Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You know you've been knitting too much when...

You dream that you're going camping with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and you spend half the trip getting to the campsite wondering if she's going to hate you because you might actually choose to go for a hike instead of knitting the whole time. What does this mean?

I'm done with the second set of large feathers on Simurgh, and have started the small feathers. These are going much faster for me (I think because the WS rows are all purl, except for the edge stitches; this means less thought per pair of rows). I am still loving this stole, which strikes me as a very good sign. If all continues to go as it has gone, I should be blocking this weekend (!!).

One thing about doing this test knitting is that it's given me a chance to do a lot of thinking about my personal knitting style and history. Looking back at what and how I was knitting last fall, I realize just how very far I have come. I could never have test knit something then. I didn't have any confidence in my ability to read my knitting, to know what is supposed to come next. So if I something looked off-kilter to me in a pattern, I would have assumed it was me, not the pattern, which doesn't make for good test knitting.

Now I feel like I have some kind of intuition about what's supposed to happen next in a pattern. The great joy of this is that, if something is wrong with the pattern, I am far less likely (although not entirely unlikely) to sit beating my head against the nearest wall trying to figure out what's wrong with me. This was a huge benefit this past summer when I was knitting the millicent socks for Tess and knew, just knew, that something was really wrong with the stitch counts. Turns out I had a beta version of the pattern, so it wasn't me at all, but there was a time, not so long ago, when it wouldn't have even occurred to me to write to the designer to ask about it.

But it's not just the joy of less headaches that makes this stage so much fun. It's also the fact that I'm starting to get what I think of as the jokes in the ways that particular designers handle design elements. The closest experience I have had to this is in music. I played piano for years and years (my first job was teaching piano). I was trained in classical piano and learned to read music starting at about four years old, so for quite a while I was a proficient sight-reader. One of the most fun experiences of sight reading music (aside from that amazing feeling of flow you get when your eyes are directly connected to your fingers, with no intervening brain) is when you're moving along, reading a few measures ahead, knowing what's "supposed" to come next because that's what music does, and the composer does something unexpected. And it's beautiful, and it's fun, and you know that it's there just for someone like you, who will understand that it's unexpected and that it's precisely that quality that makes it wonderful. I always thought of it as a composer's little joke with those in the know (Mozart is particularly good at it). And there was a thrill to being in the know, and being in that flow state and laughing as I played.

I don't think I'm really there yet with knitting, but I can see that it could be that way. You're moving through a pattern, and everything's going as you'd expect and then there's this sudden unexpected left turn, and you know enough to see how it's going to work, and that it's precisely the unexpectedness of it that makes it not only something that will work, but something that is just a bit glorious. Too cool.


Anne said...

I just love academics.

Bea said...

confidence is a beautiful thing!

Marianne said...

Love the analogy. LOVE it!

Stephanie would definitely not hate you :^), she'd probably go for the hike also ( however she may have a sock tucked in her pocket to knit on...).

Helen said...

I haven't found any new names for the fluff under the bed, but continuing with 'stoor', a friend's mother says that under the bed is 'a harbour for stoor'. There is a persistent Scottish belief that the Norwegian for vacuum cleaner is stoorsooker (dust sucker with a Scots accent) but my cousin who conveniently speaks Norwegian tells me that it's actually Støvsukker, so that must be an urban legend.

I can't sing a note, or read music, but I've always suspected Mozart was funny, so thanks for the confirmation. Some of the duets in his operas make me smile.

Rachael said...

Ooh, you're so far ahead of me! I'm ready to start the edging on the first half, hopefully I'll be a good way through the second half by the of this weekend.

That's so true about the test knitting, I can remember (not that long ago) when I never, ever would have questioned that a pattern was wrong, I would have just assumed it was me.