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Unraveling to Move Forward

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Knitting is such practice in letting go of tangible work done in favor of revising and improving. I get to remember that effort invested is an opportunity to discover, uncover and grow. All of these learning opportunities have brought me to a great starting point when making an educated guess about where to go next with a knitting project. The ability to let got of stitches brings me the freedom to try something, decide the size isn’t right, it’s not shaping the way I’d hoped or that I’m not using the best tools or yarn for the task at hand. I’m not crippled by the need to get it right on the first shot because I’m not stuck with the outcome. The safety of knowing I can’t knit something so ‘wrong’ that it won’t unravel is the birthplace of much creation. The paradox of creating more and higher quality work because I’m less precious about every blessed stitch is something I am in constant need of reminding in my endeavors outside of knitting.

In my knitting, I have the beautiful ability to unravel and revise. The original undo button, I suppose.

When I realize something isn’t working out the way I’d hoped, there are basically three positive directions forward:

1) write the idea off all together and move onto the next idea that I’d like to try;

2) revise the original vision with inspiration gained from the knitting that I’ve done; or

3) go back a few rows (or a lot of rows) and re-try the original idea with a slight change to what I’ve done.

Before executing any of these options, I’m quite likely to pause, go back, knit a bit more, ponder, and consider revisions to the plan and what I would do differently if I were to go back. It is never a quick decision to go back, even if I’ve fallen off of a pattern. I’ll always intend to salvage the plan in favor of unravelling.

These outcomes often happen with less conscious choice than it seems. Far too often something isn’t particularly inspiriting, and it gets left, forgotten for a long time, and then unraveled much later when the yarn seems perfect for a new idea or I’ve even forgotten what I had in mind with the original project. Slightly more actionable is option two, where other inspiration comes easily and enthusiastically draws my focus to a new idea. With this inspiration, I can pretty readily pull needles out and unravel.

By far the hardest one to execute is option three. Major unravelling. There must be an active choice for this to occur. It’s not going to happen without the stitched being pulled off my needles. This is inherently terrifying, as I must have the confidence to pick up stitches mid-project and/or start something new. It’s not until I can see a firm vision for ‘what next’, then I can pull the stitches off the needle. Why would I let go of the current plan unless I was leaving it for a better idea?

Having done this many times in my knitting has relieved much of this fear. Having not done it enough in my life has left me crippled by fear.

I’ve had much opportunity to consider the cost of holding tightly to the stitches that don’t serve me or their purpose. Sometimes they occupy needles that could be used on other projects. Sometimes the yarn may be more readily picked up if it didn’t involve the work of unravelling and re-winding the ball. Or it could just be that they are taking up more space in my finite living space.

I am grateful for the lessons available in the many stitches unraveled in my years and the safety to try with the freedom not to keep every stitch. In these unraveled stitches, I’ve learned a lot about how to make knitting do some pretty funky things, mainly by making it do some pretty wonky things. But also by surprises inherent in creativity.

In other areas of my life, I’ve just experienced a great unravelling. Some things undone without my choosing (and despite my best efforts). This is the course correction that I am thankful for, but have had to do much work to see it as anything but tragic. In keeping with my knitting analogy, someone ripped the stitches off my needles for me, relieving me of the need to make the decision.

I’m now embarking on a journey of letting go of a project that I’ve invested years into. This project has cost my sanity, my security and my wellbeing trying to complete. I’ve been ‘so close’ to finishing for years and not actually able to deliver. And I struggle with how long I’ve held onto this project, without being able to follow through, or give it up for better opportunities. The cost of investing energy daily into this project has relieved me of the ability to invest my time and energy in ways that are more productive and fulfilling. My knitting has helped me to see that I’m not able to move on from an old plan without a new one and that I don’t need to know how it will turn out to try. I am grateful for the safety in my life that allows me to discard this idea in favor of new ideas and experiments (this blog being one of them). I am grateful for the enthusiasm and faith in the ‘next ideas’, and the safety to try something different.

And I lean into the need to feel in order to deal with fear as I pick up a new project and cast on!

Stay creative, friends.


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Jul 22, 2021

I love going to yarn shops and gently touching the yarn, then taking a long, satisfying time to pick out a skein I like. I love the feel of it when I'm knitting, and it is also a soothing meditation for me. Then, when a finished piece appears, I get to choose who will receive it. Giving away what I make is the ultimate "feel good".

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