There is magic in every type of knitting. The enchantment begins with the yarn, or pattern, their swirling energies driving us to cast on something new. This impetus moves us, stitch by stitch, through a tangle of symbols and words, our hands manipulating the simple shape of a strand into a hat, a sweater, a pair of socks. Our stash is an apothecary cabinet, loaded with tinctures that promise healing through creation, and only the knitter knows which medicine is best. How we apply our prescription varies from knitter to knitter. When I have had my roughest weeks, when my head is aching from too much screen time, and my mind feels pulled in all directions, I reach for knitting with meditative stitches.
Meditative stitches are stitches that have simple, easily memorized repeats. Garter stitch is a favorite, but you might also find comfort in Stockinette, Seed Stitch or Ribbing. Knitting every stitch allows our hands to keep busy and exercises that nervous, anxious tension, leaving our brains free to wander, or to focus on the peaceful, rhythmic clicking of needles. Meditation through knitting these repetitive, easy stitches, has become my preferred way to refocus my energy, emotions, and evaluate my approach to big issues that weigh heavy on my mind.
Being fully engaged during these moments is what takes them from knitting time to meditation time. We often reside, especially now, in spaces where others are creating distractions and dividing our attention–directly and indirectly–so it’s important to recognize what elements in our environment could be preventing us from meditating fully in these moments. Turn off the background chatter of the television or radio; set your phone in another room so no calls or notifications interrupt, and place your physical self in a space that feels restful and is low-traffic for other members of your household. In the spring and summer, I love most to sit and work these meditative stitches while listening to birds from my back porch. In the winter, there is no better replacement than the sound of a crackling fire in the evening from a cozy, blanket-laden armchair.
Patterns for meditative knitting should be first and foremost, simple. A pattern with large stretches of a single stitch (scarves, sweaters, socks) is my ideal choice–especially if the structure is something familiar. Choose something that won’t require you to frequently shape, check numbers, or reference repeats. If you find yourself annoyed by switching between knits and purls, perhaps look for a pattern worked in the round, or that features slipped stitches.
The most important thing to bring into your meditative knitting practice is patience. In your first few sessions, it can be very difficult to sit still for any long period of time. Begin with small increments of time dedicated in this way: 10 minutes while waiting for children to get ready for school, or 20 minutes in the morning while waking up with coffee or tea. 30 minutes during your lunch break, or an hour every evening. Work your way up and take the time to evaluate your feelings along the way.
For me, it was very hard to let go of feelings of guilt when working on a knitted piece I don’t intend on releasing. As a designer, I feel a constant pull to be producing whenever I spend time knitting, and cheating on these work projects with something for myself smacks of time-wasting. Use your first meditation sessions to explore these feelings and fight past them. Time spent knitting is never wasted, and neither is time spent to help us focus and re-center ourselves within our daily lives. These exercises build us into better people more capable of living in the moment, appreciating others, and feeling gratitude. In turn, exploring these emotions through meditation can lead us to live more full and balanced lives and give us better armor for dealing with adversity and challenges.