One sweater. Four days.
I woke up that Thursday with a bee in my bonnet. I had a list of a hundred things to do, but I was aching for instant gratification and I felt like maybe I needed a distraction from the forty other knitting-related things on my to-do list. Sometimes you need to take a break from your knitting by doing some other knitting.
I had 7 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter burning a hole in my stash, a relatively low-key weekend ahead, and a pattern I’d been meaning to redesign for the last few years but hadn’t gotten around to yet.
But the only way I could squeeze it into my schedule was if I knit it really, really quickly. Like, four days quickly.
I thought… why not challenge myself to a solo speed knitting competition? On a whim, I posted my goal on Instagram and started making videos for my Instastories to share my progress.
But let me back up a bit. Here’s how the project got started, and where it went from there.
The first day (before the project):
5-7 AM – Checked email. Made coffee. Made a to-do list for the upcoming day and looked over my notes for the weekend. I tweaked the outline for my newly revised pattern (previously known as Be Water) and wondered when I’d possibly have time to knit the sample. Maybe next year?
7 AM – Right about the time the third cup of coffee made its way into my hands, I had an epiphany. I checked my stash and retrieved seven skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (in Hayloft). I looked at the calendar again.
I had four magical days with few commitments; no major deadlines, no big appointments, no real plans. This never happens, and that’s all the extra time I had – four days. By Monday, life was back in full mambo and there was no wiggle room.
Is four days enough time to knit a whole sweater?
7:48 AM – I think I’m going to do this.
8 AM – I cast on. Size 38. 4mm needles.
Day One: My goal for the first day was to make it to the sleeve divide. I worked with intention but I didn’t go crazy; I got up and made lunch, ran to the store, made dinner and took potty breaks. It wasn’t speed-knitting, but it was focused. And partway through the day I thought, heck – maybe I’ll post this idea on Instagram to hold myself accountable. Either it will be a fun sprint to the finish with friends to cheer me on, or a slightly embarrassing public knitting display. I shared the story with my Instagram friends, I knit, and I held my breath a little bit. By the end of day one I’d hit my goal and gave myself a little pat on the back.
Day Two: I’ll be honest – I got a little bit cocky. After the success of Day One, I approached Day Two a bit too nonchalantly. I ran one too many errands and let distractions get in my way. My goal for the second day had been to finish the remainder of the body (minus the front ribbing), but I only made it to the bottom of the body with the lower ribbing still left to do. I posted Instagram stories throughout the day and told viewers that I’d fallen a bit behind. The reality was this: I thought I’d lost my chance to finish on time and had already started to wonder if I should brace for an unfortunate, disgraceful fizzle.
By the end of the day I was knitting furiously to make up for lost time… and I forgot to take a picture for posterity.
Day Three: My goal for day three was to finish what I’d missed the day before (lower ribbing) plus the ribbing around the front AND at least half a sleeve. As with day two, the day didn’t go quite as I’d planned. I had a long lunch with my son (totally worth it), did a few chores and had to take care of business details that couldn’t wait, so I managed to only get as far as finishing all the ribbing (lower ribbing and front). When I finally fell into bed that night I thought for sure I was going to need an extra day. I don’t love knitting sleeves as it is, but knitting two of them in one day? I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.
Day Four: The discouragement I felt the night before had dissipated and I thought maybe, just maybe, I might still be able to finish on time. I cranked out the last few skeins on my swift and set-up the day’s knitting station on the back patio so I could chat with my husband as he worked in the yard.
There was a moment partway through the morning on Day Four that I considered making it a short-sleeve sweater. Yes, this would have been a) a bad decision, and b) basically cheating, so I stuck with my original plan, but I think it’s only fair that I admit it crossed my mind.
I finished the first sleeve by noon.
The finish line was within reach, so I poured myself a tall glass of kombucha, posted a last progress update to my Instagram story, and went straight to the second sleeve.
It was on Day Four, somewhere around 3:00 PM that my enthusiasm for the project started to wane. Prior to that point it didn’t feel like a chore; I never felt like I was rushing. I was focused, but not obsessed. But that afternoon, the project did – finally? – feel like I’d bitten off more than I could chew. It might be that I was on my second sleeve of the day, or just that I was powering through the most ambitious day of the project, or that four days is an unreasonable goal for sweater knitting, but I was bordering on cranky.
I was ready for it to be over.
I knew I really could finish that second sleeve. But did I want to?
I remember a moment when I stared down at the last half-finished sleeve and realized I had a choice to make. I could take a break, finish the sleeve tomorrow and call it almost-good, or I could stick to my goal and power through the home stretch.
This was my (cheezy and totally self-imposed) marathon, and I wasn’t going to quit on the last leg of the race. I stretched my legs, and – since it was wine-thirty – I poured a glass of something red and kept going.
I finished around 9:00 PM that night, cursing my way through the last few inches of the sleeve.
I didn’t weave in the last few ends that night, and I couldn’t get a decent photo because the light was long-past gone, but I finished. Here’s the photo from the next morning…
That morning, Day Five, I filmed a somewhat-dorky Instagram story using the theme song from the movie Rocky because that’s how triumphant I felt. I wove in the ends (prior to 8 AM so it technically landed within the official “four day” mark) and I sat back and reveled in the glory of my knitting marathon.
I’d done it. I’d knit an entire adult-size sweater – even the sleeves and ribbing – in four days. I surprised even myself.
Granted, it didn’t mean a whole lot except that I set a somewhat-crazy goal, I made it public, and I achieved it.
Is it weird to say that I learned a few lessons along the way?
- I really really love knitting, and – to my surprise – the deadline didn’t ruin it this time (perhaps because I didn’t have time to think about whether or not the deadline was bothering me).
- Two sleeves in one day is cray-cray and I probably won’t do it again unless I have to.
- Even though my deadline was self-imposed and didn’t mean much to anyone but me, the fact that I did it meant I could do it again if I had to. I hope I’ll remember this next time I start to doubt myself; chances are, if I set my mind to it, I can do it. (Although I have to admit, telling the whole world – or at least my whole Instagram world – probably helped me stick with it, so thank you.)
You can find the Stillwater sweater here.