I have been thinking about writing this post all week. As I sit down to actually write it, it occurs to me… it might be kind of weird that I think about this as much as I do. Maybe you’ll see what I mean.

Like most knitters, I have several projects on the go at once. With distressing regularlity, I start getting stressed if there are more than five, and antsy if there are fewer than three.

In addition to having multiple projects on the needles, it helps if those projects are different from each other. I imagine other knitters are the same way – they want projects of a variety of gauges, or levels of difficulty, or concentration, which might all be different ways of saying the same thing. But my “spectrum”, in which I need to have a project of every type going at any given moment, is based entirely on one value: multi tasking. Behold my system, in four levels.

Level 1: Theatre knitting – Catatonically Mindless. This is the sort of knitting you could maybe do in a coma.

Situations this is good for: When you want to have your hands busy, but you really can’t look at your hands at all. Like at the movies – I want to knit, but I paid good money to see this flick, even if it’s at the tiny local theatre that smells like butter and cigarettes. Trying to figure out where I am on a 3×2 rib during the daylight scenes of True Grit makes me feel like I’m cheating myself out of enjoying both activities. This level of project is also good for D&D night, when I can only snatch a few stitches here and there between turns, and really need to be paying attention to the flurry of frenetic activity.

The sorts of projects on this level: Plain garter stitch, stockinette, seed stitch, or simple ribbing (1×1 or 2×2 only) – no decreases or other complications.

The placeholder here for many months has been the legs and feet of these impossibly long toe-up socks, entirely in stockinette. Just finished yesterday (except for weaving in ends and reinforcing heels, which I’m increasingly realizing I don’t count as essential before completely moving on to something else new and interesting.) Now that these are finally done, I feel a little nervous not having another pair of plain socks ready to go. But then again, I don’t think there are any other movies I feel like I have to see in the theatre this summer – Cowboys & Aliens. ’nuff said.

Level 2: Reading Knitting: Boring, but not Utterly. The sort of knitting that I really need to be distracted from, but have to look at sometimes.

Situations this is good for: When reading is your part-time job, this is an important category. If you don’t need some sort of manual distraction to motivate yourself to read hundreds of pages of mostly dead, mostly white, mostly male authors every week, you might think of this as knitting you would work on while watching a movie with subtitles or important visuals (i.e. Happy Feet. I never want to look away from those dancing penguins. Or the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica that I am FINALLY watching). It’s also good for talking on the phone, when you don’t want your friend to catch you not paying attention because you had to count something.

The sort of projects on this level: The lower portion of the above September sock (the fair isle bit, as well as the average heel turn, are Level 3 [below]), simple textural patterns (basketweave, small chevrons or diamonds), ribbing/seed stitch, super-basic fair isle (stripes or salt-n-pepper only). (Note: I read while I knit a lot, so I’m always on the look out for more bits can do.)

Level 3: Being Read To Knitting: Consciously focused. This, as you might imagine, is where the largest number of things fall, unless I’m purposely working on lots of #1s or #2s because I have no time for fun.

Situations this is good for: Normal movies/TV, a quiet afternoon with some music, or those lovely moments when Jared reads me the assigned reading for our shared classes. In other words, time where knitting takes the center stage, and when knitting isn’t something to fill your hands during another activity that takes precedence.

The sorts of projects on this level: Well, most things have at least some portion that is Level 3. I call those parts the “in between bits” – the parts where you have to keep track of decreases, or turn a heel, or reinforce a heel, or weave in ends, or sew seams.

But, there are are loads of projects that fill this slot for their duration: Fair isle and lace and cables, mostly. And not just complex lace patterns – anything using super-thin yarn, my hands just can’t handle without visual monitoring. During the school year I can’t have more than one of these going on… which explains why my progress on our sweater has been shockingly slow. BUT, I have spent the past week watching obscene amounts of Glee season 2 in preparation for the season premiere on Tuesday. The main outcomes from this: a lot of lost sleep, regular cravings for mountain dew, spite towards Maroon 5 (all those ADHD awareness commercials on Hulu), entirely unreasonable affection for the Dalton Warblers, and a good five inches on the Fair Isle Sweater Of Doom. (look at those sleeve steeks!)

Level 4: 100% Demanding. On the level of writing a term paper. Mostly because it has to do with lots of pieces of paper.

Not impressive, is it? But it’s a design in progress, so every row I have to stop and count what I’m doing, making sure what I’m doing fits with the directions I wrote. The fact that all the designs I want to do will have to live in this category is why I’m only taking 3 classes this semester! Not being able to multitask totally screws up my multitasking mojo.

The sort of projects on this level: original designs, and test knits, and things that are really new or interesting. Also, lots of projects that are Level 3 for the majority of their stitches have their “in between bits” in Level 4 – like figuring out those freakin’ sleeve steeks.

This comments section is especially devoted to you making me feel better by telling me what you obsessively categorize.

6 thoughts on “Levels

  1. What’s funny/interesting to me is that a big theme in my parenting was to teach living a Balanced Life. My parents taught me that, and tried to drum in it into me even as I obsessed on multiple crafts in my formative years. I don’t think it worked. For whatever weird reason, I married a man who obsesses on things at a genius level…..work, writing about the Bible, and mining history, building things. This drive to pursue something to an excellent level came through in each of my children, and thank goodness they didn’t follow the “Balanced Life” dogma too much. They followed their passions.

    Over many years, I’ve tried to do the same. I was passionate about staying home with my children, so when regular school didn’t work out, Home Schooling was a happy alternative. Home schooling awoke a passion for teaching, and I did a lot of it…..at home, at church and at our home school academy. Then your blog, Rebecca, gave me courage to try to pursue knitting at a greater level of passion.

    Yes, I have various levels of knitting projects, but here’s how I think of “Levels”:

    Level 1: No time to knit all week; life sucks. I’m probably catching up on bills and other paper work/weeding and various household jobs that threaten to bury the house/some job outside the home that needs some promised attention. I’m too tired to knit even after dinner.

    Level 2: Being able to knit at least every other day. Life is bearable; I can smile when needed. This is when life is busy, but not crazy busy….must take kids to various activities after home school and cook dinner and get ready for some obligation, but there is time/energy to knit at the activities or during a movie at home.

    Level 3: Knitting every day….for at least an hour! Yay. Mama’s really happy. The world glows. I feel guilty about not being happier when I’m not knitting, but sorry I can’t help it. I just LOVE to make pretty things…..I need to see proof that I exist outside my kids…..I need to do something frivolous and occasionally beautiful. For some reason, sewing never caught on that way with me. I hated working with a machine…..the noise, breakage, too technical. Knitting is quiet, peaceful, and more tactile. I admire my friends who quilt, but never felt the tug to join them. Knitting I can do while I’m teaching one child, while someone else drives us to activities, while visiting a friend, while watching TV, while praying, and endless other places. Knitting can be part of me continually, unlike any other hobby.

    Level 4: Knitting for 6+ hours in a day! Heaven! I try to make every Sunday like this. Heck, this still leaves time for church, playing with my daughter, visiting with my older kids or my mom, helping my husband with short tasks here and there, and even making dinner. Sundays are heaven, not only because I get to be with those I love, forget ugly chores for one day, and knit for hours at a time, but because I am letting go of guilt…..slowly but surely…..go ahead, Linda, go ahead Cliff, Rebecca, Hunter, Leah, Bethany and all the people out there who have an interest…..pursue your passion!!


  2. Wait a minute. I can work on more than one project at once? Wow, is that going to be a shock to my AR personality. So I think right now I will start on the gorgeous Aslan alpaca that I got last week in Estes Park, for a fantastic Fair Isle vest. And I will set aside the over 100 yarn ends I need to weave in for my new grandson’s baby blanket. He’s not due until November anyway. Levels of knitting, multiple projects – what a great idea!


  3. Go Kathy!! I can remember first giving myself permission to work on 2 things…..then 3…..and eventually 4 and more! It’s so much more fun that way!


  4. So much for my plan to start two more projects. Amanda’s baby shower is next Saturday (just found out yesterday). And I want to have the blanket finished. So back to weaving in the ends. Did I say around 100? I counted them, its more like 300. SO……..next week for sure. Darth Vader hat for Eli which I need to design, scarf for Olivia using the Kirby Woolpaca I got for Christmas almost two years ago, along with some perfectly matched popcorn yarn, and the Fair Isle vest for me! I’m not sure what levels they would fall into. Probably designing is Level 4 for me. I don’t like it. I would rather use someone elses’ pattern. The Fair Isle is probable Level 3. The challenge is fun, but I have to pay attention. Scarf – you come first. I can do you and watch Sanctuary and the back episodes of Warehouse 13 and Eureka.


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