The Quest For the Perfect Knitting Project

Filed in Skill Building by on June 4, 2014 5 Comments

If knitting is more than occasional hobby, finding, working on and completing the “perfect knitting project” can be a constant yet sometimes elusive goal. After decades of knitting and hundreds of projects later, I believe I have found the secret.


The key to the perfect knitting project is a unique combination of four main characteristics. The challenge is that the correct description for each of the characteristics that makes a project perfect is different from person to person and can even vary for an individual based on their personal state of mind and circumstances. So if you have been worried about multiple WIPs (Work in Progress), worry no more. They each might be filling the role of your “perfect project” at various times.

Appropriate Level

The first characteristic is that the project must be of the appropriate level. As a newer knitter, this might be a limited range, but time and experience can expand the definition of “appropriate”. Keep in mind that appropriate doesn’t necessary mean within your current area of expertise. When you are at a point where you want expand your knowledge and abilities, the appropriate level is beyond your current skills.

By the same token, the appropriate level may be basic garter stitch even for the most expert knitter. An appropriate level is determined by state of mind as much as by ability.

Emotionally Satisfying

As a hobby, knitting should bring us comfort, joy, peace, rest, relaxation or some other positive emotional state. In a time of crisis, knitters often respond by creating projects that will bring comfort to others. If our work environment is stressful, a project that relaxes us is just the ticket.

Although an intricate lace shawl pattern might be emotionally satisfying some days, a mindless garter stitch dishcloth can be the right answer on others. One project rarely works for all states of mind and/or environments.

Excellent Tools and Yarn

Regardless of the project, working with the best tools you can afford for the project selected is key in making a perfect knitting project. Matching the “correct” needle type, style, material and brand to the project can make a huge difference in satisfaction. Although some are loyal to a single line of needles, most knitters discover that different fibers and techniques require varied tools.

In addition to the tools, finding the perfect match of yarn for the intended item is a key element. Whereas a beautiful wool/silk blend in a lace weight will most likely be the perfect match for an heirloom lace shawl. Simple worsted weight cotton is quick, satisfying and appropriate for a dishcloth.

Satisfies a Need

As with the other characteristics, “need” can be defined in a variety of ways. Sometimes the need is to express creativity, create a beautiful project, master a new technique, add to the wardrobe or any of a dozen other needs.  Often the need will tie closely to one of the other characteristics or may be as simple as a means for keeping your hands busy.

My Perfect Project

As you may have guessed by now, recently my perfect knitting project was a dishcloth (well…actually several). Years ago I offered a free pattern for a “No Holes” dishcloth and circular scrubbie that is still available. Last week I had a couple of road trips and discovered that the dishcloth was the perfect project:

  • Appropriate Level: Simple was great — I was listening to a book with Arlis and didn’t want to miss any details.
  • Emotionally Satisfying: I wanted to be productive, but I didn’t want to have to really think much.
  • Tools & Materials: I was able to try out a new pair of needles on something that I wouldn’t have to commit a lot of time in order to finish the project. I wasn’t thrilled with the needles, but now I know!
  • The Need: I have been lamenting the HORRIBLE condition of our dishcloths and realized I had plenty of yarn just waiting to be knit!

What have you worked on recently that was your perfect knitting project?



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Comments (5)

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  1. Linda says:

    For me, socks are perfect. They are portable, mindless and I chose yarns that are pleasing to my eye. While I admire socks that are cabled, color worked or likewise complicated, my feet are happiest in a plain Stockinette sock with a slip stitch heel. To me knitting socks, even easy ones, is magical.

    • gwen_bortner says:

      Even though I completely understand all of the mechanics, turning a heel (regardless of the method) will always be magical!

  2. Polly Shelly says:

    How do you knit the yo for the no holes dishcloth? Frustrated!

    • gwen_bortner says:

      If you wrap the yarn over in the non-traditional direction (as the pattern states), then you knit through the front leg (which is also the trailing leg) to get them to twist close. If you wrap the yarn over in the traditional direction, you can knit them through the back leg (also the trailing leg) to close them.

      Obviously, the trick is to twist the yarn over closed and to make that happen you have to knit through the trailing (not leading) leg of the yarn over.

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