My son is in bed for the night, and my husband is at a baseball game. I have the whole house to myself and time to knit. I curl up in my super comfy reading chair, start up an audiobook, and get out my knitting. Before I know it, the audiobook has skipped ahead a few chapters and my head is sagging over my no-longer-moving knitting needles. Did I fall asleep?
Has something similar ever happened to you? Your day has been busy but finally you have some time to knit, yet you find yourself falling asleep. Perhaps you're working on a lace project and when you fell asleep, several stitches dropped off your needle. Now you're tired and cranky because instead of getting to knit and relax, you've made a mess of your project and you have the stress of trying to fix it. What can you do to stay awake and keep the knitting mess free?
My first suggestion is probably the most important but also might be the most unpopular. Are you getting enough sleep? If you're falling asleep so quickly after sitting down to relax, it could be your body's way of telling you that you need more sleep. I know, I know. You don't want to go to sleep early; you want to knit. If you don't steal some hours from your sleep time, when are you going to find time to knit? I completely get this and I'm guilty of it myself. But if you really need the sleep, make sure to get it.
So you are getting plenty of sleep but you're still nodding off while knitting. What to do?
Do Something Active While Knitting
Although your hands are moving while knitting, the rest of your body is still, which can lead to sleepy feelings. So get more of your body involved while you knit. Tap your foot. Chew gum. Even small movements can help keep your body more actively engaged, which helps keep your mind engaged and awake.
Take Breaks to Get Up and Stretch
Be even more active that the small movements suggested above. After every 15-20 minutes (or after a certain number of rows), put the knitting aside and get up and stretch. Walk into a different room to get your feet moving. Stretch your arms up over your head to work out any kinks in your shoulders. It doesn't need to be an aerobic workout, but get your blood pumping a little more. Then sit down and pick your knitting back up. Keep up this cycle, which will not only help you stay awake but will also help keep your body from getting sore by staying in one place for too long.
Knit in a Different Environment
The image of sitting on your comfy couch or in a rocking chair and knitting sounds so relaxing. But that's part of the problem: it can be too relaxing. So pick someplace else to knit. (I know that I really can't knit while sitting in my comfy reading chair because even with all these suggestions, I still fall asleep, so I no longer do much knitting while in that chair.) Instead of a super comfy chair that invites you to snuggle down (and sleep), sit in a more supportive chair. (This is also good for your body.) If you sit up straighter, you'll be less likely to fall asleep. If you're able to leave the house, try that. Even if it's as simple as going outside and sitting on your back porch, that can help you stay awake. At the very least, try out different ways of sitting to see what position helps you stay awake the most.
Talk to Someone While Knitting
This may be more difficult if you are working on a complicated project and need to really concentrate, but knitting and chatting is a good way of staying awake. Whether it be your spouse or a friend or a big group of other knitters, you're less likely to fall asleep if you're also trying to maintain a conversation. But if you are working on a more complicated project, make sure your conversation partner understands that you're going to need to take small breaks in the middle of the chat when you need that extra concentration. You can jump back into the conversation on the purl back row while you're working on lace, for example. (I usually take a pretty simple project to my local Knit Night, however.)
Knit with Your Head Up (Chin Level to the Ground)
This is probably the most important piece of advice (besides making sure you're well rested to begin with). If you let your head droop, that's a signal to your body that it's time to sleep. And looking down at your knitting or at your pattern is considered head drooping. So put your pattern up higher so you have to lift your head up to see it. (I was cleaning out my closet last weekend and found my old folding music stand. That would be perfect to put my pattern on while I'm knitting, so it will be up at eye level when my head is raised.) Raise your hands while you're knitting. Look up from your knitting more often. (If you're knitting while watching TV, this is a good way of being able to actually watch the images on the screen instead of just listening to the dialogue.)
Have you heard of Carson Demers? He's a physical therapist who focuses on ergonomics. He's also a knitter and spinner, so he's written about and teaches classes about knitting and ergonomics. I'm most familiar with him through the articles he writes for PLY Magazine. A post on his blog talks about the importance of holding your head up while knitting (or spinning). Not only will it help keep you awake, but it's also much better for your body. In the post, he talks about how you can get to the point where you can work without having to look down all the time.
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