How to Eat an Elephant (for knitters)

I’d love to knit that, but… it would take forever.

If you’ve ever said these words, this post is for you.

I recently started a project that seems like it’s taking a really really long time to knit. At least by my standards. I’m the knitter who likes to zip through a sweater over a long weekend, so anything that takes longer than a week or two feels like forever to me.

There’s a real rush at the end of a finish line, no doubt, but there’s something to be said for nibbling away at a project one little bite at a time.

Think of a pattern you’ve been curious to try, but perhaps you were worried that the techniques might be a little out of your comfort zone.  Or the needles are three sizes smaller than you’re used to. Or there are a.lot.of.cables and you’re just not sure how long that will take.

Whatever the journey ahead, every project begins with a single stitch. And the distance from the beginning to the end, is just a series of stitches over and over and over again until one fine day, you’ve arrived at your destination.

Whatever the journey ahead, every project begins with a single stitch.

While I do desperately need a little instant gratification at times (Okay, who are we kidding? I need it regularly), it’s nice to balance it with a long term commitment – something you’ll chip away at just a bit here and there. If you’re eager to dive into something a little bit daunting, let me share a few of my favorite tips for tackling the elephant on your plate.

  1. Give yourself plenty of time. There’s absolutely no reason to rush a giant project. If you know from the start that this project is your elephant for the year, give yourself a generous timeline – especially if you’re tackling unfamiliar techniques or honing new skills along the way.
  2. Set ridiculously doable goals. I once attended a workshop that suggested this concept, and while I’ve forgotten most of what the workshop was about, this one nugget stuck with me. If you want to achieve something significant over a long period of time, break it down into goals so simple and manageable that there’s almost no way you can fail. We can often be tempted to give ourselves goals that make us stretch a bit (i.e. “knit five inches a day”), but smaller, bite size goals can help us be more successful. Challenge yourself to knit one row a day, or five rows a week – knowing that when you do sit down to work on it, you’ll often whiz right past your goal without evening trying. It’s better to feel that little rush of success at a ridiculously tiny goal (knowing that tiny steps lead to big results over time), than feel like a failure when we don’t hit the big one.
  3. Don’t get discouraged. Life happens. Frogging happens. And the worst thing we can do to ourselves is feel bad about not meeting our goal. The only way to fail is to give up, so whatever you do, keep moving forward. Stitch by stitch, row by row, you’re going to get there.
  4. Get help when you need it. Whether you belong to an online knitting group, a local guild, or you’re a regular at your local yarn shop (P.S. If you’re not already a regular at your LYS, I bet they’d love to meet you), don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck.
  5. Celebrate progress. There’s more to celebrate than the finish line – be sure to cheer for yourself along the way. Every inch is progress – so don’t be afraid to jot it down on your calendar or in your Bullet Journal.(Reached the halfway point! Just worked my fifteenth set of cables! Finally started the decreases!) Your fellow knitters (and designers! and local yarn shops!) love to cheer for your progress, too, so share your journey with us on social media.

Whatever you do, don’t avoid the elephant just because it’s a bit of out of reach. Take your time. Nibble away at it. And be sure to keep a few instant gratification projects on hand, too – they’ll give you little boosts of energy and encouragement along the way.

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