5 Steps to Getting More Knitting Done (While Raising Young Children)



Get More Knitting Done (While Raising Young Children)

When you have young children, you don’t have much time to yourself. When those moments of free time do come, we can feel totally overwhelmed by all of the things we want to do (never mind all the things that we “need” to do, or feel that we “should” do).

When you do get some free time, you know it’s not going to last for very long. So, if you really want to be productive and get anything done, you need to have a plan – ahead of time –  for how you want to use that precious opportunity. If you want to get anything done, you need to be organized and you need to have a system that works for you. This applies to everything – including knitting.

Here, I’m going to share with you a few tips and tricks for getting more knitting done, while raising young children. This includes a closer look at my own personal system of organization, which I have developed over the years from David Allen’s  work-life management system – “Getting Things Done” (also know as GTD). It’s what works for me, and it can work for you too!

Before we get to the 5 Steps to Getting More Knitting Done, I’d like to offer a few tidbits of personal wisdom about doing what you love, and taking time for yourself when raising kids.

1) Let go of the guilt, and give yourself permission to sit down and knit. 

Acknowledge any feelings of guilt associated with doing what you want to do and then let it go. Let it just float away. You may be saying to yourself  “Oh, but I should be folding that laundry.” No you shouldn’t. You should be taking some time for yourself. Sit down, and knit.

2) Never, ever do things that you don’t WANT to do during nap time.

This can also be understood as ALWAYS do something you WANT to do during nap time. At the moment, my favorite thing to do during nap time is nap, but if I’m not napping, I’m knitting.

“Oh, but it’s so much easier to wash the dishes, cook dinner, [insert other things you need to do], when the baby is sleeping.” Yes, it is. But you can do it when the baby is awake too. Find a way to make it easier to do these things when the baby (or kids) are awake. If your child is napping, take time for yourself. Relax. The other things can wait, and they will get done. Sit down, and knit.

3) Take your knitting everywhere with you. 

Life with kids is busy. Time is scarce. It is difficult to find large chunks of time to yourself to do anything. But, over the course of the day there are lots of smaller chunks of free time, that when put together may add up to an hour or two!  Surprising right? Imagine, if you could get an hour (or more) of knitting in a day!  It can be done. You just have to look at your time differently. Keep your eyes open and you will see more opportunities to get some knitting done.

4) Focus on doing a little bit, often.

Yes, before you had kids, you could finish a hat in a weekend. Yes, it might take you three months to finish a hat now that you have kids. So what? Accept that getting projects finished will take longer, but that’s ok. You’ll get it finished if you just keep moving forwards. Slow and steady wins the race!

When I talk about “free time”, I’m not just talking about nap time. I’m talking about any other small amount of time that you could call “free”. The question is: when you have 5, 15, or 60 minutes to do something, do you have a plan? Do you know what you are going to do during that time? If you don’t, you’re likely to waste that precious time just stressing about what you want to do. When you finally decide what you want to do, the time will be gone! You need a plan, so that you can maximize every opportunity – big and small – to get more knitting done.

Let’s say that you really want to knit this cute baby hat. Starting a new knitting project isn’t as simple as picking up a set of needles, some random ball of yarn, and casting on a few stitches . No. You need to go to the yarn store, choose the yarn that you want to use (if you’re not using the one in the pattern), and buy needles and other notions. Next, you need to knit a gauge swatch (I know you won’t, but you really, really, should), then maybe another, until you have the correct gauge. Only after you have done all of that, are you FINALLY ready to start your new project.

Once you have cast on, and your project is in motion, it’s easy to start and stop, and work on it when you have time. It’s the getting started part that is the hardest! So again, you need a plan. You need to be organized. This is the only way you are going to get things done. Here’s what to do:

5 Steps to Getting More Knitting Done:

1) Write everything down.

The first step is to get into the habit of writing everything down. Thoughts, ideas, things to do, knitting projects you want to make, goals, dreams – anything you want to remember. It doesn’t have to be in one place at this point, just get it down somewhere. Carry a notebook, use notes on your  phone, send yourself an email, use Evernote, or WorkFlowy. The key is to just get the idea down. If you don’t, it will be quickly forgotten and it won’t get done.

2) Create a Master Inbox.

Choose one place to amalgamate everything –  preferably, somewhere that will always be available to you. It could be your notebook, your phone, or your computer. Whatever you decide, it has to work for YOU. For example, I use the “Reminders” app on my iphone. It’s a simple check list – nothing fancy or distracting. It’s at my fingertips and it is quick and easy to add new items. That is important.

Reminders App

Create an “Inbox” and insert all of your random thoughts, ideas, “to dos”, goals, etc., into it. The key is to get it all into one place. It’s not very helpful to have multiple lists floating around – especially if they are sticky notes, partial to getting lost! It is not organized at this point, but don’t worry about. Consider it your “to-be-sorted-later dumping place”.

3)  Make each item “actionable”.

The next step is to go through your “inbox” and re-write each item to make it actionable. It helps to start each item with a verb – a “doing” or “action” word. For example:

  1. SEARCH Ravelry for hat pattern
  2. PRINT hat pattern
  3. KNIT gauge swatch for baby hat
  4. BLOCK baby hat
  5. TAKE photos of baby hat

Some items will be too big to do all in one sitting, so you might want to consider it a “project” and then break it down into actionable steps. Actionable steps should be small enough to complete in less than an hour, and preferably 5-15 minutes. If the item can be done in less than a minute, DO IT NOW.

Reminders Action List

4) Organize. 

Each item will fall into one of the following categories: 1) Actionable – ready to go; 2) A project – needs to be broken down into bite-sized, actionable steps; 3) “BackBurner” – something you want to do in the future (and don’t want to forget), but not actionable right now; 4) Delete.

Reminders Action Lists

As you go through your inbox, organize each item into the appropriate category. Move your actionable items into your “Action List”; put items to do later into the BackBurner List, and Delete anything that you don’t want to take further action on.

5) Use it! Make it a Habit

Once your Action List is complete, commit to using it for at least 30 days. It will take some time for it to become a habit, but I guarantee that it will help you become a more productive knitter!

I actually have 3 action lists. 1) West Coast Knitter (blog) 2) Knitwear Design 3) Knitting Projects. I find it easier to have these action lists separate, because when I have free time, I usually know if I’m looking to complete a task for my blog, or whether I want to move forward with one of my knitting projects. I just look at the appropriate list and choose an actionable item from there.

At the end of the day, if you want to get more knitting done while you are raising young children, you need to be organized. You need give yourself permission to do what you love, and make it a priority. Find a system that works for you and enjoy the benefits of having more time to knit every day!

I’d love to hear your own tips, tricks and personal tidbits for Getting More Knitting Done. Please leave  your comments below, or tweet me @westcoastknits (#GMKD).

Be good to yourself, and good luck!

Happy Knitting x



Therapeutic Benefits of Knitting: Mindfulness in Action

Therapeutic Knitting Mindfulness in action

Photo Credits: ZenKitty/Babuska; Joathina; Mararie – kindly made available under the Creative Commons License.

It has been well established, through 35 years of research, that stress can lead to mental health problems, and can cause or exacerbate up to 90% of medical conditions.

When I feel stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious, I just sit down and knit. Knitting slows me down. It grounds me and allows me to get lost in my thoughts.  It make me feel relaxed, in control, and happy. I have always  just known that it makes me feel good!

As a fellow knitter, physiotherapist Betsan Corkhill, also recognized those “feel good” effects of knitting, and has taken this knowledge to whole new level.  Corkhill is the founder of Stitchlinks, an organization which aims to find out more about the therapeutic benefits of knitting. The findings are fascinating!

Knitting is an effective, easily accessible tool that everyone can use to manage daily stresses. But it is also a valuable self-help tool for those dealing with more serious mental health issues and/or medical conditions.  The main conditions that Therapeutic Knitting is used for are:

  • Stress
  • Low mood
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Addiction
  • Eating Disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia

Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that knitting can induce a form of meditation very similar to Mindfulness. Recent research has shown that Mindfulness can be very effective in treating depression and chronic pain.   

In  this article, Corkhill writes,

Mindfulness can be a difficult technique to teach, particularly to those who need it the most – the highly stressed, those suffering chronic pain or depression. These conditions make it difficult to concentrate the mind. Knitting is exciting because it opens up the benefits of Mindfulness to everyone.

When Corkhill surveyed over 3,500 knitter with Cardiff University, they found that the more frequently people knitted, the happier and calmer they said they felt.  81% of respondents said the felt happier during and after knitting, and 54% of the respondents who were clinically depressed said knitting made them feel happy or very happy.

Like Yoga, knitting uses physical movements to induce a state of mindfulness and affect a change in your state of mind. It can leave you feeling more in touch with the real world. “It’s the rhythmic, repetitive movements that are important,” Corkhill explains.  Similar to a yoga flow, the rhythm of working the same stitch over and over again calms the heart rate and breathing, creating a feeling of stability and inner quiet.

Research suggests that the rhythmical, repetitive motions of knitting could enhance the release of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, learning, and sleep. Serotonin is a naturally occurring analgesic (painkiller), and low serotonin levels have been linked to depression and anxiety disorders, as well as decreased pain thresholds.  This could explain why knitters have reported improved mood, feelings of calmness and lower levels of pain.

For those dealing with chronic pain and long-term medical conditions, life can be especially challenging. Through Stichlinks, Corkhill has received many stories from people who described feeling out of control of their lives, worthless, lonely and isolated because of chronic illness. However, the discovery of knitting had a hugely positive impact on their well-being.

First and foremost, knitting gave them something to do during enforced periods of rest. They no longer felt “lazy,” and instead found something productive, creative and enjoyable to do. Forgotten feelings, such as excitement and anticipation, were rekindled and they began to plan ahead, set goals, and experience increased self-esteem. The ability to give gifts or knit for charity gave their self-esteem a further boost.

Many of people who have written to Corkhill about their experiences of therapeutic knitting describe being able to “forget” the pain. Even those experiencing severe pain said that it was effective. Indeed, researchers have found that  the brain can’t concentrate on two things at the same time, and so if you are able to occupy the mind sufficiently, your brain won’t be able to interpret the pain-inducing signals.

Knitting has therapeutic benefits for both the mind and the body. Traditional western medicine tends to treat the body and not the mind, but research has shown that a person’s thought processes and attitude has a significant impact on health, recovery, and well-being.Therapeutic knitting deals with issues of loneliness, social isolation, self-esteem, stress/anxiety, and an unoccupied mind that’s left to ruminate on problems. It can boost confidence, self-esteem, motivation and mood. It can change negative thoughts and attitudes into positive ones.

Whether you are dealing with the daily ups and downs of a stressful, busy life, or dealing with chronic health issues, we all could benefit from reducing the amount of stress we experience in our daily lives.  Being able to ‘switch off’ for a short time every day gives the mind a break and is beneficial to well-being.

So take some time for yourself every day, and knit. You will be happy that you did.

Stay healthy, Be Happy x

21 Reasons You Should Forgo Your $5 Latte in Support of Indie Designers

White 8oz - $5 by Amasou Umasou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License
White 8oz – $5 by Amasou Umasou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Thank goodness for the internet! As a woman, mother, and knitter (and generally a person with an inordinate number of interests, trying to wrap up it all up into one unique lifestyle design, so that I can somehow do it all), I am excited to be living in an age in which the internet exists. Today, more than any other time in history, we have the opportunity to take control of our lives and lifestyle choices. We can take the pursuit of knowledge and learning into our own hands, and access unprecedented amounts of information and opportunities for personal development and growth.

The internet also connects us to others, giving us access to the work and ideas of millions of creative and incredibly talented people, from all over the world. Thanks to sites like Ravelry, Pattern Fish, Pinterest, Etsy, Flicker, and Instagram, we can lust over knitting-related eye-candy from the comfort of our sofas. I love that I can search the world wide web for a knitting pattern any time (day or night), and get started on a new project straight away!

The internet has changed the world for knitters and knitting designers alike. Not only has the internet helped to maintain a high level of interest in knitting, but it has also fueled a steady demand for quality patterns and instruction. The demand for individual knitting patterns, available to purchase online in instantly downloadable formats, is one that will probably continue to grow. However, there is also a huge number of free (and often poorly written) patterns available online, and this growth seems to have fueled an unhealthy demand (or expectation) that knitting patterns should be free.

Or perhaps people are just reluctant to pay for patterns? Why pay for a pattern when you can get one for free?

If I am totally honest, I used to think this way too. I would purposefully exclude “For Purchase” patterns in my searches and only browse the free patterns. I have also experienced this mindset amongst my own friends. For example, a friend was looking to knit something for a baby and I suggested a great knitting pattern – because, well, it is a great pattern – but my suggestion was dismissed immediately with “Oh, I don’t want to buy a pattern.”

Do you pay for your knitting patterns?

Here are 21 good reasons why you should consider purchasing a pattern:

  1. There are real people behind knitting patterns – this seems obvious, but there are still people who forget (or don’t think) about the person who actually designed and wrote the pattern.
  2. It shows respect for the designer and their work.
  3. Buying a pattern supports the designer, allowing them to continue producing beautiful patterns for you to knit! (If you don’t support the person behind the design, how can that person afford to produce more wonderful patterns for you to enjoy in the future?)
  4. Producing a pattern is a LOT of work,  especially if it is written for multiple sizes. We are talking many, many hours. Even if you knit for fun, or as a hobby, don’t take what the “professionals” do for granted.
  5. Pattern designers often make themselves available to provide ongoing pattern support online. Consider this support a valuable service that is worth paying for.
  6. It has taken many years for designers to develop the expertise required to write a pattern. They deserve to be paid for their hard work and expertise.
  7. You wouldn’t expect other people to work or provide a professional service for free. Designing and writing patterns is a serious business for many knitting designers and needs to be treated as such.
  8. You expect to pay for other materials that you need for a project (yarn, needles, notions, buttons, etc.)  Some people will spend hundreds of dollars on yarn for a project, but still hesitate to purchase a pattern for $4! Start thinking about the pattern as part of the cost of the project.
  9. It costs a lot to design, write and publish a professional pattern (at the personal expense of the designer). For example, an indie designer might have to pay for the following: a computer and design software, professional photography, professional technical editor, test and sample knitting, graphic design costs, and yarn support.
  10. To stay in business as a knitting designer, many need to travel and make appearances at knitting events across the country. This costs time, money and resources, not to mention money lost from not working while they travel.
  11. Earning a living as an independent knitting designer is hard work. I dare say many (or most)  struggle to actually earn a wage they can live on, never mind making a profit!
  12. Purchasing a pattern supports women who are trying to make a living, while choosing to stay at home to raise their children.  Many indie designers are mothers and have chosen to start their own small businesses in order to take control of their careers, while allowing them to raise their children and pay rent.
  13. Expecting to pay for patterns, you can demand and expect higher standards; and by supporting designers, they can afford to pay techical editors to check their work for errors.
  14. By purchasing a pattern, not only do you support the designer, but also other people (mostly women) and small (woman-owned) businesses in the knitting industry – test knitters, technical editors, photographers, graphic designers, dyers, spinners and local yarn stores.
  15. When you buy a pattern from an independent designer, you are supporting  and encouraging exceptional creativity and quality.  “Indie” designers are constantly pushing the envelope of creativity, introducing new patterns and techniques for everyone to enjoy.
  16. “Indie” has come to mean so much more than “independent”. It has come to symbolize ideas about originality, fresh concepts, and forward-thinking ideals – and that is worth supporting!
  17. By supporting artists who have developed a skill or talent for a particular process, you are also supporting the continuation of valuable art and handcraft. Arts and crafts are part of our culture, and if we allow them to be lost, we lose something very special.
  18. Standards and fair wages for fair work would go a long way towards making the industry stronger.
  19.  We’ve been told for so many years that our knitting/quilting/sewing/etc. is a “craft” and “women’s work” and is therefore less valuable than “men’s work” and “real art”. Women (and men) should stand up and be proud of the work we do and expect a decent wage for it. These professions and interests are undervalued in part because we let them be. Supporting women for the professional work that they do by purchasing their patterns is a way to challenge these norms.
  20. By purchasing a pattern, you are supporting artisans who earn their living project-by-project, rather than settling for mass-produced products from a big-box store.
  21. If we keep taking money away from these small businesses because we are hellbent on free products, there won’t be anything left to buy or give away. Who will be affected? Farmers who raise the sheep who make the wool, dyers who dye the wool, yarn shops who sell the wool, graphic designers, photographers, sample knitters, test knitters, tech editors, and knitting designers as well as the families of all these individuals who depend upon the income however small or large it may be.

Just for the record, I am not suggesting that ALL free patterns are bad – not at all! Indeed, many established designers offer patterns for free – perhaps to promote a particular yarn or a book they are selling. Perhaps they will make a pattern available for free, and if you like their pattern or design, then you can choose to support their work by purchasing other patterns, commenting on their blog or Ravelry page, and telling friends about it. If designers want to share a pattern for free, then that is their choice. However, we should take a moment to appreciate the work that went into producing that pattern, and think about how we can support that designer and their work.

Some newbie designers might be offering patterns for free because they don’t feel confident to charge for their work. I’m not really talking about them. But if you really like someone’s free pattern – especially if it is well written, free of mistakes, and unique – then perhaps you should encourage them to charge for it.

In general, free patterns cheapen the value of a pattern and devalue the work and talent of designers.

Consider it your vote – each time you choose to buy a pattern, you are voting for that designer to continue producing great patterns for you and others to knit. You are voting for, and supporting women and numerous other small business owners who are trying to make a living in the knitting industry. You are voting for quality, individuality, originality, and exceptional talent and creativity.

So, the next time you are searching for a pattern, consider purchasing one.

Most patterns are under $5 – that’s less than a latte!  Totally worth it!