking with or designing patterns, to those who start from scratch, buy the fiber, spin and dye their own yarn. The creative world is wide open to knitters.

By spirituality, I am referring to the times when the click, click, click of your needles is rhythmic, soothing and allows you and perhaps others around you to enter a state of peaceful bliss. The very act of knitting is downright meditative. It is this state that so many refer to when they speak of the relaxing nature of knitting. It is this state that causes so many to take up knitting as a means of reducing stress.  It is this state that I’m referring to as the zen of knitting.

One of the definitions of “zen” cited in Urban Dictionary: zen
Oct 1, 2002 … zen – 21 definitions – One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind.  Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.

There is however, another side to this coin when an ugly beast reaches up and shatters the bliss and therein lies the dichotomy.

I’m sure you’ve all been there and had times when you question why you love the craft. I’m thinking of times when;

  • you pick up your project and your needle falls to the floor (especially bad if you’re pattern includes a lot of yarn overs)
  • your puppy or cat has gotten into your project when you weren’t looking
  • you discover an unintended dropped stitch long after the fact
  • you run out of yarn within 2 rows of finishing
  • no matter how many times you tink, count, and re-knit, your stitch count doesn’t match that of the pattern

My most recent experience was that of a project that seemed to be cursed almost from the beginning.  I was creating a new design and keeping notes on my computer.  It took no less than 3 times starting and ripping before it began to flow.  All seemed to be fine again until the very end.   Sadly, within 5 minutes of finishing my new design, my computer crashed, obliterating my project notes.  Then came the ugly beast.  I’m afraid that I spent several days afterward hoping to find some shred of my work on the computer before I could bear to start all over again.

I think it is human nature to question the things we love on occasion and perhaps it is our response to the question that keeps us coming back.  Perhaps we return for the pure sense of satisfaction we get from a project well-completed, to express our creativity or because of the glimpses we get into our spirituality or perhaps it is for the satisfaction of having tamed the beast within.

What do you think?  What do you love most about knitting and what have been your most frustrating moments?  I’d love to hear your comments.  Linnea Kline signature

8 Responses to The Zen of Knitting

  1. Kimberly Wagner June 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    I can really identify with what you have written because even though I am most often in a blissful state while knitting, my state DRASTICALLY changes if the pattern is going right or if I’m going to have to rip out several rows of stitches. I have also experienced running out of yarn while I was on the last sleeve of my first sweater…I’ve yet to make a second! In particular, I love circular knitting because it is so orderly and continuous going in a circle. Turning the heel can be another story!

  2. lvkline June 11, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    Isn’t it amazing how we can be so suddenly jarred out of a nice calm state and slammed into a state of anxiety or stress? Funny how that words. A sweater without a sleeve…perhaps you can start a new trend :)

  3. Evelyn June 15, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Linnea,

    Yes, I’ve experienced the contrast that knitting provides. I am working on a lace stole that is knit from the center out starting with a provisional cast-on. Now that I have picked up the first row of stitched for the other end of the shawl, I have discovered a mistake I made within the first 20 rows. In order to fix it, I’d have to rip out about 18″ and 440 yards of lace knitting work.

    So, I’ve set it aside until I can decide what to do with it. Yes this was a delightful, relaxing pattern to work on, and the work is lovely. The thought of ripping it out is not appealing to me, but unless I want to end up with a stole with a big boo-boo in the center of it, I will have to rip it back and begin again.

    Lovely blog, Linnea. 😉

  4. lvkline June 15, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    Hi, Evelyn.

    At this point, all I can say is ARGH!! I’m sooo sorry and can so relate to setting it aside for a time. I guess I would ask if it is truly noticeable to anyone else, or perhaps does it just give it that hand-made look? I’ve almost always felt that even if someone else wouldn’t notice, I would know that the mistake was there…and ultimately wind up ripping it out.

    Good luck with your stole. I certainly do know that feeling!

  5. Kim June 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    Hi, Evelyn

    So cool that you should write about knitting as a form of meditation (zen). I’ve been thinking about the times when my mind is truly focused in the present moment. I thought about sports when people are concentrating on the ball, or today when I was picking berries with my children… and now as I read your post, I do remember knitting and crocheting my mind would be focused making sure I had counted correctly or made the right stitch in the right place.

    Have a great day!
    Kim

  6. Kim June 24, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    sorry, I meant to address Linnea not Evelyn. Sorry about that.

  7. Linnea June 25, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    No worries, Kim.

  8. Linnea June 25, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    Hi Kim,

    I agree, pretty cool, huh? Yes, knitting and crocheting do provide great opportunities to relax. I believe that its even been used as an anger management tool which is a testament in and of itself. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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