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The Beauty of Slow Work

Updated: Jun 20

a cup of coffee in a green mug with two balls of yarn and knitting project nearby

My daughter is in second grade and learning about Aesop's Fables. A classic tale is the one of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The hare is quick and gets so far ahead of the tortoise that he takes a nap and loses his lead. The tortoise starts out slow but is able to overtake the hare while he naps. The tortoise wins and the hare is devastated. "Slow and steady wins the race."

In my work I see many people telling others how to knit faster or be more efficient in their stitches. Change your hand positions, learn to hold the yarn differently, and use big needles and big yarn for a quick thrill. I understand why some people might want to hurry and get the project done so they can wear it or gift it. I've raced against the clock and baby shower deadlines before too. There are so many projects to do and so little time. Knit fast, die warm! These are common sentiments among product knitters who want to always complete the next trendy project and rush to be in on the latest and greatest. There isn't anything wrong with this. Knitting is fun and exciting and it's a huge thrill to complete and wear something handmade. It's easy to get caught up in the next knit-a-long or group excitement over a new pattern. Knitting designers are always coming out with amazing new creations and it's tough to choose the ones that we will enjoy the most.

But my thoughts have been going back to the tortoise. Slow and steady. I am a process knitter, meaning I enjoy the act of knitting in itself and not just the finished product. (Honestly, sometimes I don't even wear my finished knits and end up selling them or gifting them. I do live in Texas so we don't get many days to wear our hand knits and must be choosy.) I like to watch the stitches move, follow the color changes, and see the texture form on the needles. I choose projects based on their timeless appeal and ability to be worn for many years. Fast fashion and trendy pieces are harder for me to work on when knitting is a slow, handmade work. Maybe if I knit faster I could wear trendy pieces but knitting isn't a hobby I learned just so I could MAKE something quick to wear. It is a craft I learned so I could DO something with thoughtfulness and care.

Knitting gives me a chance to slow down and appreciate the process of creating. It gives my mind a chance to slow down and think one thing at a time. It gives my body a chance to slow down and breathe, and have a bit of rest. It gives me time to think and process my day and emotions. Knitting, for me, is slow on purpose.

I believe you should enjoy your knitting and delight in the feel of the yarn and the work of your hands. If you don't finish in time to wear your sweater this season, don't worry, it will come back again next year. Your knitting won't spoil or expire. It's not going anywhere and you'll have a joyful companion with you, not only while knitting but also while wearing. You'll have pleasant memories and peace attached to the finished object instead of resentment and a feeling of being rushed. There is also the bonus of making fewer mistakes which means less chance you will have to rip out your work and start over.

Knitting with intention means that you are deciding to spend your time with something you value and cherish. Choose the yarn you love, and the pattern you love, and spend your time creating a piece you love. Slow down and enjoy it. If you find yourself knitting the same thing over and over while everyone pressures you to cast on something new, I want to let you know that you get to decide what to knit and it is perfectly ok to make multiples of a favorite project. If you enjoy it, knit it.

~ Ester Puente

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