Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Tuesday, March 18, 2003  

Read Your Knitting orThe Joys of Trial and Error

da Capo

I wrote my lovely (and far briefer!!) essay on reading knitting but blogger ate it and now I can’t seem to pluck the eloquent words out of the air as I did yesterday. But there are a couple of recent posts on the KnitU digest that keep prompting me to give it another go so I shall try. I first heard the term on one of the Elizabeth and Meg videos. I didn’t need it explained to me either - the term described so beautifully what I think we knitters all long for: To be able to pick up our knitting and look at it and know what to do next.

Reading your knitting means that you develop an understanding of what is happening - how stitches grow out of previous stitches - the many ways to make them move in one direction or another - how to stop them or start new ones. It also means understanding not only where you have been, but how you might go somewhere else. I am sure that all skilled knitters read their knitting, but I also believe that most knitters could read kitting much sooner than they do. Just - nobody ever tells them to.

Some of this is the result of the tyrany of the written word. I’ve been fortunate, working in a library for decades, to have developed both a reverence for knowledge and a rather casual attitude for books. Believe me, books wear out or grow useless, but knowledge does not. Also, I am mildly dyslexic and reading is difficult for me. My eyes often don’t even want to look at letters. Fortunately, I do have a facility for understanding written directions, so after my eyes calm down, I actually can read.

A lot of knitters I know really love the comfort and security of a pattern. I’ve even had a student come to me, not to learn knitting techniques, but how to read a pattern. I didn’t understand how to meet her needs at the time, but I realize now that what she wanted was the freedom to knit what she desired. She felt if she could read patterns she would have that. While I believe patterns are useful, even important, I think there is a danger for so many folk, of thinking that if it is written down then it is correct, therefor they must obey. Now - we all know how many mistakes there are in patterns but sadly, these knitters become imprisoned by patterns rather than freed. And not just because of what the patterns or instructions say but also because of what the knitter thinks they say.

A recent post on Knitters Review about knitting into the front loop or the back loop is actually what prompted my meanderings on this subject. The poster asked if you always had to knit into the front loop. Well, either loop could be on the front of your needle depending on what you did when you created that stitch. And besides, how can there be two loops when a stitch is nothing but a single loop? See how language, even commonly accepted idioms, can trip a person up? Kurt Fowler’s KnitU post of yesterday touches on the same issue - how instructions can tyranize over a knitter till she thinks she can’t do something. well. not so. What that knitter needs to do is to actually look hard at what is happening in her knitting. Does the stitch twist when she knits it? Does she want it to? If she knit that stitch a different way, maybe wrapped the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction, would that change how the stitch looks, what it does?

Most of the questions I see about technique can be answered by having the person read her knitting, not the pattern. I practice reading knitting myself. I knit swatches from a Barbara Walker stitch book and after the first repeat I don’t let myself look at the instructions again but instead make myself figure out what I do next by looking at my knitting - by reading it. I want an organic understanding of what is happening and what is supposed to happen next. It involves trial and error, tinking back, ripping out sometimes. But I get such a triumphant feeling when I can finally read what’s happening.

In fact - I realize now, this is exactly how I used to help my son with his homework. Especially his higher math (this from the algerbra II girl). He would bring in his calculous book, frustrated, impatient, and I would say “okay, explain each step you’ve done so far”. As he would go through each step he would invariably find his error himself, solve his problem and then hug me enthusiasticly while crying “Oh mama, I knew you would have the answer.” Hey, we moms take our praise wherever we can get it, right? So he read his math. And we can read our knitting.


Stopped at GotYarn yesterday on the way back from visiting my parents. They are open on Mondays now - hooray - since I go to the city most often on Mondays. Lawsee I want to buy some Aurora8. That yarn is so gorgeous, so luscious, so soft, so springy. Every time I touch the stuff I get hungry and my mouth begins to water.

Funny - I like the way summer knits look, I would love to own summer knits, by golly, I yearned for one of the demo sweaters at the shop! But I just don't want to knit them and I don't want to spend the same $$ on summer knits that I spend on winter things. I understand not wanting to knit them, since I prefer springy sproingy yarns and cotton, linen and silk will never spring, sproing or sprang. But where does this $ prejudice come from? Heck, we have a lot more summer weather than winter weather here in Dixie, so from a cost-per-wear stand, summer knitting is far cheaper. And you buy less, since you knit shorter sleeves, or no sleeves at all.

Just proves my point. People are crazy.

You will be pleased to hear that I ripped out the entire shoulder area of the gold sweater and soaked the kinks out of the yarn. Let's see if I get them right this time. And tonight is the Make your First Sweater knitting class - we're 2 weeks behind now - hope we can start on our yokes. I believe my next project will be that little beaded bagn I bought 2 weekends ago.

posted by Bess | 6:49 AM