Monday, February 27, 2006

The End of the Olympics

I didn't finish. 

Well, I did finish the back of the sweater, which is one-third of the whole thing (if you don't count the side-seam gusset strips that I'm going to add because there isn't quite enough ease after all - did I mention I didn't do a gauge swatch?) - and I did it during the closing ceremonies, so I will at least claim bronze.

You know what? I really love knitting. I also love knitters, who think up things like this - although Stephanie ( is surely unique!

I've also learned a lot from the project. There are a bunch of practical things, like paying attention to the notes at the beginning of the book. (Yes, the color change does want to tighten up on the right side of shadow knitting. Don't pull the slipped stitch to make it look neat - ever.) Or like my aversion to colorwork: what I don't like is doing more than one color in a row, and that may be because I've never learned to do it properly. But I also don't like wearing too many colors at a time, so the shadow knitting, in three closely related shades of grey, is perfect. I will definitely try more shadow knit patterns. I've also learned (1) always do the swatch - which you think I would know, considering that my ganseys are all based on swatch measurements - and (2) a tunic in my size is going to take more than two weeks and three days. No matter what.

I've learned a couple of other things, though. I've said for years that I knit because, being a writer, I spend years working very hard to produce what is, in the end, a stack of paper. It is also a novel, a story, a world, but what I have to show to myself and the world is a compact disk and a stack of printouts. There's at least a year between finishing the manuscript and having a book to show off, and by then, I'm on to something else. Knitting produces something tangible, usually useful and sometimes beautiful, something that I can fondle and wear and point to as an actual object. Now that knitting has become popular again, I don't have to justify myself quite as much as I used to (and I feel more comfortable taking my knitting everywhere - though that may just be that I'm getting older and care less what anybody thinks), but it's still as much about the product as it is the process for me.  

In her book of meditations for women who knit too much (who, me?), the Yarn Harlot asked what you would do if you were stranded on a desert island and finished your knitting project. Would you rip and reknit it, just to have knitting, or would you put it on and go looking for grass to spin for the next project? I was amazed at the strength of my reaction. Absolutely, I would go find fiber and start something new. The idea of ripping a perfectly good object to reuse the yarn just so I could knit makes me shiver.

And that explains what I knit. I knit socks. I knit ganseys. I knit hats. I knit things I know I, or Lisa, or somebody, will wear and use. I don't really knit things that are pure experiments, just to try a new technique; I try a new technique because I like the way the fabric looks or what I think I can do with it.

Frankly, this is a surprise to me. In most of my writing, the process is as important and enjoyable as the product, and, as a writer, I've more than once done the equivalent of ripping the whole thing back to yarn and cast on again. In fact, my favorite books have all started that way. I write about 120 pages, realize I need to change something, and start over from beginning. The changes aren't that big, but they make a cumulative difference, like being half a stitch off in gauge. I'll do a hundred pages of notes and sketches, try and discard a style, a voice, sometimes a character - heck, I once wrote myself out of a novel - but I won't do that to my knitting.

And that's another reason I love knitting.


At 8:24 PM, Blogger Dharma said...

Great essay.


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