Thursday, January 31, 2008

But is it knitting?

Since I finished the Architectural Rib Pullover, I haven't started another knitting project. I've been spinning, which is clearly not knitting; it's a fiber-related activity that provides me with the same mental relaxation I get when knitting. I've also been swatching and recalculating a pattern since I want to knit it in a lighter weight yarn than originally called for. I feel as if I haven't been knitting.

Yesterday I was mulling over my recent activities and asked myself "But is it knitting?" Which lead to an examination of what I consider "knitting". I realized that perhaps my personal definition of knitting was narrow, possibly too narrow. For many years, my definition of knitting has been restricted to knitting a clearly identifiable object such as socks, sweaters, etc.

Swatching didn’t count because it wasn’t an actual object to me; nothing useful, just a swatch. Still, while swatching I am engaged in the act of knitting. It provides me with the same tactile and calming experience I get as knitting a sweater. I can experiment with different size needles and play with stitch patterns if I want to without disrupting the shape. After all, it is only a swatch and there is not right or wrong place on a swatch to try something new. I am more likely while swatching to ask what happens if I change this and do it than when knitting an object. Although, the exception might be socks, which I frequently cast on without a clear idea of the final design.

So what about recalculating a pattern for a different gauge? Or writing an original pattern? Are these knitting? I suppose in a technical sense these aren’t knitting because they don’t necessarily involve sticks and string. The more I pondered this I came to realize that these are “knitting” in the broadest sense of what knitting comprises. I’m employing my knowledge of garment construction, fit and behavior of knitted fabric, all acquired through many years of knitting and tweaking patterns. I am imagining the outcome of such changes just as I imagine the outcome when faithfully following a pattern. I am knitting the item in my head. I am experiencing the satisfaction of problem solving; bring an idea to life by using acquired knowledge directly related to knitting. It is only missing the tactile qualities I so enjoy.

If I can’t imagine that sweater and work out how to construct it, I won’t enjoy the actual knitting—I also can’t enjoy the feel of yarn in my hands, the clacking of needles or the quiet state of mind I get when I actually knit.

So for now on, when I think about whether or not I’ve been knitting, I will consider all of the aspects of that thing called knitting.

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