Love Knitting, Hate Sleeves. Why?

I’ve long wondered how it’s possible that we can be insanely passionate about an art form, but then actually dislike part of the process. Why do we do that?

I think I’ve figured it out, and – to be honest – it kind of makes me feel better. Sometimes I feel like a heel when I catch myself saying, “Ugh, I hate sleeves!” or “Will this stockinette ever end??” So when it finally dawned on me what was going on, I saw my resistance in a whole new light.

Let me start by telling you how I feel about cooking, because I think it’s the same scenario and it helps to illustrate my theory.

I love planning my menu, figuring out my shopping list, and I love the process of making a great meal. I love the chopping, the simmering, the fresh herbs, the table setting. I love it all. And what’s more, I love having guests over for dinner because it means being able to share the hard work and love that went into the meal.

What I don’t love (as much) is hauling groceries into the house, or touching raw meat, or the clean-up after the meal is over. I say I love to cook, but what I really love are the parts that let me settle into a zen space; I love the parts of the process that flow.

So back to knitting: I think it’s the same kind of thing. What I love about knitting is the flow. I love when the stitches slide smoothly on my needles and when I can glide across the rows without really even thinking about it. I love when there’s a rhythm. When something disrupts my rhythm, I don’t slip into the zen state (like when working on the sleeves, or having to pay very close attention to a complex chart). The choppy stops-and-starts get in the way of my groove.

When there’s no rhythm, I’m more aware of what’s happening around me. My mind wanders to things I’m worried about, or notices annoying sounds around me; I get distracted by something else I should be doing. It’s not miserable, it’s just… not focused. When I’m distracted, I’m not in the flow.

I think that’s the clincher: we love to knit because we love the flow. And there are some aspects of the process that just don’t become rhythmic, no matter how hard we might try. What may be zen for me (picking up stitches for the button band, for example) might be a nightmare for someone else – it depends on which movements get you in that zone. This is why we gravitate to different types of projects, because we’re chasing that flow. For me, the flow comes through sweater knitting – namely through the body of the sweater. I love the long rows with lots of stitches, and I love patterns that are easy to memorize so I can keep going without stopping. But for some knitters that groove comes from knitting socks or hats or shawls. Everybody has their thing.

Maybe knowing why we love some parts more than others can help us be more patient with the inevitable “non-flow” moments. I’ll think differently about sleeves the next time I knit them, because I’ll remind myself that maybe I just need to look for a different way to experience flow in that process – maybe through smaller, more bite-size rhythms. But even if I don’t – even if I never fully find joy in the sleeves – I think I can be a little more patient with myself.

How about you? Which parts of the process feel like flow for you, and which parts don’t? Have you ever thought about it?

Knit forward,


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