I’m currently working on a knitting project that I am not in love with, and trying hard to keep that all-important motivation so I thought I’d share some ideas on how you can power-up your knitting and crochet enthusiasm when you’re struggling.
For most of us these days, knitting and crochet are hobbies we love, rather than a necessary life skill, but that doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes find yourself facing a particular project with feelings of dismay. We’ve all been there! If you’re in this situation, with a half-finished project you’re struggling to motivate yourself to complete, here are some top tips on how to refresh your energy.
Remind yourself why you are making this item
I really don’t get on with knitting, but I’m currently tackling a difficult (for me) ballet wrap in a fine yarn for my youngest child. It’s really important to me to make this rather than buy one. I frequently have to remind myself of all the good reasons I made this choice, because it’s easy to get disheartened as I contemplate just how far I still have to go.
There are many reasons we choose to start a project. Try to remind yourself why you began and focus on the strength of those reasons. Perhaps it’s a gift for a friend, or it was to challenge yourself to learn something new, or it’s a commission and you need the money, or even it was to put some yarn you feel guilty about buying to worthwhile use.
For a lot of people, actually writing this motivation down and keeping it on a card with the knitting or crochet project is a great idea.
If you can’t find a single positive reason for completing the project, then it really may be time to unravel it and use that yarn for something else.
Consider what you can change
Think carefully and try to identify what exactly it is that you’re not enjoying about your project.
It might be something as simple as the the hooks/needles you are using – it’s surprising what a difference an ergonomic crochet hook or knitting needles in bamboo instead of aluminium can make to how comfortably you can work.
Are you forever having to tug at your yarn ball because of the way it is wound? You might find re-winding the ball or using a smooth yarn bowl or yarn holder combats this minor frustration.
For me, much of the stress involved in knitting is because I am aware I don’t know how to fix problems that might arise, so I’m terrified of making a mistake. If this is you too, it might help to search out some online videos on recognising and fixing common problems. I know I’d be far less stressed about dropping a stitch if I knew how to pick them up again!
Was this a project someone else asked you to make? Sometimes our non-knitting or crocheting friends ask us to make things which we are more than happy to do, until we discover they’ve picked a nightmare of a pattern, or a yarn that’s horrible to work with. In these cases, you might need to step back and ask yourself if you can still fulfil your friend’s wishes but maintain your own sanity by making changes. Can you find a similar shawl pattern to the one they liked that is better written. Can you swap the 100% mohair yarn they wanted for a blend that is easier to work?
Don’t be trapped by the “sunk cost fallacy”. Just because you have been working for a number of weeks on a project, it doesn’t mean you can’t call a halt and start again from the beginning, if it means eliminating a problem. I wish I’d re-started my Granny Stripe Blanket as soon as I was aware of the way the ends of the rows were annoying me – now I have to live with it for ever afterwards!
If you think you could fall back in love with your project if you swapped tools, changed to a different yarn, or restarted it with a simpler stitch pattern, or any other change you can identify, then don’t be afraid to make the change. This is your hobby, and it’s okay to stop what you don’t enjoy!
Visualise your progress
Something I find super-helpful, particularly with large project, is to break it down into sub-targets and create a way to visualise my progress.
With my enormous Granny Stripe Blanket which took me several years fo complete, I created a blanket progress spreadsheet in which I entered how many rows I completed (or didn’t complete) every day. I set this up to display visually in a line graph and pie chart, so I could see how I was progressing towards completion.
With my current Ballet Wrap, I’ve done the same thing. Matters are complicated somewhat by the fact that, unlike with a blanket, in a garment one row is not always the same amount of work, but this doesn’t need to be exact. (See how this went on here.)
Instead of using rows/rounds, you could use any other division that makes sense to you. Try to keep them as small as possible so you can keep yourself motivated by regularly ticking items off.
Ways to break down your project
- rows/rounds or batches of rows/rounds (every five, ten, etc)
- pattern repeats (for example if you are creating stripes or a stitch pattern over a fixed number of rows/rounds, tick off each repeat you complete)
- units or motifs (such as granny squares that will be joined into a blanket or garment)
- parts of a garment, breaking larger areas down (for example with a jumper: back ribbing, first 4 inches of back, back up to sleeve inset, back up to collar, back left shoulder, back right shoulder, etc)
- certain length or measurement (every cm/2cm/5cm/etc completed, depending on the scale of your project)
You don’t need anything as elaborate as a spreadsheet to track your progress (I just love playing with spreadsheets). Find something you find satisfying to complete – for example crossing something through with a fat pen, or rubbing something off a whiteboard.
Ways to visualise your progress
- use a spreadsheet to create graphs
- write each element in a list on paper and tick/score each one off as you complete it
- outline areas on squared/grid paper to represent the entire project and colour in a square for each element you complete
- use two jars and fill one with the same number of marbles/pebbles/etc that you have elements to complete – transfer an item from the filled jar to the empty jar each time you complete an element
- for knitting projects, thread a number of stitch markers on to the end of one of your needles and remove one for each element you complete
Another motivation method that works really well for some it to share your progress with your friends or craft buddies online. If there’s a social media platform you enjoy using, commit to regular posts of your progress.
Plan a reward for yourself
Just like any other job we don’t like doing, a reward to look forward to can really help with knitting and crochet motivation. Just looking forward to being able to start another project may in itself be enough of a reward, especially if it’s going to be something completely different. If you’re battling through a large blanket with hundreds of motifs to join, perhaps plan a quick chunky hat with no seams as your next project! Otherwise, plan any other treat (a film you’re waiting to see, a bar of chocolate, new yarn or a trip to gift the item to someone in person) for when you complete the project you’re struggling with, but make it specific so you can focus on it.
You can plan small rewards for the sub-targets you have identified. For example, a variation of the idea above of transferring pebbles between jars to shown your progress, is to fill a single jar with an appropriate number of sweets (Smarties, Malteasers, jelly beans or whatever works for you!) and eat one each time you complete an element!
Take a conscious break
After all is said and done, sometimes the best idea is to take a proper break from the problematic knitting or crochet project in order to regain your motivation. However, it’s best to do this consciously and with a plan to return to working on it.
Plan some time to complete another small, enjoyable project and reflect this break in your targets. Commit to coming back to your project at a fixed time.
If you do decide to take a break, don’t forget to make some notes before you put your project on hold. It’s all too easy to think you’ll remember which needles you were using, or what repeat you were on, but after a fortnight away from your work you might be glad you wrote those details down!
I’d love to hear what techniques you use to keep your motivation going with those tough knitting and crochet projects! Do let me know your tips in the comments below.