Don’t Look – it’ll be okay

I had a conversation recently about knitting (as you do) where my friend expressed awe at my skills, with specific mention to knitting without looking.
If you’ve ever seen me knit (and goodness, I really need to add those videos to my to-do list), you’ll notice two things fairly quickly – I’m a thrower, and I’m fast at it; and I rarely look at my knitting. Sure, I still look … but it’s for very few things, and it’s usually just a quick glance down. I churn out knitted pieces faster than people think possible (especially larger or trickier projects), and I often watch TV while knitting and I’m actually watch the show.

Now, I’m not the only person that does this – there are scores of knitters (and crocheters, and I would assume loomers and weavers) who can do this. It’s a combination of knowing how things feel and move, and finding your own rhythm with it. My friend talked about this as if I had some magical super power, but really – like with any thing – it just took practice, a bit of faith, and maybe some guts on the first few goes. So with that, I present some tips and helpful hints I’ve picked up over the years.

1) Watch how you knit
But Jenn, we’re trying to learn how to knit without looking!
Yes, I’m aware. But if you’re not aware of how you knit while looking at your knitting, you’re going to struggle to knit when you try not to look. So spend some time watching how you knit – how you tension your yarn, how you make a knit stitch, a purl stitch, a yarn over. And not just watching to see, but watching to feel. Pay attention to how you move stitches from one needle to the next and what that feels like.

2) Start slow
I did not go from watching myself knit a basic scarf and suddenly able to knit complicated lace without looking. Give yourself the chance to work up to it. Start with just the knit stitch – in a garter project, or knitting in the round. Go slowly if you need to, and it helps to have something that draws your eyes to practice with so you’re not tempted to look down at every stitch.

3) It’s absolutely okay to look
Yes, I can knit without looking. And yes, I still look. There are certain things I will always look at (cables, complicated lace, picking up and making a stitch). Most anything else I don’t need to look once I get going. But even while doing a simple pattern I still glance down, and sometimes even look longer than that. Sometimes things feel off and I want to watch and make sure it’s going okay. Sometimes I just like watching myself knit. Learning to knit without looking doesn’t mean you’ll never look again … but that you’ll get a better understanding for when to watch and when to feel.

4) Accept that you will make mistakes
You make mistakes when you’re looking at your knitting. You will make mistakes when you’re not looking. Knowing how to identify the mistake, and either fix the mistake or search out resources to help fix the mistake is critical for all fiber artists. Everyone makes mistakes – it’s what you do afterwards that is key. (And for the record – I’m a huge fan of mistakes-as-design-elements as needed)

5) Trial By Fire
You want to know my big secret? The whole reason that I learned how to knit without looking? Because there was something more important to look at. And I’m greedy – I wanted to look and I wanted to knit. So I kept at – not looking, making tons of mistakes, until it just clicked. Could I remember what it was? No. Honestly it was probably a hockey game or a Harry Potter movie.
Tips:
– if you have access to watching something on your computer or tablet or something you use close to where you knit try that first – you’ll move your eyes only slightly to look at your knitting. If you don’t that’s okay.
– Use things you can look away from for practice – favourite movies or tv shows … things you’ve already seen but you absolutely love so that you can look away as needed, but you really don’t want to. If it’s something you enjoy hearing more than watching, you’ll be tempted to keep looking at your knitting.

The bottom line is this is what you make of it, as with all fiber-crafty things. I am not a better knitter because I don’t look, that’s just how I knit. If you truly enjoy watching yourself forming stitches that is amazing, keep at it!

As always, THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO KNIT. If you like how it looks and feels when the project is done, then you’ve done it right.

~ J

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