In January, I did something against my better judgement. I joined some online friends in participating in Yarnathon, EatSleepKnit’s yearlong gamified knitting event. This is my first year of participating; I watched my friends working on it last year and I’ll admit I did have a bit of FOMO as I lurked in the Yarnathon channel. It’s been a bit of a struggle to catch on, since most of these knitters have done it for many years running, but I’m managing. It’s got enough different ways of earning points, yardage, and badges that it pretty much offers something for everyone from flash challenges and year long challenges to stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new skills. The technologist in me can really appreciate the gamification of knitting but I have to admit, the knitter in me chafes at some of the rules of the game. What’s even more interesting to me are the things I’m learning about myself, nine years into knitting as a past time.

  • I do like knitting with small groups, but not big ones.
  • I don’t like starting projects if I don’t know at the outset what it will look like.
  • I do like being challenged — but when I get to choose the challenge.
  • I do like buying yarn.
  • I don’t like being forced to buy yarn.
  • I do like having check ins on big projects — but to keep me on task, not to win a prize.
  • I do love spreadsheets.
  • I don’t like random knitting deadlines. There’s already enough of them in real life.
  • Finally, I really resent not being able to knit the projects I want in the yarn I want.

I think, all in all, that last one is what frustrates me the most. All Yarnathon projects must be knit with yarn purchased from ESK (who, as a random aside, has an amazing kickass invoicing system that does an unbelievable job of tracking your purchases. Seriously, it’s awe inspiring). Don’t get me wrong — I get that this event is a lot of effort throughout the year and I also acknowledge that for a small yarn shop, there’s always got to be a way to leverage the games to their advantage. But I do get frustrated at not being able to use the readily available resources that I’ve already purchased over the years. The game gets you amped up to knit, and I’ve already got a lot of sweet yarn matched up to projects to knit, just waiting in the wings. I’d really love to be able to whittle down that list a bit, you know? I’ve also never been monogamous to a single store; instead I shop wherever I travel and purchase local yarn when I can. So yeah, my stash was a significant size before I ever decided to join the Yarnathon groupthink. But it got significantly bigger over the first couple of months, as I bought a not insignificant amount of yarn from them just to be able to participate. Maybe that’s just the entrance price you pay to join the game. But you know it’s craziness that I hit the 10K yard mark on my birthday — which is in mid-January. Enough said, and nobody breathe a word of this to TheCop or I may have to kill you. #manslaughterismessy

Overall, I’ve come to realize I knit when I feel like knitting, on projects I want to knit. I don’t knit just to hit some benchmark; I knit because I enjoy the process of creating and the journey along the way. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to best play the game but, now that I’ve learned more about why I knit and what sort of projects I gravitate towards, I’m able to do a better job of balancing between Yarnathon projects and non-Yarnathon projects. I’ve learned I’m pretty good at making projects qualify for multiple badges (great ROI on my effort!); but I can also easily get caught up in the yardage race (not such a great ROI on my wallet. Repeat after me, Robin: “YOU DO NOT NEED MORE YARN”). It’s also getting easier to take a break and work on something just because I want to, and not because it will earn a badge. The nicest thing is, I have friends that help me when I need it and offer a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. That’s probably what I love most about the challenge, and that has nothing to do with spending money. Just knitters being knitters, yo.

Game on.