Okay, I admit it.
I’m a creature of habit.
When I find a technique (or, really anything) that I love, I love it hard and use it often.
I love the cable cast-on. I love raglans. I love top-down socks and sweaters. I love Japanese short rows. Think about your own techniques for a moment… which ones have you adopted as your mainstays? Why?
What if I told you that change can be … kind of awesome? Bear with me, friend. I think you’re going to like this.
Why don’t we like change?
- Comfort zones are efficient. Even if there’s a better method out there, the one we know is always an easier choice than the one we don’t.
- Predictable results. Let’s be real here: We all want to know what we can expect. If we use the method we’re most familiar with, we’re more likely to get the results we’re used to.
- The dreaded learning curve. Learning a new technique can be fiddly and frustrating. #thestruggleisreal
Why we need to do it anyway
- Comfort zones have blind spots; we don’t know what we don’t know. I’ve been guilty of using an old favorite over and over, only to discover a much more efficient method that I didn’t know existed. If we’re not keeping an open mind and giving ourselves opportunities to rub shoulders with new ideas, we might miss a new favorite.
- Predictable isn’t always better. In fact, in some cases, venturing off into the unknown can lead to spectacular improvements.
- Having an “always learning” mindset can help us keep our edge as makers. Being open to new ideas helps us keep our toolbox well-stocked with resources for great results, and it connects us more intimately to the inner workings of our own art (why some things work, why others don’t, and when). If we allow ourselves to be open to new things – and willing to learn – creativity flows more easily.
- Flexibility. The more comfortable we are with change, the more resilient we become. Knitters who know ten ways to cast-on have the ability to choose the best one for the job. Not only that, but the more comfortable you are with trying new things (and the more techniques you have under your belt), the more patterns/projects you can say yes to. Think about it this way: Have you ever found a pattern you really wanted to make, but when you looked at the description you realized it required an unfamiliar technique… so you didn’t go for it? Being a maker with an ever-learning mindset allows you to say yes more often.
Some techniques are our favorites for a reason, and there’s no reason to swap them out just for the sake of being adventurous. There’s a reason I love the cable cast-on; it provides a lovely, sturdy edge that lends structure to a top-down raglan (and it’s pretty on the edge of a scarf). It’s not the only cast-on I know, but it’s the one that works best for 90% of what I like to knit. When I happen to knit something that falls into that other 10%, I look for the one that’s right for the job. I don’t swap out my favorite cast-on just to be a rebel; I know when it works and why.
Easy peasy ways to dive in
- Read a book: A couple of years ago I went on a short row bender. I wanted to learn every knitted short row method I could find so I could settle on a favorite – I’d really only ever done it one way, but wasn’t completely happy with the results. I bought Carol Feller’s book Short Row Knits and tried every one of the methods she illustrated, and that’s how I found my favorite: Japanese short rows. (I highly recommend the book if you, too, are looking for your favorite short row.)
- Take a class: There’s nothing quite like taking a knitting technique class to help a new idea take root. In the classroom setting you’ll hear others ask questions you never thought to ask, the instructor may offer tips and tricks you won’t find elsewhere, and you’ll have someone to look over your shoulder and confirm that you’ve got it. If you’re looking for a class, check out your local yarn shop, or look for a fiber festival in your area – there are almost always classes available. (Plus, sometimes you get to meet your knitting heroes, which is also super cool.)
- Use the Google machine. The internet is a mixed bag sometimes. There are thousands of resources available with a few taps of the keyboard – it’s the quickest way to get our hands on information, and it can be a great place to start when you want to learn a technique. HOWEVER – this is my one caution – you don’t always know if the information you find is correct. Look for sources you can trust. I have two talented crocheter friends who taught themselves to knit using Youtube, and both of them struggled with their first knitting projects because they’d been taught a twisted knit stitch instead of a regular knit stitch. Use the internet as a resource, but don’t hesitate to do a little fact-checking. In many cases, there are oodles of ways to achieve the same result (i.e. different methods for short rows) and none of them are wrong. But in other instances, learning to work a stitch incorrectly (like twisting your knits) could send your results right out the window. Course correction can be a pain in the patootie, so try to be sure you learn it right the first time.
Ready, set, go
This week I started a new design from the bottom-up. Stop.The.Presses. Right? If you know me, you know that top-down sweaters are my pièces de résistance, but guess what? I’m in the mood for a little switcheroo, and this design told me it wanted to go along for the ride. (Also, my yarn is usually the boss of me.)
How about you? How will you switch-up your knitting comfort zone this week?