Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Knit Thoughts

This is the hint of spring on my front door. Note the stars still on there from Christmas. Seems like I can't quite give up the last season yet either. So I combined 'em!

So I was thinking some more (scary, huh?) about knitting and where my perspective differs from most knitters. As I was saying last time, “they” (other knitters, that is) like to have their yarns in small balls. “I” like big ones and I’m not afraid to turn a skein into a ball or vice versa. I have the tools for this: husband-built adjustable skeiner (winder and swift in one) and ball winder, or if you want to go even lower-tech, niddy-noddy and nostepinde (ball winding stick, see pic above). At the yarn shop, owners/employees have to do this for knitters or, at the very least, set them up with the swift and the ball winder because they don’t seem to have their own tools. Or a handy someone who will hold out his/her arms. Somehow getting their own equipment for this never occurs to them. After all, the service is available in-store. Why should they invest in things they might only need once in awhile? Guess I need them more often.

“They” are at the whim of whatever colours the Powers That Be designate as this season’s official palette. “I” can dye any colours I want at my own whim. I can overdye a boring or ugly colour. I can paint or splash or dip. I don’t care whether this year’s purple is Aubergine or Misty Morning and not the deep blue-violet I want. I don’t care that rusty orange isn’t a Spring colour so you can’t get it in February. I can wear my own palette that pleases only me. I just get out the dyepot and play.

“They” have to pick the pattern and find the recommended yarn or the other way around and — vitally important — Get Gauge. “I” can decide what I want to make, knit a swatch or two, measure my gauge, and create the pattern. OK, so that’s not quite that easy. But it’s fun! As a short-cut I can take an already published pattern and mess with it. It’s my knitting and I’m in charge. If I don’t like what’s happening there’s always the frog pond. Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it. (Remember it’s the process not the product that counts.) Yarn can be reborn as something else if it doesn’t like what it’s become. That is, of course, unless you work with steeks. Once you cut through your knitting you render your yarn non-recyclable. I don’t care how “easy” it is to knit with steeks. I don’t mind knitting back and forth instead of around and around. That said, I have actually resorted to steeks once or twice. Not often though, and not happily.

Then there’s the big deal about different brand name yarns and the popular designers. It’s even getting to the point where designers are having their own yarns created just for them. Now that’s control on a grand scale! I prefer to learn the same skills the designers have and use them to empower myself. I mean what do they have that I don’t, apart from a loyal following and a publisher willing to put money on them? It’s nice to have those beautiful coffee table books with all the gorgeous scenery and models looking fab in the designs. But truthfully, how many patterns in that $40 book are you actually going to knit — ever? Will it look that good on your body in normal surroundings and without all the props and accompanying accessories? I’d rather have a book of techniques like Montse Stanley’s “Handknitter’s Handbook” plus Barbara Walker’s many Treasuries of stitch patterns. (They’re all coming with me to my desert isle.) That’s not to say I don’t own any pretty picture knitting books. But I’m not buying them any more unless they have an unfamiliar technique or intriguing theme. I get more interesting patterns for free from the Internet these days. My Fingerless Mitts from Marnie MacLean by way of Spindlicity (on-line magazine) for one. And it was actually written for your own handspun yarn. How novel! I’d like to encourage that.

Also aggravating to me are the plethora of kits that knitters will buy. It’s so “knit by number”. I know — you can’t easily go out and buy 17 colours of Blah-Blah yarn to make the Multicoloured Cozy Sweater of the Year pattern. It would be prohibitively expensive when you only need a little bit of all but 3 of the colours. And the LYS is out of several of the colours and they don’t know when they’ll be getting them in. In that case I can kind-of see where a mail-order kit would be helpful. I just don’t work that way. That’s not to say I haven’t made up kits myself for some of my classes. In special circumstances such as a class situation I wasn’t sure whether my students would know where to get all the supplies themselves or even be able to get the right items. It was a shortcut and made certain we all started on the same page. People were happy to have the kits, though I had to make them pick a colour combination quickly or they would dither over it so long they’d cut into class time. It’s just a learning piece, people! Oh yeah, a Finished Object is important. I forgot.

In Blogland, and likely at meet-ups and stitch-and-bitches too, there are the ubiquitous KALs. These are the KnitALongs that everybody gets excited about. All you need is a popular pattern and the requisite yarn and join in. Everybody gets to kvetch and complain when something goes wrong with their knitting or pattern or yarn choice and also to encourage and offer help when someone has a problem. It’s kind of “knitting by committee” and for a lot of people it’s an incentive to try something you might not otherwise tackle because you have support if you get stuck and an audience to cheer when you succeed. I kind of like the concept of KALs but I don’t participate. Guess I’m too independent? Must be my Scorpio sun sign.

Yes, there was a Beginner Spinning class last night and yes, it went well. That was mostly because there were only 4 people there. 2 others were absent due to illness so I can start them off next week. It’s much easier on me not to have to get 9 or 10 people started all at once. I run around from one to the next trying to solve all their most basic problems and hold their hands until they can at least make some kind of continuous yarn. It’s exhausting! Small classes are far more manageable. These gals were pretty good too! Only one was still having problems after 2 hours.

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