Lisa’s List: 16 Stitches to Help You Cope. With Everything.
Some mornings, you wake up and the first thing you encounter is a scary headline, and you wonder “What’s happening to the world?” It’s easy to forget all the headlines that came before; to feel like things are spiraling out of control. Sometimes, you drop your latte in your lap while driving and the lid falls off and life presents you with a crappy dilemma, there at the red light halfway between home and work, with a day of meetings to get to. You get in a fight with your partner about finances and somehow that thing that happened at Thanksgiving comes up and there’s door-slamming and you don’t know how a chat about taxes turned into CHAOS, but there you are doing RAGE LAUNDRY and purposely mixing her darks and her lights.
Sometimes, you feel euphoric and enlightened and in love and open to the world. That’s lovely when it happens.
Sometimes, you feel fat and frustrated and a little bit sad. Sometimes, you feel proud of your achievements, and you treat yourself to something indulgent and you enjoy every bit.
Whatever you’re feeling today, knitting is here for you. But sometimes, even your knitting might contribute to your feeling “out of alignment” with the universe. So I’ve pulled together some recommendations—stitch patterns for all the feelings you might be having.
16 KNITTING STITCHES TO HELP YOU COPE WITH LIFE
1. GARTER STITCH
When you’re obsessing, pick up the simplest of stitches. Preoccupied with a family member’s health problems, a crush’s texts, or the house-shopping process? You won’t be able to focus on complex patterning when you’re going over and over things in your head, so let your hands find their own way with the knit stitch, followed by more knits. The peaceful rhythm and the lulling power of muscle memory will soothe you.
2. STOCKINETTE STITCH
For the control freak who is trying to manage her expectations and let go a bit—you know, trying NOT to get upset when people are late for social events; trying NOT to live your whole life by to-do lists—stockinette offers a healthy bit of orderly control that you can hold onto. Look at the nice lines of vertical stitches! In a plump wool, your neat tension and perfectly smooth knitting will please your need for order, predictability, and hopefully allow you to be more flexible in life off the needles.
Vacillating between two choices? Should Jake and I make it work or break up? Should I take the job in Smithfield or stay here? Ribbing is the pros-and-cons list of knitting, as it’s composed of defined Columns A and B. Pour your thoughts into these columns; wrangle out your heart as you build and build the different endings that life is presenting to you.
4. SEED STITCH
When you’re feeling broken and sad and smashed to smithereens inside, seed stitch is a small and simple way to rebuild. Plant a seed—a pretty little purl—and let it grow into a field of rich texture. Look, you made something. You are incredible. You will be okay.
Oh, the intensity of it all. War and politics and the economy and the environment and the people next door and your boss and the interwoven nature of community and country, the macro and the micro, the personal strand of a braid that is you, crossing with the strands that are everyone else, in a fabric that is US. You feel anger, pride, fear, loyalty, and righteousness all in one moment. You have ZEAL. You want to contribute. Crossing complex cables will help you appreciate differences and connectedness, and to get back to it with compassion.
Lace is love. When you’re feeling open and vulnerable, and perhaps a little scared but also thrilled, remind yourself that it’s good to be real. To be honest. To expose your heart to other people, to take a chance. Work open yarnovers and delicate decreases, shaping an intricate pattern of eyes and arms and hearts and see-through structure. Just because the fabric is see-through, does not mean it is not strong.
Check out some free lace patterns here.
Are you in a rut in your life? Everything’s okay, but not particularly exciting or fulfilling? You’re not sure what your purpose is? You’re not stretching your potential? You need a challenge. You need a project that you can fail miserably at, safely at home, so that you’re prepared for some real failure and eventual triumph in your bigger life. Brioche is the stitch you need. It is weird. It is SO complicated. And when you drop a stitch or make a mistake, Lord knows how you’re gunna fix it. I can’t help you. I just rip out the whole thing and start over when I screw up brioche. You should do this, too. And think about what you really want out of life as you master this bizarre stitch. Learn the basics here.
8. KNIT-PURL PICTORIAL MOTIFS
Are you a talker? Do you struggle to hold back from telling long stories to your kids about the things you saw at Target, what Diane’s son is doing in Cleveland this weekend, your doctor’s vacation in Costa Rica? You have a heart for story-telling, but it hurts when people don’t want to listen. Apply your narrative skills to your knitting with gansey patterns of anchors, ropes, trees, boats, and more. Take your needles on an adventure—and you know what? If it feels good, talk to yourself while you knit. Maybe talking is how you work out your thoughts. Close the door and have a good ramble!
9. TRAVELING TWISTED STITCHES
Wanderlust in stitches, y’all! Traveling twists are like cables, but feature a lower relief and pronounced twisted knits, so you get a flat fabric of incredible texture and definition. You will find such patterning called Bavarian or Austrian, and it is a lot of fun to knit. Bavarian twists will take you to old Europe, to cobblestone streets, to ships at sea, to villages along inlets, to mountain tops over green valleys. Imagine the Black Forest. Imagine castles. Imagine the whole world out there as you knit, knit, knit.
10. FAIR ISLE COLORWORK
Fair Isle is for the homebody who is so happy to be home on Saturday morning with a pot of coffee, some YoYo Ma, and a couple hours just to knit. You have 9 balls of yarn attached to your work and a big chart print-out and you’re not very mobile with this project, so bask in the peaceful delight of your cozy home and your quiet time, you creative introverts.
11. SLIP-STITCH COLORWORK
You just got a new haircut and a mani and you feel FABULOUS. You got a makeover for your mojo, girl. Without even thinking about it, you flirt with the guy at the Jiffy Lube and you walk a little sassier today. You feel fly and you want to be noticed, so you knit slip-stitch colorwork in bright hues with dramatic patterns. Get the skills and patterns in this book.
12. MOSAIC COLORWORK
You feel strong today. Maybe you hit a new PR in your deadlift, or you’ve been killin’ it at work, or your kids are doing well and you feel good about your parenting. Mosaic colorwork is the perfect expression of your strength, your stalwart brilliance, your resolute unstoppableness. A variation of slip-stitch colorwork worked in garter stitch, mosaic is bold, graphic, dense, and super-fun to knit.
Admit it, you’re a mess. You keep missing appointments, getting late notices from creditors, and when your mom calls, she always has this concerned tone in her voice. Maybe you’ve been drinking a little too much, hanging out with questionable folks, haven’t washed your dishes in a while. You’re not sure why life isn’t clicking for you; everyone else seems to have it figured out. You’re sick of having roommates. You want some stability. Well, intarsia is the stitch for you. You start with this fun plan for a picture sweater, then have to work through a royal mess of bobbins, tangled tails, tons of colors in one row, and the finishing is epic. It is like doing chores around the house, so make yourself do it. WEAVE IN ALL THOSE FREAKIN ENDS. Do it neatly. Make it clean. Give it a good blocking (after you clear a spot on the floor, of course). And then LOOK AT IT. Your mountain scene, all neat and knitted and colorful. Your little dream of figuring it out, manifested in stitches. See, you can make things work. And you will.
You know those surprises that happen in life and end up changing everything? The girl in yoga who asked where you got your leggings turns into your best friend? The volunteer work that turned into your new career? To celebrate the unexpected miracles of life, knit random stripes. Two rows of pink then inches of green? There’s no wrong answer. Embrace surprise and invite the unexpected in. You might just love what knits up!
You are the best knitter in the world. Or, the truth is, you’re a bit insecure and you tend to compensate by being a one-upper to the people in your life, and you want to work on this. You want real confidence, not this constant need to gain approval. So you knit a shawl with 2,000 nupps and you love it and it’s gorgeous and YOU NEVER SHOW IT TO ANYONE. It is just for your eyes. Until one day, years from now, when you are older and wiser and confident but humble, and a sweet young person asks you for advice about self-esteem, and you show her the Shawl of 2,000 Nupps. And you pass the magic transcendent power of fussy Estonian bobbles onto another. She can learn the technique in this video.
Life is stressful. Life is BUSY. When you need an escape, turn to entrelac and color-changing yarns. At first, entrelac requires close following of instructions and careful picking up and counting stitches. You won’t be able to think about anything else. But as you memorize the steps, and as the hues of your yarn shift and transition into new ones, you will be mesmerized. Whoa! You got a perfect block out of the purple section, followed by a perfect blue block. As a countryside of colorful blocks unfolds in your lap, you’ll feel reset. Ready for anything.
I find knitting therapeutic, and really it doesn’t matter what stitch I knit—holding yarn and needles in my hands and going through the sacred dance of stitch-making always makes me feel better, even when I’m already feeling awesome.
So here’s to knitting, and here’s to you, you wonderful weird messy miraculous PEOPLE OF THE CRAFT.
Keep Knitting in Your Life & Find Your Zen