Thursday, August 21, 2014

FiberFrau Waxes Philosophical about Knitting

In knitting, as in life, there are some who enjoy the journey itself and others who are more focused on the destination. Thus, there are "process knitters" and "product knitters." I would call myself a product knitter who is learning to slow down and take joy in the process.

I learned to knit in the usual way, making a garter stitch scarf out of worsted yarn. I was quite bored by the time the scarf was cast off, so I next tackled a cardigan sweater, knit in pieces and sewn together during my daily commutes on the Chicago Northwestern trains. While I enjoyed the process, I also had so many things I wanted to make that I wanted to become faster. I discovered continental knitting, a.k.a. German knitting, in which the yarn is carried in the left hand. For me, this technique increased my knitting speed tremendously. Teflon coated needles also helped me knit faster. I cranked out products as fast as I could for years. I discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman and mastered her seamless sweaters. I learned to knit socks on tiny needles. I learned to do color work holding a different color yarn in each hand. My products went to county fairs and baby showers and Christmas parties. I knit mittens and scarves for my six children. I knit enough cotton dishcloths to last a lifetime.
I knit everywhere. If I found myself in a waiting room or carpool line without my knitting, I almost went mad! Then, finally, I realized that all the time I was cranking out those products, I was falling in love with the process! That wonderful process, with its rhythm and color and texture, was helping to keep me sane in a world that was increasingly fast and impersonal. That process was giving me an outlet for my love of texture and color, as well as fulfilling my need to do something with my hands. That process was even nurturing my brain, as I was constantly trying new techniques and reading about knitting. I was learning that I could enjoy knitting even if it took a long time to finish the product.

I now understand why really big projects, e.g. bedspreads and intricate lace shawls, are most often done by older women. It takes some of us many years to learn to enjoy the journey. "Process knitters" have learned that the journey is a reward in itself; and the finished product, however long it may take, is a nice little bonus.