Brain no. 7, designed and knitted by Yara Clüver and Althea Crome, from “Brain Extravaganza!” (Jill Bolte Taylor BRAINS, Inc.). Picture taken in Bloomington, Indiana.

We’ve learned from research now that multitasking is ineffective, that it only feels like you’re getting so much done talking on the phone and e-mailing and writing a memo at the same time, but in fact you would get all of those things done much more quickly if you did them individually. Obviously, these researchers have not studied knitters – the ultimate in successful multitaskers.

Take my most recent multitasking challenge: the bedtime ritual these days ends with me sitting in a comfortable chair outside of the kids’ bedroom doors while I sing and knit, a softly lit lamp behind me. The idea is that they are soothed to bed and don’t terrorize their rooms while I get something done! Unfortunately, my singing repertoire has been getting stale and I’m currently knitting the cutest cabled Debbie Bliss booties/baby socks, which means that 1) I need printed lyrics on my lap to learn some fresh songs and 2) I’m trying to follow detailed directions for ankle and foot shaping, it being a typical DB pattern that has to be sewn up (i.e., it’s not as friendly to knit for me as it would be in the round).

One of my “interruptors” touching the beautiful Brain no. 7, designed and knitted by Yara Clüver and Althea Crome, “Brain Extravaganza!”

As many knitters would agree, knitting while talking is no big deal, in fact it helps move along the conversation at times. Sure I might make a mistake here and there, but I would do that if I were knitting and just not concentrating very hard too.  Repetitive knitting  is often left to the memory of your hands, like when you forget how to do a certain stitch or cast-on and you close your eyes to let your hands figure it out on their own. Letting your hands do the work leaves plenty of room in one’s brain to sing or talk or read a book (a la Elizabeth Zimmerman’s recommendation). So it is possible to knit and sing at the same time, but what about knitting detailed instructions while singing?  Apparently, it is possible. I’m even amazed while I do it – I will sing an old, familiar song and not get lost in the lyrics while at the same time I am counting stitches, doing short rows, and following decreases that differ every row.  How can our brains do this, how can they concentrate on two different things at the same time?  Throwing new lyrics in to the mix has slowed me down a little – I may count the stitches several times over while I’m looking at the paper – but after a second I’ll be back knitting! Proof that multitasking is possible and successful.

My zen-like concentration is short-lived, however. One of the kids invariably  gets up and has to go to the bathroom, or needs water, or didn’t say goodnight to daddy, or… the list goes on. Each time, my thoughts of singing and stitches are completely obliterated to the point that I don’t even know what side I’m knitting on, I don’t even remember what song I was trying to learn. If I would stick to just one thing, maybe I wouldn’t get so lost when interrupted…

The socks I made from the Debbie Bliss pattern (but without the cuff). Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the light pink socks for baby Ida. These are for Emory, hoping he doesn’t outgrow them too soon.