Knitting can sometimes be really boring: get a pattern with not much changing from row to row, and there really isn’t anything for the brain to do. Listening to music or NPR is always a good option, but sometimes I would rather read. For those of you who want to keep that brain active, even through the depths of garter stitch, I have devised a recipe for How to Read while Knitting.
You will need:
- a trade paperback book
- a banana
- a flat armrest
- a simple knitting project
Settle yourself in your favorite knitting spot; mine happens to have a flat armrest. Place the book open on the armrest, weighting it into submission with the banana. If your spot lacks an armrest, try putting a pillow on the cushion next to you as a book stand. Now your book will happily stay open, leaving your hands free to pick up your knitting.
Today’s book is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Choosing a book can be an important factor. Trade paperbacks tend to work best; their flexible spines almost always prop open successfully. I have had limited success with smaller paperbacks or hard covers. The book’s content should be interesting, but not too engrossing–I might neglect my knitting if I’m too excited about the book’s narrative. Save the fabulously inspiring books for a reading-only session.
A banana makes a wonderful book weight. Their weight and length, even their curvature, is almost uniquely suited to the role of a book weight. Much of the banana rests in the margins, leaving 90% of the text readable. The banana requires positional adjustment according to the progress of reading; sometimes it needs to be replaced altogether, if I get a little peckish. For alternate book weights, you might consider using: a knitting notions bag, a stone coaster, or a digital camera.
Choosing a simple knitting project is a matter of individual preference; it must be something you can do without looking at it. Today, I have chosen the sleeves to my Tweedie cardigan; using just one yarn at a time and decreasing every 12 rows, this is mostly plain knitting. I can knit for the width of the sleeve (~60 stitches) without looking away from the book. In choosing a simple knitting project, focus on flat-knit garter stitch designs (such as the most basic dishcloth) or in-the-round stockinette stitch patterns (such as a felted shoulder bag). You’ll be most successful in reading while knitting if your project avoids a lot of K-P changes, cabling, colorwork, or shaping. Think brainless knitting.
Some beginners have difficulty in knitting without looking. To build your confidence, try watching a DVD while knitting. Your eyes can shift from the screen to check on your knitting every little bit, and soon you’ll find you need to check in less and less often.
So here’s a picture of my set up, complete with a Phoebe cat for cuddling: