Secrets of Binge-Pairing: How to Knit and Watch TV
How to knit and watch TV: This smart knitter wisely chose a simple project for what’s obviously a visual show. We don’t recommend cuddling and binge-pairing, however—it can be hazardous for the cuddlee and for your knitting. Photos by Nick White/Cultura/Getty Images.
Knitters generally have strong preferences about their crafting environment. Social knitters gather with friends for conversation, motivation, and pattern support. Unitaskers shut out all distractions, either because they’re working on a complex pattern or because they enjoy taking their time. Other knitters put on some music or knit to audiobooks, whether they see this as efficient multitasking or as a meditative practice. We’re not these knitters. We like to knit and watch TV—there are so many great shows available these days, we’re not afraid to binge. They’ll make more.
This combination of 2 obsessions requires some planning. The trick to binge-watching and knitting: don’t watch something that will take your mind off knitting. Similarly, don’t knit something that will distract you from the show. It’s a delicate balance. We combine projects and TV shows as carefully as oenophiles obsess about wine pairings.
How to Pick Your Project
The single most important question: Can you knit this project without looking? Grab something with lots of simple stockinette (especially worked in the round) or ribbing for your bingeing. Deb often can’t finish projects like this unless she’s got some great TV to occupy her brain. If you do need to pay attention to your stitching, how frequently and how long will you have to look down at your needles and stitches? It doesn’t take long to count the rows/rounds between a shaping row/round. Similarly, a plain sweater with one cable on the front won’t claim all your attention. However, when your project involves colorwork, lace, or lots of cables, you’ll miss much of the show; maybe grab an audiobook instead.
How to Pick Your Show
Think about how much you’ll need to watch the screen. Very visual show = simpler project. Less visual show = more complex knitting. For instance, you can follow a sitcom without staring at the screen constantly, but you’ll miss key moments of an action show or football game if you don’t watch carefully. The more attention the show demands, the simpler your knitting should be and vice versa.
• Formulaic shows (how-tos, makeovers, contests). This means cooking shows or pretty much anything on HGTV.
• Historical documentaries. There’s not a lot of action, unless you enjoy watching people talk or seeing the camera pan across still photos. Allison has a queen-sized afghan thanks to Ken Burn’s Civil War series.
• Informational shows, especially when the narrator has a lovely voice.
Turn on “dialogue” shows for mellow or even tangy projects. You can easily switch your focus between knitting and TV while still enjoying both.
• Pretty much any BBC mystery series favors dialogue over car chases or fight scenes. However, your mileage may vary: some series have complicated plots, or the accents require you to turn on subtitles—these things can put a mystery into the “visual” category.
• Even many American mystery shows don’t require your constant attention on the screen. Set your knitting down as needed, or pause the show when you reach a tricky bit of the pattern.
• Sitcoms also pair well with knitting—again, pause the knitting or the show if you have to concentrate on a visual gag.
“Visual” shows require lots of attention, so pair them with a mindless or mellow project.
• All sports except for golf, where there’s plenty of down time between the exciting moments. (Wait, there are exciting moments in golf?)
• Shows with subtitles, complicated plots, or lots of facial expressions that are part of the fun.
• Shows with lots of fight scenes, extended action sequences, or sexy time.
• Shows with awesome period costumes. HOWEVER, a show with inaccurate period costumes or anachronistic plots may work better in the “dialogue” category, because knitting can distract you. If you’re the kind of person who mutters, “Nobody wore cabled capelets in 9th-century Britain, because they hadn’t been invented yet,” focus on your knitting so you don’t have to kill the costume designer.
• Nature documentaries—knitting will always lose to red pandas and other cute critters.
Our Tips for Binge-Pairing
Gus categorizes his projects by difficulty level, then binge-pairs depending on show genres. Comedies and sitcoms translate well for complicated projects. He doesn’t have to hang on every word to get the jokes and follow along with the show. Projects with medium difficulty pair well with documentaries, especially documentaries on topics he’s already familiar with. He can follow along, learn more about his interests, and still keep track of his shaping. Mysteries, especially BBC mysteries, are best binged with an easy project. You need your brainpower to follow the twist and turns, take in clues, and solve the mystery. (Not to mention some of the best BBC mysteries also come with the most confusing accents.)
Deb’s binge-pairing process also begins with tagging every project in her queue. She uses Knitty’s difficulty levels (mellow, tangy, piquant, and extraspicy), plus a “mindless” designation for really basic projects. Then, like Gus, she considers how much attention the TV show requires. While they enjoy many of the same shows, they often categorize them differently—and that’s normal. Every knitter/viewer will have their own take on binge-pairing. It’s an art, not a science.
Allison generally has 2 projects going: an ultra-simple one where watching requires more attention than knitting, and a slightly more challenging one where she can split her attention equally between hands and screen. Lace or texture patterns with regular repeats are her favorite, as they are easily memorized; a row counter keeps her on track when she inevitably stops knitting to focus on the set design or Google some obscure historical reference in the story.
A last tip: If you start binge-pairing and feel that your knitting has suffered, break up that pair. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible knitter. It means that a particular combo of show and project didn’t work. Deb has gone back and rewatched shows—the second time, with mindless knitting—because her project distracted too much the first time around.
Do you knit and watch TV? What are your favorite tips and tricks? Let us know in comments. And stay tuned for some of our favorite binge-pairs in future posts.
Wishing you many happy hours of screen time,
Allison, Deb, and Gus