Knitting is an enigma. It is simple, but can be complicated; it can involve no mental effort, or take intense concentration; it can be a soothing, but can also drive you to distraction. It can fill you with a sense of accomplishment, and also convince you of your complete uselessness; it can make you proud, and can be a source of deep humiliation. It’s a challenge. It’s a respite. There is a time to cast on, and a time to cast off. A time to knit, and a time to refrain from knitting.
I am knitting two things right now. One is a plain grey sock. I think I will be knitting it forever. I have been knitting this sock on and off since last January. It involves no mental effort and should have taken less than two weeks. But here I am, six months later, still on sock number one and struggling to find the motivation to start sock number two. I started this sock after completing a complicated sweater, and I thought it would make a nice change to knit something easy. It was a trap. I failed to recognize the time to refrain from knitting, and started a project when I should have waited. The time to refrain from knitting is when you have no inspiration, no glorious pattern to inspire and motivate. There is no point in utility knitting (for me). I cannot knit a dishcloth or (apparently) a plain grey sock. I need to knit something that inspires me. I should have waited.I am much more excited about my second knitting project. I recently started a fair-isle by the designer Alice Starmore. Its called Mara and is filled with deep blues, purples and reds, the colors of the moorland and the sea. On the surface of it, this is a much more difficult project than the sock, but it is also much more interesting to work on. The stitches are easy and the pattern is constantly changing. As you complete each section of the pattern you can see that you are making progress. In two weeks of knitting Mara I have made more progress than I made in six months with my sock. Inspiration is here, it is time to knit.
In both my working and personal life I have come across more than a few projects that looked like they would be “easy” that in the end turned into one of my grey socks. They ended up half done and were completely draining to bring to completion. Others, which on the surface looked like they might be hard, were actually easier to complete because they were interesting and satisfying. They involved more mental effort, but that’s what made them worth doing. When we are motivated and can see that we are creating something beautiful, we will perform beyond our own expectations. If we think that all we can make is a grey sock—that is usually what we will end up with. Motivation and vision are everything.