I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing Lessons Learned From a Knitter: Pick Up Dropped Stitches and Fill in Holes

BY Delores Topliff
I love my two sons. When they were young, I determined to make homemade, personalized gifts whenever possible. And so, I taught myself knitting from library books.

The first zip-up red sweater with two fun elephants on front and back for my oldest son --then age 3 -- is still in the family. For that kit, I faithfully matched every detail of yarn thickness, color batch, needle size and stitch counts per inch. Knit one, purl two, knit one, purl two. The end result? Perfect -- voted outstanding and still cherished.

But as I gained confidence I improvised more with yarns, thicknesses and needle sizes. Socks, mittens, slippers, head bands turned out great. Some were even from raw wool I carded and spun myself, experimenting with natural dyes. But younger son's orange and yellow fifth birthday sweater drooped around him. To make amends, I next tried a complicated orange and brown Fair Isle pattern that didn't fit him either. Through that process, I learned to choose and plan patterns well and stick closer to them.

Those lessons learned fit other pursuits, including writing.

  1. Establish a clear overall picture of the final product desired. Develop your pattern and stick to it.
  2. Assemble needed materials. Include interesting elements and pleasing colors.
  3. Follow design and faithfully count rows. Unravel mistakes and take time to redo steps correctly. Fill in missed stitches.
  4. Complete final details before showing off your quality piece.
  5. Present your personalized gifts to loved ones -- or your reading public.
  6. Enjoy basking in the joy of a job well-done.
  7. After resting briefly, plan your next project, assemble new materials, set fresh goals -- and repeat the process with joy!

What about you? What key lessons learned in any other field can you share that make your writing easier and more successful?

photo by juliaf/stockxchng.com


  1. Dee, what a wonderful post. I didn't know you knitted. Loved your story about your successes and learning experiences in knitting gifts for others. :) Love how you translated it to writing too. :)

    Having been a teacher, I found that having things organized ahead of time made my teaching time with my students easier. In writing, taking the time before I begin writing to plan has made it easier for the words to flow when I sit down to write. There are probably other similarities, but I'm having trouble thinking of them right now. :) Thanks for sharing this, Dee!

  2. Lisa, I've had the same experience when I made up my own knitting patterns. Great analogy to writing. My Work in pottery has taught me that words have to be coaxed from the mind, just as the clay has to be coaxed. Forcing, in either medium, results in disaster.
    Great post!

  3. Don't sew.
    Don't knit.
    Don't do anything crafty at all.
    And I guess that's a lesson in and of itself.
    Know your strengths and weaknesses -- and avoid your weaknesses at all costs.

  4. Dee,

    I can definitely compare planning a painting or drawing to constructing a story. The concept, sketch, structure, selecting colors to bring in--or leave out, emotion I'm trying to convey, looking beneath the surface, revisions and discoveries along the way...

    I like the plug for the library too!

    Julia Matuska

  5. I appreciate the comments. I think almost all experiences teach us more about and enhance our writing, which is certainly a major craft in itself (Beth). And, I will always plug libraries--they are some of my favorite and happiest places.

  6. And Pat, I love your word "coaxed" above--so appropriate. Dee

  7. Dee! I'm so sorry! Didn't see your name below the post and since I didn't know you knitted, I just assumed Lisa wrote this post! *blush*

    You'll have to join us over at the knitting corner.

  8. I've done theater my whole life, and one lesson I've learned is to practice, practice, practice. Practice doesn't always make perfect, but practice improves us and our craft--whether it be on the stage or in our own crafted literary world.

  9. Haha, Beth's comment made me laugh! I'm not a knitter either...or crocheter or seamstress or pretty much anything involving needles or stick-hook-things...:) But your analogy was fun. I especially liked these two words: "resting briefly." :)

  10. Don't blush, Pat, and I'm so in that or any craft corner. I've tried and enjoyed some of the strangest crafts. Tanning moose hides (at least part way) and then hand-sewing Bible cases for my sons out of the leather--probably more unforgettable than the sweaters. Those of you who claim you're not "crafty" have some amazing skills that may not fit that exact category, but boy, howdy, they stack up quite creditably. And if we were to consider computer and other technology skills--now I'm blushing.

  11. I loved this and so relate, with my own knitting, sewing, etc. Thanks for this very thoughtful post!

    Someone mentioned pottery. One of my closest friends, a very creative woman, shared something with me that her pottery teacher had told her: "Don't be afraid to smash the bad ones." This teacher told my friend she couldn't get really good until she wasn't afraid to get rid of the junk. She trusted her teacher enough to try it. And she said it has made a huge difference in her ability to create lovely pieces.

    At the time she told me this, I was overwhelmed with the amount of work I'd put into a story that was going nowhere. Papers were everywhere because I'd written it without a computer on a 6-week writing sabbatical. With only a moment's hesitation, I tossed it ALL in the trash. Sighed with relief. And started a new story (that is going somewhere).

    I'm not saying anyone should do the same, just that it worked for me.

  12. Oh! Patti, that took courage. But every line you write makes the next line better. Wishing you well on this new story.

  13. Love it, and believe it's true--though I'm still sorry I threw all my writing in the school waste basket at end of 6th grade when I was off to bigger and better things . . .

  14. Patty
    I soo relate! I threw my first novel in the trash because I knew it would not glorify God. (Long story on that one)

    Now I make a new file on the PC sometimes every few days. Other times, I just delete and tell myself "There's more where that came from," and there is.

    Great post Dee!

  15. Dee, Loved this post! I'm still waiting for the day when you begin writing a lightly fictionalized version of your life. You've done and seen so many fascinating things. Learning to knit from library books. Tanning moose hides. Making jewelry. What next?

  16. I loved reading all the comments. I crochet and I can def. emphathize with starting all over. What works best for me? I start with a general plan and go from there. I must start with direction then I can finish without stressing. Works great for my writing life as well!

    Alena T.