Disclaimer: Grab yourself a coffee and settle in before proceeding, because this post isn't a fast read! If you're just looking for a quick and easy list of tips to fit more knit and crochet into your life, you might want to take a look at 13 Helpful Tips for More Knit & Crochet Time instead.
I started this year with a quiet New Years Resolution to gain more focus in my life. Too much time wasted on social media, not enough time actually doing the things that mattered to me. The goal went way beyond knit and crochet and crafting, but of course it included them too.
I read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Yes, it’s an affiliate link!) Such a great book. It’s about maximizing your personal productivity and gaining better control of your time and of your life.
Profound stuff written in a simple and straightforward way. You can find all sorts of articles about it, from opinion pieces to TED talks. The ideas have a wide following. But you don't have to sift through all that, here's a great 2.5 minute recap of the entire philosophy.
So what does this all have to do with finding more time to knit and crochet?
We’ve all got tons of commitments and forces pulling us into millions of directions. We get sidetracked, trapped into ruts, overwhelmed… We buy yarn that we forget about. Then that yarn grows into huge stashes. We favorite designs and projects on Ravelry or pin them in Pinterest. And then we never look at these things we loved again. We buy patterns we never follow, books we never read. All while dealing with (escaping?) our own complicated lives. Our responsibilities and commitments pull us in a million different directions. Very little time remains to pursue the things we do just for the love of it. The things that bring profound joy to our lives. Passions like knit and crochet!
If I'm a designer and I don't get enough time to knit and crochet, it's GOT to be a common struggle.
In honor of National Crafting Month, I'm sharing a bit of the process that I'm using to regain control of my life. What better way to celebrate than reclaim your focus and your time so that you have more time to express your creativity?
Don’t have time for this process? You'll need to invest a few hours up front. And then you'll need to make a continuing effort to refine the process. It’s been worth it for me, but that may not be what you're looking for. For a more immediate and actionable list, take a look at my 13 Helpful Tips for More Knit & Crochet Time .
Capture a list of techniques and projects that inspire you.
“A task left undone remains undone in two places - at the actual location of the task, and inside your head. Incomplete tasks in your head consume the energy of your attention as they gnaw at your conscience” - Brahma Kumaris
There is great power in making a definitive list of all the forces that have been pulling your attention. It’s like a purge for your brain. For knit and crochet, this "list" means having a central reference of the projects that attract you. Or at least having a well-defined and maintained set of references for these designs and techniques that have called your name.
Since this is the first step, it may feel like the hardest. It’s like chaining or casting on when you start a project and work the first few rows. It’s usually the most fiddly and seems the most difficult. You'll need to block out a couple of hours so you can do it right.
(I know - I said I was going to help you find more time, and now I’m saying you’ve got to block out 2 hours to do so. Believe me - I've had payback tenfold!)
Many of us already have created these lists. The problem is that they're scattered, unorganized, forgotten or incomplete. Have you ever pinned a design on Pinterest? Or favorited a pattern or project on Ravelry? Do you know how many incomplete projects are floating around your house? Can you instantly recall all those craft tools you bought for projects not yet attempted?
David Allen calls this "capturing" things so that they are not running amok in your mind.
How you capture your list is up to you. It's a good idea to use some of the lists you already have like your Pinterest boards or your Ravelry favorites - but those lists only manage a subset of your project ideas well. Some people work best writing things down on paper and keeping a physical notebook. For me, that seems like torture. I'm one of those paperless people and I use Evernote a lot to clip things when I browse online. I use it to photograph physical things to quickly add it to my central list. I use it to capture audio notes when inspiration hits me. What’s important is that you use the tools you're most comfortable with. Also important is leveraging the lists you've already made by making them useful again.
Here's the idea: Identify then go through everything you have and decide whether you're keeping it or not. What you do with what you keep is the next step.
Where should you look to identify all these knit and crochet-related projects?
- Your UFOs (projects that you were once engaged with but lost interest)
- Your books (especially bookmarked or dogeared pages) - both digital and hardcopy.
- Your favorites in Ravelry and Instagram (do you review them regularly?)
- Links to items you’ve “saved” in Facebook, Evernote or as a browser bookmark
- Items you might have saved in Evernote or a physical file or notebook.
- Swatches for projects never started
- Your craft stash: yarns, tools, supplies that represent project goals.
- Patterns you bought but ever started
- Online video tutorials you’ve saved but never sat down to learn
As you go through your online lists, delete the things that now seem just like noise. Delete the things you know you will never do or that no longer attract you. Make those online lists valuable again.
Donate books, yarn, patterns and tools that no longer appeal to you. Rip up UFO's and swatches you realize you no longer need. Transform your collection of supplies into something vital and inspiring.
Getting rid of something that doesn't excite you gives you more mental space to focus on what does.
[This advice may feel very familiar to those of you who read the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (<-- shameless affiliate link). I read it last year in preparation for my cross country move. And I really did all these things. I'm a total fan. It was absolutely liberating.]
Now you've identified projects and pared down your collection of things. You've revitalized certain online lists so that it will be a pleasure to revisit them. You've created another to track your physical creative landscape and anything not already contained in your online accounts.
Next it's time to organize everything.
Process your list.
Now that you are managing these potential projects, it is time to categorize them in one of 3 ways:
I know, I'm telling you to consider getting rid of your things again. I just love getting rid of things, especially physical things. I know this isn't for everyone. But I do want to leave you with the following thought. These things have remained neglected for a reason:
Have they already served their usefulness in your creative journey? If so, you're under no commitment to complete the project or use the item. Do you really need yet another commitment?! As Marie Kondo says, just thank those possessions for helping you get to the point you've reached and let them go. Donate or gift them to bring someone else joy and bring simplicity to your own life!
So what to do with the things to keep?
If I have decided to hold on to an item or idea, it goes into one of three virtual buckets.
Take an honest look at your life and the type of knit & crochet you REALLY have time for.
Now take a look at the near term projects on your list.
Do you need a specific space and environment to do these kinds of projects? But do you spend most of your available crafting time commuting on a bus or sitting in kids' sports practice?
If so, it’s unrealistic to commit to an Irish Crochet project. Maybe something small and portable like motifs you can join later would be easy for you. So would socks.
Maybe your house is filled with kids, noise, dogs and non-stop distractions. Is there really any way you will ever be able to concentrate more than 5 minutes without interruption? Maybe you shouldn't be stressing yourself out by trying to knit lace from charts. You might get more joy from something meditative. Something you can put down without notice and pick up again without trying to figure out where you left off. You can always knit lace when life gets more quiet.
Identify your true crafting opportunities:
• the time of day
• the location
• the conditions
Make sure you are being very realistic about the everyday constraints of your life.
One of the reasons you may feel that you “never have time for knit & crochet” is because you’re picking the wrong projects.
Take a look at your near term and potential projects. Which ones are most realistic to tackle given the conditions of your life?
Match the things that are truly exciting you from your notebook to what you actually are able to do in your life.
You may find that many of the projects you want to do require learning a new skill. But you just never seem to have the time to sit down and lay the groundwork so that you can get started. Maybe those projects should stay in the "Potential" projects category. You could focus on queuing up more accessible projects for the near term.
After looking at your life, you may see that your best crafting opportunity is later at night. But at that time you're unwinding from a long day. You're tired, having a glass of wine and catching a tv show. You need projects that are fun to work where you don't need a ton of brain power. Are those the kinds of projects you’re queuing up?
Once you get your initial lists set up and functioning, they don’t maintain themselves.
Now this is one area in which I was seriously falling short. Over the years I’d been saving links in Facebook and capturing content to Evernote like nobody’s business. But I was effectively just throwing this stuff into a black hole. I didn’t review these lists. I was actually afraid to because I knew they were out of control. It would be just another "to do" item to have to sit and sift through these artifacts of my distracted mind.
Review your lists as often as you can to identify patterns, themes and associations.
I set aside a couple of hours one day and went through everything. I deleted things that no longer held my interest. I tagged and filed items in Evernote as I identified themes and associations. It was profound to realize my biggest source of inspiration was my own notebook. Recognizing the patterns between these inspirations helped me understand my own creative priorities. And I continue to do it.
Make it a habit!
I'm using my lists weekly now to get my work done, to figure out what to do next. I refer to them when I have a design problem and groom them while I sift through them. They've become more than a habit, they're an empowering creative tool.
Set up your (virtual) space
This doesn’t mean you have to set up some idealized Pinterest dream space. Some of us have a favorite spot where we work, and some of us don’t have that luxury. Most of the time, I’m knitting or crocheting at night while I share a movie or TV show with my family. I love to travel and I take a lot of long journeys. My knit & crochet "space" is made with the tools, accessories and environment around me when I'm doing my work.
Right now I’m struggling with getting my space right. I notice there’s a lot of time I could be knitting and crocheting and I'm not doing it because I don’t have the right lighting. Knitting and crocheting is torturous for me when I can’t see what I'm doing.
In the new house, my trusty floor lamp doesn't fit in the spot where I like to sit. I bought a Hug Light because a lot of knitters and crocheters rave about them, but it’s just not bright enough for me. (affilliate link - you might like it.) I’m now considering one of those portable OttLites (another affiliate link). I've had so many students show up in my classes with them that just love them. I'm still researching which one might work best for me. Whatever I end up with needs to be bright AND portable because those are MY personal requirements. (If anyone has a great recommendation, PLEASE comment!!)
After you analyze your own situation, it may surprise you to realize that your biggest knit and crochet problem is, in fact, a "space" problem!
Whether you are stitching on-the-go or setting up a dedicated spot, you need to create the right space.
Wow. This was a long post. Probably my longest.
Let me know in comments if this was useful to you. It's something that I have been thinking about A LOT and I'm curious if it resonates. I'm also very interested in hearing your ideas on the subject.