Mindless Knitting
February 19, 2013 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Hi all, I think I want to knit something again! I am trying to watch more movies but I need something to do with my hands. What should I knit? Particular requirements inside.

Things to know about me:

1. I have made a few scarves before
2. I have more than enough scarves
3. I can knit and purl but I am not a very good knitter
4. In fact I barely know anything about knitting at all
5. I don't want to have to count anything

I was thinking maybe a big blanket, just all in garter stitch? Maybe with big stripes?
But how would I do that? On circular needles? What size yarn or needles should I use?

Or do you have another idea?
posted by exceptinsects to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Can you increase and decrease? If so, you might be a good candidate for The Beekeeper's Quilt. The cast on and bind off are a little tricky initially, but they're easy to adjust to. The middle part of each puff is just knitting, with a few increases and decreases in predictable places.

I've been making puffs as movie watching/lecture class knitting for a couple months now, and I'm still nowhere near having enough for a full quilt. This'll keep you busy for a while.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:33 PM on February 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

About 10 months ago I moved in with my bf to a new city which coincidentally happened to also be a couple blocks away from an amazing yarn shop and thus got interested in knitting again. Before my reawakening in yarn, I had made a hat and a few scarves, but remembered nothing past knitting and purling and was unsure of how to read a pattern. Thanks to the wonders of ravelry, I taught myself how to read patterns and have successfully knit many things in the past 10 months, including socks and mittens!

This is the pattern I used to knit socks (which took me a couple months and while parts were really in-depth, there were many parts that were equally mindless).

The mittens I made are found on Ravelry (requires free sign-up) and were so easy/fun that I made two pairs.

On preview, that blanket looks hella fun and super mindless! Feel free to memail me if you have any questions about starting knitting again. I thought I was doomed to knit scarves my entire life until I tried the sock pattern linked and felt much more confident in my abilities.
posted by ruhroh at 8:56 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really like knitting hats for semi-mindless and relatively quick projects. While there are certainly a lot of complex knitted hat patterns out there, a lot of hats are simply stuff like "cast on [number of stitches] and then do some ribbing or whatever for however many inches," then you do a few quick rows of decreases for the crown. That is it. I made this man hat (for myself, not a man) and it was good. Here's another unisex simple ribbed watch cap that I made last year and it came out really well - you need to be on Ravelry to see the pattern: F003 Encore Ribbed Watchcap
I tend to prefer projects that involve worsted or bulky weight yarn myself. For a blanket, I'd probably get bulky weight if not super bulky.

If the hat thing interests you, you'd need a few little things. I recommend getting 16" circular needles. I have them in size 7 and size 10.5, depending on if I've got a worsted weight or bulky weight project. I love knitting in the round. You will also need the same size DPNs for when you start decreasing. And stitch markers. But once you have those things, you're all set.

Also, join Ravelry if you're not there already. Their advanced pattern search is amazing.
posted by wondermouse at 8:58 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd go with a garter stitch blanket. They're great for just whittling away shows and films on Netflix and are really easy once you've set up the cast on.

Just off the top of my head, to make a mindless garter stitch blanket I would:

- use worsted weight yarn, probably in an acrylic/wool mix, probably Lion Brand Wool-Ease, as it's easy to find at stores like Joanns/Michaels, comes in a wide range of colours and is machine washable.

- I'd pick three different colours and get two skeins of each colour, perhaps varying shades of a single basic colour. Most skeins of commercial worsted weight yarns come out to around 200-250 yards, and a good sized blanket should use at least 1000 yards.

- definitely use a circular needle. For this kind of project, I like to use 40" circular needles, usually around a size 9. Smaller or bigger won't matter much. If you can get hold of something other than metal needles (I like bamboo!), this will make the task more enjoyable.

- cast on around 200 stitches. I wouldn't bother worrying about this part too much, as long as it seems long enough to you, it will probably be fine.

- first I'd knit until I ran out of one colour. Then move onto the next one. If it starts to get too long, bind off, join yarn to the longest side, start knitting again and you'll get a funky log-cabin style blanket.

- depending on your skills, crochet a quick border to finish the sucker off.

- bonus tip: if you need help with a basic cast on/bind off or joining a second colour, youtube has a plethora of how to videos. So many, it's better to trawl through until one makes sense to you personally.

It really is that easy. As long as you don't drop any stitches, it really won't matter if you're a "good" knitter - garter stitch is forgiving and you'll definitely be a better knitter by the end of it!
posted by saturnine at 9:02 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hats. A friend gave me the basics on how to knit in circles and then I essentially taught myself how to knit hats. I got bored of making scarves and I have made batches of hats now. You don't need to count or really know anything, you just need a set of connected needles - those are the ones that are two usually smallish knitting needles with a kind of plasticky cord connecting them - and bravery. Basically, cast on about half the stitches you think you will need for a hat. Wrap it half way around your head to see if it's half. Then slide all the stitches to the other needle and knit yourself into a circle. Continue knitting a circle until it seems to have assumed vaguely hatlike dimensions. Then start decreasing stitches bit by bit until lo, you have like no more to decrease. At that point you can get skinnier knitting needles and slide them in there and keep decreasing and / or you can get a big sewing needle and just sort of stitch the whole thing up together - I do a combination of the two. Voila! You have a hat! It will not be all perfect and stuff but it is undeniably a hat that you have made. Hurrah! It is kind of amazing that you have a hat! I make them all the damn time now and continually astound myself.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:04 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could mindlessly make more scarves of the same length, and then mindfully stitch them together to make a blanket.
posted by dreamling at 9:08 PM on February 19, 2013

One of my family's favorite blankets (we fight over it) is a mindless knitting project I did. I don't remember how many stitches I cast on, but I had a long circular needle (40"), size 8 or 9, and a bunch of worsted weight yarn. I used up a bunch of odds and ends I had, then just bought some extras. The yarns didn't match, and although the labels all said worsted, some were heavier or lighter, so it's a little lumpy looking. But I cast on a bunch of stitches and knitted back and forth until it was big enough. It's pretty ugly, but it's comfy and warm and we all love it and I don't care if the cats snag it. If you think you'd like a blanket, you can't get any more mindless.
posted by upatree at 9:10 PM on February 19, 2013

Best answer: You are a good candidate to make a Log Cabin Blanket (1) (2)! If you can cast on, knit (no need to purl, even), bind off, and pick up stitches from a bound-off or cast-on edge, you can make this blanket. From my experience, if you use good quality, nice-feeling yarn in colours you like, and knit at a tighter gauge, it will turn out beautifully.

Here is a tutorial that shows you the technique for making log cabin washcloths. When you have that technique down you can expand to making a blanket. Here is a video tutorial for a blanket--it involves knitting blocks and then seaming them together. If you don't want to do that, just keep going around and around with the "logs" until you have a square as big as you want it. Or a rectangle, whatever you would like. Once you get the hang of how to log cabin, you can make the blanket whatever shape and configuration you like.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:14 PM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

If you want true mindless blanket knitting, you want Purl Bee's Super Easy Baby Blanket. If you want something that requires a brain cell or two, I'd suggest a log cabin blanket (Ravelry link, has link to the free PDF). Garter stitch your heart out.

But blankets are kinda terrible because (1) they take so long that you have a deep hate for the blanket before you reach the halfway point, and (2) they take so much yarn that they end up costing a lot.

So hats, definitely hats. Turn a Square is a popular easy one. Robin's Egg Blue is pretty easy, but has seed stitch (alternating knit and purl, super easy) and then picking up stitches.

Hats are magical because you can crank them out crazy fast and everyone needs hats, one of every color.
posted by katieinshoes at 9:16 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

My neighbor knits dishcloths like it's going out of style. They're quick, they don't take a ton of yarn, you can get fancy and practice hard stitches if you want but a basic square is totally mindless, and everybody LOVES them. She gives them away by the dozens at Christmas time and people go nuts for them. They're actually really sturdy and useful in the kitchen, mine from her have lasted for years.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:22 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The only thing with hats is that I live in San Diego and you really don't need a lot of hats here! I have several that I never wear. Also I have SO MUCH HAIR that it keeps my head warm. :-)

I do like the log cabin blanket idea.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:36 PM on February 19, 2013

You could make washcloths. Lily yarn Sugar n Cream has lots of free patterns.
posted by pickypicky at 10:39 PM on February 19, 2013

I was going to recommend a log cabin blanket: it's mindless, you're not necessarily knitting a huge piece of cloth all at once, and I think they look great. I made one out of Cascade Eco Wool a few years ago and it's still one of my favourite knits.

Cardigans and pullovers are great, too, especially when knit in the round. There is some counting involved, but with well placed stitch markers you can go a long, long time without needing to even look down at your knitting. Something like the Featherweight Cardigan (Ravelry link; it's really worth signing up) or the Incredible Custom Fit Raglan (ditto) would both be easy, satisfying projects that don't require heaps of attention at all.

One more: socks! I knit heaps of socks while reading and watching movies. Again, there's a bit of counting involved for the heel and the toes, but for a plain sock, everything else is mindless.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:38 AM on February 20, 2013

You could knit and donate cancer hats.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:48 AM on February 20, 2013

Try knitting in the round on circular needles. You just knit and knit and knit and keep going and going and you never have to count or look down or change needles or anything.

After you're satisfied with your tube, you can make a hat, gloves, socks, leg warmers... all sorts!
posted by p1nkdaisy at 1:57 AM on February 20, 2013

Maybe this isn't what you're looking for, but I make socks with self-striping yarn for when I want brainless knitting.

My pattern is literally this: cast on some stitches using a figure eight cast on. Increase every other row until the sock fits over your big toe and three smaller ones. Knit straight until you're almost at your heel. Do some short rows (which I don't count, I just eyeball it), and then knit in some sort of rib for a while. Cast off.

Socks can be super complicated and pretty and fancy, but they totally don't have to be. I find them less intimidating than blankets, etc, and because they work up quickly, I feel like I'm accomplishing something. The entrelac blanket that I'm working on, on the other hand, is still in the closet, *cough* months/years later. Log cabins are even worse, because seaming. (Who has twenty squares of blanket, still not stitched up? That'd be me.)
posted by MeghanC at 5:58 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this with crocheting, but knitting would be fairly similar. I made a big nautical-striped bedspread over about six months in cream and navy acrylic, and I get compliments on it all the time. I liked the chunky, ~5 inch stripes, because it lent a sense of accomplishment every time I finished one and was a good natural stopping point. The acrylic was cheaper (still about $100 in total for a queen sized bed) and it's totally washable. It gets washed and dried and there is literally a mat of cat hair in the lint trap from my cats laying on my bed all day. I think you could easily do something similar in a garter stitch. Go for it!
posted by amileighs at 7:08 AM on February 20, 2013

Best answer: You could also just make a crapton of squares, of any size and with any yarn you want, and just save them up until you have enough to patch together into a blanket. That'd be a great way to also practice with new stitch patterns. (I'm doing exactly this with all of the random acryllics I have - I'll use them all up in patches, and then take all the patches and assemble a whole bunch of baby blankets or other blankets and then donate them places.)

Or check out the Ten Stitch Blanket. That's a little like the Log Cabin, only you only pick up one stitch on the side as you go. That'd be a good way to use up a big bunch of self-striping sock yarn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh - or this shawl. It is just garter stitch, with a row of "knit 2 together - yarn over" every so often.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on February 20, 2013

I came here to suggest the Ten Stitch Blanket, but I see that Empress Callipygos has beaten me to it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

A mitered square blanket (in garter stitch -- stockinette stitch will drive you bonkers) can be pretty mindless, as you just decrease on either side of a marker.

It's also nice because you can decide to knit it in blocks and do cool things with lining up the stripes (Mason Dixon Style), or you can knit on as you go to avoid sewing up (Shelly Kang Style)

If I was going to start a mindless knitting project right now, it would probably be a log cabin blanket though.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:56 AM on February 20, 2013

If you do try a blanket and get kind of burned out on it half way through (I have been there) a lot of animal shelters will take things like that to put in the cages with the animals. You can also just mindlessly knit these things using all the odds and ends you have, it's not like the animals are going to care if it's ugly
posted by timesarrow at 10:01 AM on February 20, 2013

The best clothes for taking pans out of the oven are knitted ones just use a nice thick pure cotton "wool". Every professional chef I know loves these, I have 2 my grandma knitted years ago I still use. You just knit a square to whatever size you want.

There are a lot of fun dishcloth patterns out there too.
posted by wwax at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2013

Another cool, tremendously mindless pattern is the One Row pattern from Yarn Harlot. Gorgeous for scarves, but I've also made some pretty blankets with it. The faux-ribbing is fun!
posted by artemisia at 11:00 AM on February 20, 2013

Best answer: If you live in a place where it doesn't get cold enough for hats (she said, looking at the mounds of snow outside), worsted weight yarn might give you a blanket that's too warm. It would take longer to knit, but a DK or sportweight yarn would be lighter.

Or you could consider a cotton-blend yarn instead of 100% acrylic or wool. Cotton blends will usually be drapier than 100% cotton yarns, which is a nice quality in a blanket. Lion Brand makes one called Baby's First Yarn which is available at big-box craft stores like Michaels, or Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece is really nice to work with if it's in your budget. I'm sure there are many other options at various price points but I haven't looked at cottons much lately.

I know you want to keep this simple and if you were in my knitting group you wouldn't believe I was suggesting this, but you might want to consider your gauge before settling on a needle size. I knit very loosely, so if I made a blanket with worsted and an 8 or 9 needle, it would resemble a fishing net. With DK or sportweight, it would resemble a really big fishing net. If you've made scarves you should have some sense of whether you knit loosely or tightly (or exactly on gauge, in which case you don't have to do any adjusting) . There's a handy guide to yarn weights and needle sizes here.

(If you join Ravelry come by the Metastitcher group and say hello.)
posted by camyram at 11:50 AM on February 20, 2013

Response by poster: Actually the funny thing about San Diego is that many people (especially those like me with older houses) don't have much in the way of central heating or cooling, so for example right now it's about 60 degrees both outside and inside! Therefore a cozy blanket is just the thing.

Thanks all for the great suggestions! I'm on Ravelry now as 'Marianthe'.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:55 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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