Friday, October 19, 2007

Free yarn!

OK, not entirely free. Being a linguist, I'm going to ask for words in exchange for the yarn. Sorry.

See, here's the deal (incoming confession of incompetence): I am a bad memorizer. Really, really bad. So bad that when I took my Master's orals, I could not think of the name of a single relevant theorist. I could outline their theories, discuss the relationships among them, even quote some of what they'd said, but when it came down to producing their names, I was reduced to saying things like "It's that guy, you know, the Polish one, with the belted l in the middle of his name? With the cool theory? YOU know." (alas, this is what I actually said) And of course, they DID know, because they were the professors, and I was not, and more to the point, I'm the one with the memorization problem. (For the record, I did pass. But the shame of that sentence up there remains.)

I manage this problem by avoiding straight-up memorization at all costs. I am all about reasoning things out from first principles. The benefit of this is that if something gets forgotten (and we've all had this happen), I can go back and figure out what it is that I was supposed to know. I tell my students this all the time: forget memorizing lists of nouns (mostly 'cause that's never gonna work), and learn how to recognize one when you meet it. Forget remembering the features of gendered linguistic behavior and go out and watch some men and women talk. You'll find much more interesting data that way.

So, this works fine in my professional life (barring the occasional bits where I blather about Polish names and belted l's). However, not so much in knitting, where it means that I can't seem to remember simple pattern repeats for the life of me. I'm talking simple here, people -- six stitches and four rows. Beyond me. It is starting to be a problem in that I enjoy knitting socks that have nifty things going on with them, but I also enjoy knitting socks because, in theory, I don't need to carry a pattern with me. I can knit a basic pair of socks sans pattern, no problem. But add some lacework, a little cabling, and I'm stuck to my pattern notes like glue. This limits the portability of many projects. I know people who say that they knit a pattern repeat once or twice and BAM they've got it. Not me. As a ray of hope, I am OK at recognizing where I am in a pattern by looking at the stitches on the needles; I just don't know where to go next without my bits of paper.

Here's where I've decided to lean on you guys for a little bit of help. I'm hoping that you can help free me from the tyranny of little bits of paper (at least for the smaller sorts of patterns; I'm not looking for miracles). If you leave a comment letting me know how you remember patterns, I'll put your name in a drawing for these two skeins of sock yarn:
These are two skeins of Gypsy Girl Creations, fingering weight, in the colorway Brindle. In spite of the fuzziness of these pictures, they're quite beautiful, in a warm, fall-colory sort of way. But so desperate am I to rid myself of the aforementioned tyranny that I am willing to part with some of my beloved yarn. So, commenting with ideas on learning a pattern gets you an entry, commenting telling me that I'm not alone in my clueless state gets you an entry, and anyone coming to comment who mentions that they got here through your blog gets you an extra entry (be sure to leave either a blog or email address so I can let you know if you've won). I'll do the drawing on Thursday (the 25th) before leaving town on Friday morning (for Houston, but this is another story); I SO want not to be juggling patterns whilst sitting in a very small airplane seat next to a very mobile 6-year-old. Please, folks, I'm desperate.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also have to keep the pattern in front of my eyes, but I don't like to carry the whole thing with me. So I browsed the school supplies section of the store and found a cute little 4x4 inch spiral bound notebook with gridded paper (instead of paper with lines). I chart my pattern in that and carry it with me.
-punkin

Gwen said...

Maybe chart it on the back of your hand? And don't wash your hands until you're done with the sock.

As far as memorizing what you can't memorize - I have no idea.

Donna said...

I can never seem to memorize the patterns I work with either.

I usually end up copying out my pattern on a post-it note and sticking it to the outside of my knitting bag. That way I don't misplace the paper and I don't have to try to hold it so I can see it while I knit. (I carry small projects in a bag in my purse. If you don't keep your knitting bag inside another bag, you might try using tape or finding another place where you could attach a post-it without needing to move it to use it. It's no fun to get out your knitting and realize you've lost the pattern.)

Marianne said...

Oh dear, not only can I NOT memorize patterns... I can't seem to keep track of what row I just knit... can we all just chime in here? "pathetic"...
Not only do I need the pattern (usually a copy of pattern for working with) but post-it notes to move from line to line AND my handy-dandy little bitty notebook that I've 'oh so cleverly' written numbers.. one through however many I need... so I can mark each row number off.. AND I have to use same notebook for making marks for increases/decreases/plain knit rows..... and you think **you've** got it bad... but I do like Gwen's suggestion... charting it on the back of your hand... :^)
(sorry)

Ryan said...

Are you talking written-out patterns, or charted patterns? Maybe one won't work for you and the other will; maybe you're more visual than aural, in this particular case. Say you can't memorize a written-out pattern. Chart it out and see if that works. Or vice versa. May be worth the effort with short repeats.

Tracy said...

I'm working on my first bit of lace, and I'm having a devil of a time learning the pattern. I think it's the yarnovers that throw me... Anyway, when I was doing more cablework, I found I could learn the pattern more quickly by carefully examining the look of each row as I knit it. If I really focused on the effects of certain stitches, then I found it easier to mimic. It's not quite the same as memorizing the pattern, but it did work for me.

For example, even though I've been knitting for longer than most bloggers have been alive, I've only JUST truly mastered the difference between k2tog and ssk. I'd never understood why you slipped stitches off, only to put them back on the needle, and I used to simply do k2tog everywhere the pattern said ssk. But when I finally took the time to study the stitch and see that slipping the stitches off the needle and putting them back on actually made a difference, suddenly it was all clear! This is just one example of many of how I learned to "read" my knitting. Perhaps it'll help a little?

adrienne said...

i have finally conquered my fear of charts and have found that it has opened up a whole new world as far as having to take too pieces of papers with my project.

the chart usually takes up a very small space. it is much easier to keep track of the pattern. it's the only way to FLY!!!!!!!!!!!

if it's a simple pattern stitch, i have learned to "read" my knitting so i can tell if i have done something totally wrong. don't ask me why i have just knit the same heel flap 4 times already and have frogged again for time #5. no, we won't go there.

Sheepish Annie said...

I have the same problem. I can only knit patterns with repeats at home where I can say it out loud for a while. (verbalizing, particularly in a rythmic way, adds another layer of stimulation which helps with imprinting steps in the brain...I teach it to kids as well) I also use a post it note to underline the row I'm on so my eyeballs don't wander off to another row.

Then there's the part where you forgive yourself a little bit. I sometimes get very frustrated with my inability to make sense of patterns. But there are all different kinds of learners with all different kinds of strengths. Mine just happen to lie elsewhere is all.

Good luck!

Nancy G. said...

I guess I have a lot in common with you. Even when I do memorize the stitch pattern, I still keep my chart or notes handy just to glance at. I would rather be tied to the pieces of paper than have to tink back. That said, I do tend to memorize the pattern after a few repeats. Sometimes I go through a phase where I wonder to myself if I will ever "get" this one, and then it magically happens. I do not know how it happens, but still, I do not trust it.

I found your blog and your question through adrienne's blog over at knitting in the bellybutton of california.

Heddy said...

For the first few times I do the pattern repeat, I refer to then pattern... then the next few tmes, I say it outloud as I go , then I whisper it softly ... then it seems to be burned on my mind ... but I still have the pattern, or at least a small note with the repeat rows written on it , just in case I "go blank"! This really only works for me for up to 6 row repeats ... more than that and my mind can't handle it all!

Oh, another thing I do ... I look for commonalities in the pattern before I start trying to memorize it (ie; rows 1, 3, 5, all are knit ... row 2 and row 4 are the same except the k1, p2 moves over one to become k2, p2, in row 4, and row 6 is the row with the cable in the middle) ... I seek out similarities and patterns in the repeats to help me make sense of why the pattern works - it isn't like memorizing the pattern, but more like decoding it. When i do this, after several repaeats, I can find what I am supposed to do by "reading" the rows I have already done and deciphering the stitches that need to come next (once you get this concept - it is like a light goes on in your head, and you can 'feel" what comes next!)

Good luck with it -- I hope you find a method that works for you!

Adrienne at Knitting in the bellybutton of California sent me over!

Kris said...

Heddy sent me over.

To be honest, I can't memorize patterns either. If it is short, I will write each row out on a 3x5 card and then use a ring to create a little flip chart.

evergreenknits said...

I agree with the others that charts make for an efficient reference to carry with you.

But the knitting will go much faster yet if you can memorize the pattern. The most important advice I can give is: learn to understand the logic of the pattern.

The way I usually do it is to follow the charts carefully for 1 or 2 repeats, and then pause and take some time to learn to read the fabric. There's usually logic in a pattern -- decreases to match the increases, ssk to match the k2tog, and so forth. If you can learn WHY it takes a certain stich to make a shape, then it'll be much easier to remember the pattern. And if you have at least one clean repeat done by the chart, then you can decipher the pattern again if you forget.

I found your site through EweGottaKnit, and I've passed this contest on by posting about it at WiKnit, my knitting contest blog

hopalong682003 said...

I have a hard time totally memorizing patterns, but I do remember patterns of long rows by mentally "singing" the pattern. For some reason, when I do that, it reinforces where I'm at in the row. Now, if I could just remember the whole thing. ;-)

Jen C said...

You say you can easily detect what row you are on when referencing your pattern. Maybe visualizing the pattern can help by using the previous rows as reminders/reference. I memorize patterns visually. After a few repeats of an easy lace pattern I can just feel what comes next in relation to the rows below.

ikkinlala said...

I don't even try to memorize patterns. I spend enough time trying to memorize things for classes (reasoning from first principles is great, but when you have to solve several PDEs in a hour you want to have memorized the integration rules) and I like my knitting to be a break from that pressure.

I do end up memorizing most of the simplest patterns, often by singing them to myself, but I don't count on it. I carry a copy of the chart. Even if it's folded up in my back pocket and I never end up needing to look at it, I like to know that I have it.

Michele said...

I am ok with an easy/short pattern repeats but if I can't seem to remember them I will write down a few notes and throw it in my project bag. That seems to work :) good luck finding a solution!!

Monet said...

For relatively short patterns, I found index cards that are perforated so you can cut them into 1/2 size, and they also have a hole already punched in them. I will tear the card in two and write the pattern out, 1 or 2 rows per card, and then put them on a ring to carry it with me.

I have a row counter that I hook to the front of my sock with a safety pin marker. Only problem is you have to remember to turn counter after each round.

Rachel said...

Hee hee, I like the idea of writing it on the back of your hand.
I have the easiest time memorizing the charts that actually look like the pattern. Like Branching Out, for example. Cable charts, not so easy. Actually, this might be less memorizing and more just being able to copy what you did in the last repeat. So maybe try knitting 1-2 repeats of the chart with it in front of you, and then see if you can copy your knitting for the next repeat? That's not even memorizing.

Sharon said...

I usually knit the repeats a few times, then write out that section of pattern onto a separate piece of paper that I keep close at hand, just in case I need to refer back to it. As for memorising the pattern, I just "read" the knitting that I've already done to find out where I am and what I'm meant to do next. This I've found effective in repeating lace patterns that are 10 rows (not counting the purl rows) long. The trick I think is not so much in the memorising, but in being able to effectively read what you've already done.

april said...

After doing a few repeats of a pattern, I re-write it on an index card in my own terms (sometimes I just need a memory trigger -- like "start with k2"). I usually divide the index card up into sections and then use a tiny binder clip to mark where I am in the pattern. So if there are four rows in the pattern, I divide the card up into quadrants, write 1 row in each section, and then move the binder clip around to remind me where I am. This has saved me a lot of frogging time!

Does that make any sense at all?

Penny Karma said...

I've found that anything beyond a 6-row repeat, I suck at.

Loretta said...

I can sometimes memorize a pattern by doing it in a sing song type thought. Does that make sense? However I sometimes have a hard time remembering which line I am on so sometimes the sing song thing doesn't work!

Turtle said...

So i wish i had some great words of wisdom for you, unfortunately I am the one in the crowd with post it notes for marking my place with notes scribbled on them! I think my basic sock pattern is the only one i can kind of remember...and after so many socks, lol!! I will be reading the notes along with you! *smile

Fiberjoy said...

I'm lazy about memorizing patterns since it takes so much effort. I copy the pattern then pencil mark through each line as finished. The copy gets folded it all kinds of ways so it's small with the part I'm at is facing up.

emmms said...

I tend to take it line by line: I'll read the first line of a chart and then see if I can remember it the whole way round. Then it's lather, rinse, repeat until I get back to the beginning of the chart again.

It usually works after the first couple of repeats, but I have to admit I've been trying to make it happen with the Zokni Socks and for the life of me I cannot. It's desperately annoying and I've still ages to go before it's finished!

Sarah said...

I say the pattern out loud as I knit. I suppose I look crazy to anyone else, but my family is used it. I have learned to whisper if they are in the room so I don't disturb them too much.

Ms. P said...

You might just be a visual person for whom memorization is against God and Nature. And unless you have waaay more perseverence than I, a battle royale against G&N saps too much energy away from life's priorities. (I gave up the hours and products needed to straighten my natural curls, efforts undone by any trace of humidity anyway - G&N -, and am a much happier person for it.)

Why not incorporate the pattern into your knitting bag? Get one of those totes with clear plastic photo pockets on the outside (seen at crafty stores everywhere), insert your pattern on one or more photo-sized cards, and show the world what makes your needles click!

p.s. Color coding different elements of the pattern may be of help to a visual learner, too - break out the colored pencils...

Good luck!

Suzy Girl said...

I usually can't memorize a pattern, even if it's fairly simple. Unless it's very intuitive, K, P where you can see what's next. Instead I find myself resorting index cards. Since I can't memorize, I try to condense and if possible right the pattern out in my own short hand.

z's momma said...

I knit lace a lot, and I don't even bother trying to memorize the chart for the first several repeats. If it's an easy pattern, I'll then look at it really hard and try to figure out why the stitches make the pattern. But I always keep a copy of the pattern near, just in case.

Natalie said...

Pick an easy one? Like knit two purl two rib?

Kathy said...

I cannot memorize these things. I am too wrong brained! Will read your comments for help! Even if I don't win, I win.

Alisha said...

I use a note book to keep track...that is my biggest thing, I lose track of where I am.

I am not sure if anyone suggested this but I find that I say the pattern out loud the first few times and it helps keep it in my mind. Most time though the pattern has to be close by.

Rachael said...

I found your site through wiknit, I think it's been said before, but this is what I do: I ALWAYS keep a paper copy with me just in case - don't want hubris getting in between me & my lace y'know...

The way I memorize is a combination of repetition of motion, repitition verbally, and reading my knitting. When I go through a row I chant k2, yo, k2tog, k4, ssk, yo, k2, and the pattern kind of sticks in my head with the motions. I also make a point to really look at the row right underneath to make sure it looks *right* for the first few repeats until I get the hang of that particular pattern.

And then of course there are some patterns, like the Morning Glory stole from knitspot.com, that I have to look at the repeats every row - the pattern has 24 rows for pete's sake! It becomes familiar over time, but I never fully memorize it.

I hope you got some helpful tips you can use - I picked up a few things reading through your comments!

Heatherly said...

i memorize knit sequences like i used to memorize my science lessons in schoool.
i used to sing the lesson aloud.i sing the repeat and hum it to myself when others are around :0)