April 30, 2018 2 min read

Every good boy does fine, Kings prefer chocolate over fudge generally speaking, Roy G. Biv.  These crazy nonsensical phrases are all a type of mnemonic device that helped me remember things I had to learn in school.  The notes of a treble staff, the 7 levels of biological taxonomy, and the colors of light in the visible spectrum.  None of these lists has been particularly useful to me as an adult, but still I remember them 40 or more years later.  Even now when I need to think about upcoming months, I hear myself thinking, Thirty days, hath September...  That's how powerful, and useful, mnemonic devices are.

If you've taken beginning knitting with me, you are probably laughing and thinking to yourself, Under the fence; Catch the sheep; Back you go, and Off you leap.  Some students love the rhyme and say it over and over as they knit.  Sometimes they feel silly at first, but it really works.  Students who learn this little rhyme rarely have the telltale holes in their fabric that indicate they've missed Back you go

Like so many physical skills, knitting is about muscle memory, but your brain has to remember the steps well enough for your muscles to learn them.  Even professional dancers, skaters, and gymnasts use similar devices to learn their long and complicated choreographed routines.  They name little chunks of their program and say those names in their head as they visualize themselves performing and again as they actually do.  Their performance music helps, I'm sure, but you can bet they know those moves cold, even without the music. 

As knitters, we can use the same techniques to help us become better and more intuitive knitters.  As the sheep verse reminds new knitters of each step in a stitch, repeated rhythms can help us stay on track whether it's as simple as knit 2 purl 2 or something more complicated.  As I knit the skagen shawl I say to myself, k2tog, k2tog, yarnover knit 1, and so on.  Repeating the pattern is meditative as well.  Like focusing on your breath, or repeating a mantra while you meditate, saying your stitch pattern can be a way of staying present and being mindful.  If I'm thinking about stitches and saying them in my mind, I'm not thinking or worrying about anything else.  I'm here, right now, and I'm knitting. That's all, and it's good.  I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table. You are always welcome here.


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