How to get your knitting mojo back

Hello! Does it happen to you, too, that you lose your knitting mojo from time to time? Over the past month or so, I seem to have lost mine. It isn’t as if there is nothing on my needles, it’s just that I’m not feeling terribly enthusiastic about any of it.

Mojo, what does the word really mean? I’ve always thought of it as a combo of motivation and joy, but is it? As a professional translator, I stopped using paper dictionaries a long time ago, but I still enjoy leafing through them.

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says:
Mojo – 1. Magic, voodoo; a charm or amulet; 2. Any narcotic drug, esp. morphine.

Hmm, I think I’ll stick to my own definition:
Mojo – Acronym of MOtivation and JOy.

So, how to get your knitting mojo back? Googling for help, I found lots of tips. Well, actually mostly the same ones mentioned over and over again. Selecting those that spoke to me most and adding a couple of my own I’ve made a list of 9 tips (9 is my lucky number).

1 Get enough sleep

For me, feeling blah about knitting often means that I’m just plain tired and need more sleep. Getting enough sleep is easier said than done, but I’ll do my best, i.e.: drink calming herbal teas, relax more during the daytime, try to take naps, try not to worry about things I can’t do anything about, do something about those I can, and heed tip 9. I could also knit a new Soothing Sachet and tuck it under my pillow. This is one I knit earlier:

2 Knit together

A real-life knitting group would be best. But lacking that, you could join a KAL or hang out with your favourite Ravelry group. My knitting group only meets every other month, but is always fun and inspiring. Here are a few Ravelry links to the beautiful things some of my knitting friends were making when we met last week: FF Backward, a fun sweater with an interesting construction; Kuno’s Cushion, with linen stitch stripes; Riddari, an Icelandic design with a beautiful yoke; and The Twigs, a refined sweater by a Japanese designer.

3 Visit a yarn shop

Actually, I visited two last week – one of them a small local haberdashery shop and the other one a shop I blogged about a couple of years ago. Looking at yarns and samples, and leafing through the latest books and magazines is always inspiring. If you’re unable to visit a brick-and-mortar shop, there are always online ones.

4 Browse patterns

Browsing patterns on Ravelry or Instagram, or looking at pictures in knitting mags may bring back that spark you’re missing. I came home from the above yarn shop with the latest Rowan Magazine, nr 74. It’s quite expensive, and I hesitated, but decided to get it because it’s a special about two beautiful tweed yarns and has several patterns in it that I’d love to knit. My two favourites are Himalayas, included both as a pullover and a cardigan.

And Scree, a colourwork scarf knit in the round.

5 Organize your stash

This seems like a great idea. Maybe you’ll find yarns you’d forgotten about that would make your fingers itch to knit. I’ll keep this in mind for later…

6 Knit a gift

Perhaps thinking about someone you love and how something you knit for them will keep them warm will bring your knitting mojo back. This tip made me cycle to the small haberdashery shop in our nearest town to get two skeins of yarn for a hat for a friend.

7 Sort your WIPs

With six works in progress (WIPs) on my needles that are not making a lot of progress, this may be the magical tip for me. Gathering them all together, I realized that there is something about each WIP that’s keeping me from knitting happily on. Take these socks, for instance. The first sock has taken up 30 g of the main colour, so there is only 20 g left for the second sock – uh-oh! What to do now? Buy another skein? Rip back a bit and add stripes? Something else?

8 Start something new

Starting something new is always nice, of course. Maybe you need something challenging to get your needles clicking again. Or maybe something simple. I’m choosing the latter option – a very simple poncho. This will kill two birds with one stone, because I’m also going to knit this together with my favourite group of Ravelry friends.

9 Get some exercise and fresh air

This helps to feel more motivated and joyful in general.

These tips have already made me feel more MOtivated about finishing my WIPs. And I actually feel a tiny spark of JOy about starting the hat and the poncho. I also have the feeling that I may need something more colourful and/or challenging to bring my mojo back completely.

I hope that your knitting mojo hasn’t left you, or if it has, that these tips will help you as they’re helping me. xxx


Hello! For today, my plan was to have the cardigan for our grandson finished and write about that, but as I’m writing this, the pieces are still drying on my blocking mats. In other words, I didn’t meet the deadline.

But hang on, who said I needed to meet a deadline? The word deadline popping up in my head made me stop dead in my tracks and set a whole train of thoughts in motion. It also brought back some unpleasant emotions that made me feel like withdrawing into a place like this…

… and spend lots of time on the bench opposite philosophizing about deadlines, getting things done and the meaning of life.

I photographed the house and the sculpture by Stephen Beale in the village of Houwerzijl. The sculpture is called Concrete Thoughts and is made from concrete and a patchwork of aluminium.

Back to deadlines. Why does the very word make me want to hide away? Well, for 30 years I worked as a non-fiction translator specializing in agriculture, sustainability, management and psychology. And whether I was asked to translate a grant proposal, a manual for a potato harvester, a research article or a self-help book, the contract always included a deadline.

For a long time I was fine with that. But over time the deadlines became non-negotiable and tighter and tighter, until they became totally unrealistic. When my work/life had become a race against the clock, I decided to quit.

No more deadlines EVER, I promised myself. Life is too short to let the seasons rush by without enjoying them. (It’s orchid season here now.)

One of the things I wanted time for was creativity and making things. I am fortunate enough to now have an undemanding job as a web editor. And with no children at home and no aging parents to care for anymore, time is not really an issue. But how to get things done without outside pressure and deadlines? I have given myself one deadline – publishing a blog post on Fridays. It’s a helpful deadline, that gives me courage and helps me overcome perfectionism, but it’s the only deadline I’m willing to impose on myself.

Some projects come with their own deadlines, like gifts that need to be finished before a birthday, or a child’s cardi that needs to be finished before it is outgrown. Writing this, I’m beginning to see that it’s especially creative things I would like to do just for my own fulfilment that I’m struggling with.

For instance, I have been working on a new shawl design for a long time, planning to publish it in January or February. But first I got side-tracked, and then kept knitting more and more swatches to tweak just one last thing.

At this rate I may be ready to publish this pattern for a nice warm shawl in July or August. Or November. Or never. Does that matter? In the grand scheme of things not in the least. But to me it does.

Having always been driven by deadlines, I am wondering about a more gentle way of getting things done. I do love making things, and there are many creative ideas I’d love to pursue, but somehow I don’t get round to them or I don’t finish them. Apparently love is not always enough. Do you struggle with this, too? Or do you find it easy to take time to just be creative? Do you ever set yourself deadlines? Do you have other strategies? Or are you fine with not finishing things?

I have no idea whether this is an issue for others, too. Anyway, thank you for reading this long and personal post!

More or Less

Hello! And how are things going in your part of the world?

Over here, not particularly well. From the day before yesterday, 10 pm, our country is more or less in a lockdown again. A ‘partial lockdown’ our Prime Minister calls it. The door is still slightly ajar, so to speak.

I’ve been feeling very angry about the whole situation. It isn’t the lockdown itself that bothers me – I can handle that and even think it’s a good idea. It’s the large number of hospital admissions that keeps me awake, the pressure on our care workers, the loneliness among vulnerable people… Again!

In spring the virus took us by surprise, but this time around we knew what we were dealing with. And yet, the numbers of cases have rocketed over the past month. We are now one of the countries with the highest numbers in the world! Why haven’t we been able to prevent this?

Anger isn’t going to help, I know that. But I’m having a hard time getting to grips with it. I’ve been pouring my anger out on paper, been mulling things over during sleepless nights, and been for walks around the village muttering to myself (well, not aloud, but inside). What I’ve come up with is a question, and an answer of sorts, too:

Q: What do I need in order to come to grips with my anger and be able to contribute to society in a positive way again?
A: I think I need more of some things and less of others. Here is a quick list.

LESS news. Over the coming weeks I’ll just read the morning paper and watch the evening news. That’s MORE than enough.

MORE walks.

I need to breathe in MORE fresh air and listen MORE to the wind soughing through the tree tops.

LESS time gazing at screens.

MORE time gazing at the sky and the beauty of nature. (Fortunately we can still do that during our partial lockdown, as long as we don’t do it in groups.)

And MORE time to enjoy small natural wonders.

LESS fuming and ruminating.

MORE pottering around the garden.

LESS worrying.

MORE making.

The latest issue of Making Magazine landed in our letter box on the very Wednesday the lockdown started. The cheerful, sunny picture on the front cover is a close-up of a pair of mittens inside.

I also have two great books about MORE and LESS.

Less: Accomplishing More by doing Less was written by someone with the amazingly appropriate name Marc LESSER.

For me, this is a very helpful book, because I tend to get very (too) busy from time to time. The whole book is about that, and especially the last chapter, Busyness, or Finding the One Who is not Busy. But this time, I leafed to the chapter about resistance. It starts with a quote from Rilke:

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
And try to love the questions themselves.

Finally, a very entertaining and also helpful book about MORE.

It tells us how to tell a good joke, conduct a Japanese tea ceremony, get custody of your pet in a divorce, mend a broken economy and save the world from climate change, just to name a few random examples. The book doesn’t tell us how to deal with a pandemic, but it does tell us how to cope with anger in 4 steps.

Leafing through this book has at least made me feel a little LESS irritable and MORE cheerful.

I fear that we’ll all be faced with partial or complete lockdowns for some time to come. We’ll have to find ways to keep our spirits up and help each other along. I hope you’re more or less okay, wherever you are in the world. What do you need more or less of?

A final remark about my need for MORE making: I’m working on a small project that I hope to share with you in my next post. It isn’t a knitting project, but it does have something to do with knitting. Hope to see you here again next week!


Back in February I decided that, in addition to some simple things and socks, I would also like something challenging to knit. Rummaging through some boxes in a cupboard, I found the kit for a Norwegian cardigan with a leaf pattern that I bought in 2006(!). I was looking forward to finally doing something with it.

To start with, I wrote a blogpost about our visit to the spinning mill in Norway where I bought it. Then I took everything out of the bag.

There were 7 colours of wool, in skeins of different weights. There was an iron-on label, a length of velvet ribbon and a small quantity of thinner wool. And there was a photograph of the cardigan.

The pattern was not included, but that was fine. I already had the book containing the pattern – Poetry in Stitches by Solveig Hisdal. It was the book that had lured me to the spinning mill in the first place.

Poetry in Stitches contains patterns for many cardigans and pullovers, for adults, children and babies, a few children’s hats and a summer top. And there is a muff and a pair of wristlets in an interesting combination of knitting and crochet. It is filled with beautiful photographs, not only of the knitted items, but also of the textiles and folk art from several museum collections that inspired them.

Even if you’d never knit any of the patterns, Poetry in Stitches is a book worth having. Unfortunately it is out of print, but there are some second-hand copies around. I saw one for $ 369! But some more reasonably priced ones, too.

After unpacking and photographing everything, I screwed my ball winder and my umbrella swift to the edge of our dining table and started winding the yarn.

Long ago, I used to wind yarn by hand, while somebody else held up the skeins. It’s a companionable and relaxing thing to do. But if you have many skeins to wind, the set-up with swift and ball-winder is much more efficient.

The result is different, though. Instead of round balls, a wool winder makes yarn ‘cakes’, that are flat on two sides and don’t roll away.

When all the yarn was wound, I put everything neatly together in a basket. I found a corner in the living room for it, and…

… there it has stayed. Untouched. Eight months after I unearthed the kit, I haven’t knit a single stitch. And before that it has lain around for 13 years! This is starting to look like a serious case of procrastination.

We all procrastinate from time to time, I suppose, but I’m not terribly familiar with procrastination. So, why am I procrastinating now? Don’t I want to make this cardigan anymore? Yes, I do. I really do. Lack of time isn’t the problem either – I can find time for all kinds of things. What is it then?

I could sense some question marks, doubts and uncertainties in the back of my mind, but they were rather vague and elusive. Time to bring them out into the open. Time for one of my problem-solving writing sessions.

A notebook, a pen and a big mug of tea, that’s all I need. And sometimes I also use a kitchen timer. As I often do when I’m stuck, I wrote down everything that came up as quickly as I could. I took a break, and then looked at what I’d written. What I saw was lots and lots of question marks.

Taking a closer look, I also saw that they could be grouped into three topics: The knitted fabric, shape and fit, and non-knitting elements.

The knitted fabric

This pattern has much larger motifs than Fair Isle or other stranded knitting usually has, which means long floats at the back. How do I prevent the knitting from ‘pulling’? How do I get a nice and even fabric? How do I get crisp leaves? And how do I prevent the veins from getting lost in the leaves?

Shape and fit

This cardigan is basically a large rectangle with fairly wide sleeves attached. There is no side or shoulder shaping, and no armhole shaping either. Not very flattering. Am I going to knit it as it is, or am I going to do something about it? If so, what and how?

The pattern only has two sizes, which look like Large and Extra Large to me. How do I get the right size? And especially: will I be able to get the sleeves the right length? They look rather on the long side on the model, and my arms seem to be slightly shorter than average. Do I need to shorten the sleeves? And how? They have wide stripes, matching the front and back, that can’t be made narrower. And I can’t just leave a stripe off at the top or at the wrist, can I?

Non-knitting elements

There is a velvet ribbon along the fronts and neck. The ribbon in the kit feels fairly stiff. Is it suitable for sewing onto the softer and more stretchy knitted fabric? Will I be able to sew it on without the ribbon or the knitting buckling? Will I ever be able to get the corners of the square neckline right?

Then there’s a lot of cutting involved. Cutting into knitted fabric is always rather nerve-wracking. I will need to cut the front open to make the tube into a cardigan, and I will need to cut armholes. And in this case, I will also need to cut a large piece out of the front for the square neck and a smaller, curved part for the back neckline. Without the help of any diagrams. Scary! I’m afraid to spoil all those hours and hours of knitting at the last moment.

And then there is the lining. Will it work – a non-stretchy cotton lining inside a stretchy woollen fabric? And where do I find a suitable fabric? At a quilt shop perhaps? Or should I leave it out? What is its function anyway? Is it purely decorative or is it essential for, say, the button holes?

And what about the button holes? They need to be made through both the knitting and the lining. They don’t look particularly nice and neat in the photograph, do they? Will I be able to make them so that they don’t spoil the entire cardigan?

Taking the time to look at what has brought me to a standstill seems to have been really worthwhile. I don’t have the answers yet, but at least now I have the questions out in the open. And, as Aristotle said:

Asking the right question is half the answer.

So, what do I do now? I’ve looked around for ways to deal with procrastination and came across tips about setting goals and deadlines. I’m not happy with those – they feel too much like work. What I did like was an item on WikiHow called How to Overcome Procrastination Using Self Talk. It has some very friendly pieces of advice, like ‘focus on starting rather than finishing’, ‘break a long project down into short tasks’, and ‘make it fun!’

I can do that! My first short task will be ‘knit swatches’ (Duh, any knitting project starts with knitting swatches. Why didn’t I think of that before?). I’ll start with that, without looking too much at all those question marks ahead of me. And making it fun won’t be any problem at all. Knitting is fun in itself, and the yarn and colours are lovely. All I need to do is make a pot of tea, put on some music and start knitting.

How to Choose What to Knit Next

The title of this blogpost may suggest that this is some sort of manual telling you how to choose your next knitting project. Well, it isn’t. It is a question that I’ve been asking myself lately. In reality, the question was more like: How ON EARTH am I going to choose what to knit next??????????

Going by what I see and hear around me, there are more people struggling with this question from time to time. It’s a luxury problem, of course. Our grandmothers knew what they had to knit to keep their families warm – not much to choose there. But we live in different times. Our problem is often that we have too much to choose from. Besides, a knitting project can be quite an investment of time and money, so it’s only logical that we want to make the right decision.

What I did to find the answer

I’d love to give you a step-by-step plan, but I can’t. I’m no master of choosing, and I have no idea what works for others. I can only tell you what I did to find the answer, and hope that’s somehow interesting or helpful.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I’d come to a point when there was nothing on my needles except a pair of socks. And when I’d finished those, there was nothing on my needles at all. I hated that. I felt very uncomfortable with it. And yet, I was unable to cast on something new. Why?

To find the answer, I did what I often do when I’m stumped. I took out a notebook and a pen and started to write.

In brief, my problem-solving writing process works like this:

  • I set a timer for a specific time, say 15 or 20 minutes.
  • I write down everything that comes to mind regarding the problem.
  • When the timer beeps, I ask myself: Anything else?
  • I set the timer again, this time for 5-10 minutes, write some more and put down my pen.
  • Then I read through what I’ve written and usually see a pattern emerging.

What I saw this time was that my inability to choose was an after-effect of my career switch. In my new life I have time, energy and creativity left for some more adventurous knitting than I’ve done in recent years. That’s absolutely wonderful, but it also takes some getting used to. And I can’t be adventurous all the time.

I saw that what I really needed was different knitting projects for different situations, different times of the day/week and different energy levels.

What I needed was:

  • Something simple
  • Something challenging
  • Something to play with
  • Something to take along

After I’d made this little list, it was easy to choose what to knit next. I didn’t have to go shopping for yarn, because I’m the happy owner of an wonderful yarn stash. Another luxury that our grandmothers didn’t have (and I haven’t always had either), and I’m very grateful for it. Here is what I chose for each category.

Something simple

This is ‘Granite’, a stylish cardigan, in a very simple stitch pattern, by one of my favourite designers, Kim Hargreaves. I’m going to make it for our daughter. Just the thing to knit on evenings when I crave some meditative, repetitive knitting. It is knit on small needles, so it should keep me occupied for a while.

Something challenging

I bought this yarn kit for a cardigan with a big leaf pattern in Norway years ago. This feels like a huge challenge, and I’m a bit nervous about sharing it here, because I’m not sure I’m ever going to finish it. But I am looking forward to starting it.

Something to play with

This basket is filled with some new (to me) yarns as well as some left-overs from other projects. Playing with them for me simply means: letting the yarns go through my hands, knitting swatches, experimenting with stitch patterns, and trying out some design ideas that I have.

Something to take along

Simple, lightweight, portable, this Color Play Mohair Scarf is knit in four colours of a lovely mohair-and-silk blend. The yarn is thin, but two strands of yarn in different colours are held together throughout. This is an ideal project for knitting on a train or bus, in a waiting room etc.

Oh, I almost forgot – I’ve also cast on another pair of socks. I just can’t live without a pair of socks on my needles:

Well, I surprised myself there. I’d intended to just introduce some new knitting projects, but it evolved into something more than that. Thank you for reading.

I’ll keep you posted about anything worth sharing about these knitting projects. Next time I’ll tell you where I got the ‘challenging’ yarn kit. I hope you’ll join me on the ferry to Norway.