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I don’t feel like knitting.

There, I said it. I thought it would be a little harder to admit than that. It’s weird – like I’ve got amnesia or suddenly had some aspect of my personality turned off. Knitting and the urge to knit are like some kind of internal barometer to me – like when I’m too sick to knit, man I’m really sick. Too busy can also apply. But currently I am healthy and I’ve been busier. Hmmm.

I keep picking up needles. I’ve started three new seductive projects – even small things, even silk and cashmere yummy things. Nope, still don’t wanna. What is this about – as though some deep part of myself is in peril. I don’t want to knit! I reach a little deeper. And, without the knitting, I have time and space to actually contemplate this – what is up with the not wanting to knit?

Then the glimpse of realization comes through – I’m just not inspired. Whoa, not inspired. But this is my thing, my life, my career. After the self-scrutiny lifts I look again. Wait – I am inspired, but I am inspired BEYOND the needles.

So I realize this is an opportunity for contemplation – real meditative contemplation. Contemplation is a meditation practice that I have been working with recently. Having a simple notion, idea or feeling, and just hanging out with it. It’s a little different if you haven’t done it before. You don’t really think about anything, you “be” with it. Now, I know that sounds a little bit woo-woo, but really, it’s quite a bit of work. Actually, in some ways it’s exactly what happens when I knit. I am engaged with my handwork and it’s as if the left side of my brain is busy with the mechanics and the pattern, and there is some space where things just kind of float around.

You know what I mean, I know you do. You know how it is when you are knitting, and images or flashes just sort of come through, and you might sort of notice them and let them go as you drop a stitch, need to count or get distracted by something. That’s very similar to what happens in Contemplation Meditation; the challenge, of course, is to just let it keep flowin, not hanging on to any one thing or favoring something more than another. Flowing – just like the yarn through your fingers and the stitches building row by row, making fabric.

But, I’m really not into making loops that build fabric right now. Right now it is a beautiful day. An amazing, clear, no-clouds Rocky Mountain sky is out there – with the burgeoning apple trees and the beginnings of the garden. My inspiration is not dormant, it’s outside – outside of my self, outside of my needles, outside in the sunshine.

I’ve been struggling with this a bit. Really, how can I not want to knit? Well, I think I’m being filled up by all the magic and events of late Spring and early summer. I’m also being drawn to other forms of expression, to media outside of fiber arts (gasp). I’ve read a lot of memories and stories from artists who talk about the need for dormant time – dormant time that is not really dormant but in fact is very full and meaningful. For example, many musicians are also visual artists – most notably among my favorites are Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney – even Bono tries his hand at pen and ink work. They express the importance of rotating their medium for expression – as if when one form gets used up, the other replenishes the inspiration for the first.

So, I contemplate this. It’s not really being stuck in the way I’ve talked about before. It’s actually exciting. It’s a very interesting way of turning outward instead of looking inward for flashes of image, inspiration and color. And, then I see that, for right now, this is my form of expression – this looking and seeing. So I look, I see, and I make note of a particular shade of green that really turns me on. I recall the amazing hand-built slate stone wall I saw during travels that looked like a stitch pattern to me. Then the romance is rekindled; inspiration is everywhere (but not on the needles). It will make its way there soon enough.

Meantime, maybe you are not a summer knitter. I know many people who are just too busy for a project during this time of year, or just don’t want a big wad of knitted fabric in progress sitting in their laps when it’s 80F degrees outside. Some people simply can’t stand the idea of having wool in their hands during summer heat.

Maybe for all of us, during this magical summertime, filled with late evening sunshine and family adventures, the expression of our knitting is out there with us. We are collecting little this's and that’s and putting them in the pockets of our creative imagination for easy access when the right time comes. Then, we have them at hand and we can contemplate them. Contemplate the richness of a day spent doing “nothing” with loved ones, the feeling of contentment we get from being in the world after many chilly days inside. We can let the waves of thought and feeling ebb and flow, noticing which come back to us over and over, and which just keep floating away with the shapes of the clouds in the summer sky.

Enjoy these soft days and all the richness they offer. Let me know if you are finding stitch patterns in nature, or flashes of ideas for the perfect project while you are out there on the beach. As for me, I know my passion and unyielding (relentless) desire to knit will return again soon. And when it does, I will have a rich reserve of inspiration collected during my time away from the needles.

And it has already begun as I’m on my way to go watch bugs and blow some bubbles with Zane.


Tara Jon Manning is a designer, and author of five books. With her book “Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft” she pioneered the Mindful Knitting movement, and invites knitters and readers alike to apply the instruction of basic mindfulness meditation to the work of their hands. Among her other books are the newly released “Nature Babies” and “Men in Knits.” She lives with her family in Boulder, Colorado.

Visit to learn more about Tara’s Mindful Knitting retreats and workshops, and her blog, Earth-Sky-Knitter, for musings on life, knitting, dharma and motherhood.