What to do when crafting gets you down

Picture this: You’re home after a long day, compounded with the fact that it’s been a long week and it’s not even Friday yet. You can’t wait to get in PJs and settle into some warm and fuzzy crafty goodness. Before long, nothing is working out the way you planned. You become frustrated, tired, and just plain over it. What do you do? You don’t want to waste this prime opportunity to be creative, but nothing is going right.

This was me last night my friends. I wanted to knit. In fact, I’d been longing to knit all day. I still need to pump out a few headband samples so I can get them on models and take photos. There is one design that I started the other day, but ended up ripping out when it proved a bit thin. Last night I started over using the same pattern, but on slightly larger needles. This left gaping holes where the cabling occurred, so I produced a heavy sigh and ripped out to start over.

Next I decided to take a break from that design and make something new. I have a few headbands floating around in my mind, but I have yet to actually sit down and work out a stitch count. I must have tried to work out about three different patterns to no avail. I was much too frustrated to take the time and work it out properly.

My fiancé could hear me getting frustrated with every dramatic ripping out of my projects. He prodded, asking what was wrong and if there was anything he could do. He was kind enough to spare me the logical suggestion of just setting down my work and taking a breather.

It was getting late, so eventually I had to rip out yet again and go bring the laundry in off the clothesline and cook dinner. I was feeling depressed, so I let him keep playing video games, rather than asking for help in the kitchen. Normally I love cooking together. It gives us a great chance to catch up on our days and it makes the process go faster when we’re really not in the mood to be stuck in the kitchen. But at that point, I just needed some time to myself to regroup.

After the quiches were safely in the oven, I came back into the living room to try one more option. This was the original design from the other day, with an extra cable. I thought these extra stitches on the original smaller needles would make it wide enough without creating gaps when stretched over a person’s head. So I did one (almost) final cast on and got to work.

Amazingly, the short pause was enough to keep me sane. Even when I had done a few rows of only 22 stitches when I needed 23, I had peace of mind, and dutifully ripped out and cast on again. This time it was project success!

I think that is what gets me down sometimes during frustrating knitting sessions. I don’t mind the ripping out and starting over, it’s the cast on that makes me insane. Especially a provisional cast on. I ended up needing to get out new provisional yarn after overworking my original crochet chain in the myriad other cast ons throughout the evening. (A provisional cast on knits into a crochet chain to create “live” stitches making it cleaner to graft the two ends together when a project is finished. It works great with headbands and infinity scarves or cowls.)

Now the headband is looking even better than I could have imagined. I still wish I could have finished it last night, but I’m glad that I took a break and got perspective rather than giving up completely.

So I say when crafting, writing or general creating has you banging your head against the wall, don’t give up. Just take a short break and come back with a clear mind. Last night I considered just giving up and watching TV or working on hexipuffs instead, but I knew I wanted to make progress on my headbands.

As a writer, I know I should be applying this same strategy. Lately I haven’t been in the mood to devote the necessary energy to my fiction writing. But I really just need to sit down and get to it, taking pause when I really need it, and coming back revitalized.

For all you creators out there, I would love to hear your stories of when you got stuck and how you dealt with it. With so little precious time for being creative amidst life’s many challenges and demands, how do you find peace and time for your activity of choice? How do you find your flow?

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A handy cable cheat

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently become obsessed with the Never Not Knitting podcast by Alana Dakos. When I first searched for knitting podcasts in the itunes store, her latest episode was the first thing I listened to.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been catching up on her older episodes (she’s done over 70) and it’s been amazing getting to know her and hearing her reviews about so much great yarn and patterns. One thing she mentions more than once is how much she hates using cable needles, and I’m sure a lot of you knitters out there can relate.

They’re so small and easily slip out and get lost in the couch or in Alana’s case, between the front seats of the car. I certainly sympathize, but I cannot say I’ve ever had this experience.

When I finally launch my shop and reveal the headbands I’ve been working on, you will all see that I simply LOVE knitting cables. I find them so visually interesting, and I’ve been hooked ever since I first learned to knit them.

I pointed out in my recent Trial and Error post that after a five year hiatus, I initially started knitting again because of all the beautiful things I saw on Etsy. Rather than pay for a set of lovely handmade boot cuffs, I figured that even with my dormant beginner skills, I could probably make them myself.

When I first hit my local Spotlight, the Australian chain craft warehouse, I stocked up on every skein that caught my eye and several sets of needles. All of my old yarn and needles are probably still buried in the closet of my old room at my parents’ house in Minnesota, so it was time to invest in new tools and a new stash. The one thing I forgot to get was a cable needle. Sigh.

But never fear, this is how I came up with this handy cable cheat that I would love to share with all of you. When I started to work with cables in my headbands, I didn’t have a cable needle, so instead I used my thin and seemingly useless circular needle as a substitute.

Circular needle to the rescue!

Circular needle to the rescue!

There are several reasons why this is an amazing cheat. First is that you can slip the stitches all the way onto the rounded plastic bit and LET GO. Yes that’s right, if you need to you can completely let go of the project and leave it right where you are!

Slip stitches to the circular needle

Slip stitches onto the circular needle

The second great thing about this method, is that rather than transferring the stitches back to your straight needle, you can simply push them around to the other side and knit directly off the circular needle.

Knitting from the circular needle

Knitting from the circular needle

Lastly, and probably most obvious, circular needles are much harder to lose to the hungry couch monster (although on occasion it can still happen — ravenous little bugger).

So give this cheat a go and let me know what you think. Is it easier or harder than using a standard cable needle? This little method works great for me, and I certainly don’t see myself wasting money on a cable needle anytime soon.