In my experience, there are two sides to the One-Day-I-Will-Knit-Project-X coin. On the one side, there is the joy of perpetual potential. You can sit and imagine a million projects, fantasize working them from the moment of getting going (buying yarn, selecting a pattern, getting the right needles) to the moment of completion (you’re onstage, accepting some Lifetime Knitting Achievement Award, decked out in this amazing Project X). Even if you never knit half of them, or one-tenth of them, this frame of mind provides lots of happy fantasies.
On the other side of the coin… If I imagine Project X and all of the many projects I want to do vs. how many I can actually manage in a lifetime, and then factor in all the patterns that are yet to be designed, the ones I will also want to knit… well that train of thought isn’t exactly conducive to relaxing now, is it? And a big reason I took up knitting was to help me relax.
Fortunately, I don’t spend a whole lot of time contemplating either side of the coin. Mostly, I just happily focus on the project at hand—Zen and the Art of Knitting in the Moment. Once in awhile though, an opportunity arises that allows me to let my knitting mind whip around in a million different directions, and get deliriously giddy as I imagine, to my heart’s content, all things knitting. My annual treks to Monhegan Island for the Knitting and Yoga Adventures retreat is one such opportunity.
I make other opportunities during the year, too. For instance… I am typing this report in a small hunter’s cabin on the remote side of a bison ranch in Texas. Really. As in give me a home, where the buffalo roam... What actually brought me here is a two-week writing residency—the ranch owners are kind enough to provide quiet, delicious isolation for artists to spend time purely focused on their work. But after several hours of writing, it’s time to knock-off for the day.
By knock-off, of course I mean set down the manuscript I’m revising and immerse myself in all things knitting. I brought along a bunch of knitting books, a half-finished sock, a reasonable amount of yarn and all of my needles. I alternate between my keyboard, my DPs, my circulars, and my anniversary edition of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s KNITTER’S ALMANAC, eyeing the Pi Shawl, which she suggests for a July project. (Just July, I think? Hahaha. I’m pretty sure a Pi Shawl would take me four years.)
I am so lucky that my writing and teaching have taken me to amazing places, designed for retreating and relaxing: Monhegan Island, Lake Austin Spa, and now this buffalo ranch. Sometimes, as I set off to one place or another, I worry that I can’t really afford to break away—the dogs will miss me, my business will suffer, I’ll return to a massive pile of work. But I am reminded, again and again, that not only is the break worth it, in and of itself, the break has the added bonus of recharging my batteries, and leaving me much happier. That’s due partly to going someplace where my phone doesn’t work and the Internet is spotty. But it’s also due to taking time to fully indulge my passion, the way I can only fantasize about doing the rest of the year when I am up to my ears in the happy chaos of my regular life.
So take it from me—schedule a retreat every year. Heck, schedule three. But if you really can’t get away for a long stretch, then at least pick a few weekends and dedicate them to pure knit indulgence—phone off, computer off, non-knitters sent away. Just you, your projects, your knitting friends, a ton of good food, and a few days to relax into it. I promise, these breaks make the rest of life that much more sparkling and delightful.