Sunday, October 24, 2010

The things knitters say

First, a quick Shrug Slog update: I am about three inches away from finishing the back. Again. At that point, I will seam up the sides and try it on. If it does not seem to more closely approximate the fit that I want and see in the pattern photos, I will concede defeat. The only question left at that point will be whether the yarn will be frogged (again) and repurposed (in several years, when I am less bitter), or whether there will be a bonfire.

Some thoughts on the Shrug Slog and similar: Those of you who are more perspicacious than I (and evidence would suggest that this is all of you) may note that I did this exact same thing last fall, while knitting a sweater for the exact same conference, because I am presenting a paper on knitters and wish to Represent. Not only are those elements all the same, up to and including the frogging of a (this year nearly-, last year entirely-) complete sweater, but there is a structural similarity to the garments as well. They are both origami-type knits. Clever. Interesting. But put together in such a way that it is not possible to try them on as one goes. In fact, it isn't possible to get any sense at all of whether they will fit until they are done. I'm coming to the conclusion that such garments do not best suit my knitting style, and/or my personality (still contemplating where, exactly, the mismatch lies); in any case, I will be forewarned in the future. I should note that these experiences only reinforce my long-standing prejudice against cleverness for cleverness' sake. I'm all for cleverness that addresses an actual problem, or that makes things easier. Cleverness that only exists so that people can gasp in awe at the cleverness of the creator, not so much. I'm fairly ecumenical in my dislike; most of the snide marginalia I append to journal articles/conference presentation handouts/the notes I take during conferences, are for people who make up clever theories that really don't do anything that pre-existing theories don't already do (I'm currently struggling to see what Bakhtin's chronotopes do for us, really - can you tell?).

Harrumph.

Anyway, as I struggle through my conference sweater, so am I struggling through my conference presentation, which is a paper in a session entitled "Circulating Discourses", and which has to do with discourses about knitters through time. I currently have culled 27 pages of quotes, falling into about 12 major themes, from my data and from (in particular) No Idle Hands, a brilliant book with an amazing range of quotes from primary source. (Note: this is a 15-minute presentation; further culling is required.) The common themes are quite striking (either that, or I've spent far too much time thinking about this - also a possibility). Just one set of quotes you might find interesting:

Lydia Sigourney, writing in the early 1800, recommended knitting as “quiet employment, favourable to reflection … a ready vehicle of charity to the poor … [and] well adapted to save those little fragments of time which might else be lost.” (No Idle Hands:54)

From my online survey: “I enjoy the process and the product. Knitting relaxes me, keeps my hands busy but my mind free. And there is nothing better than handknit socks.” (Survey 8/9/09)

Also from my online survey: “Knitting is a creative activity, a productive activity and also provides stress relief. It helps me to concentrate when listening through lectures or difficult meetings.” (Survey 7/28/09)

Some things apparently don't change all that much.

17 comments:

EGunn said...

The pressure of representing is always a harbinger of disaster, isn't it? I never have so many problems as when I'm trying to look/feel poised for something. I hope it works out this time! I love the concept of origami knits, but I'm with you; they're just not intuitive enough for my brain, and I'm not very good at blind faith in the designer. Good luck preparing for the conference!

Mary Lou said...

I love that the thread (no pun intended) of attitudes about knitting seems so consistent. I might have written one of those quotes, it is so close to my attitude. I agree on the cleverness for its own sake. Irritating. Even if I don't know what Bakhtin's chronotopes are.

Rachael said...

For that very reason I knit very little Norah Gaughan. Not because her things are amazing and beautiful, but because I have this eentsy little control problem. I must must must MUST be able to determine if the thing I am knitting will fit me with my own calculations and by trying on as I go, if I can't do that, then I am not interested.

I have yet to decide if that is a character flaw, strength or something of no real consequence. Me & blindly following directions are just things that don't go together very well.

At any rate, good for you for being so far along on the reknit, I hope it works this time!

The quotes are remarkable, tho sometimes the idea of knitting as a relaxing pastime just makes me giggle uncontrollably. :-)

Rachael said...

Clarification, that would be not because Norah's things ARE NOT amazing and beautiful, they clearly are.

KnitNana said...

Bakhtin's chronotopes? HUH? Ok, off to google.
Here's my thought: You'll notice that to date, I have yet to knit a sweater? That even Mittens bring me to tears b/c I can't make them fit?

I suspect you need the control of trying on as you go - my suggestion? Top down sweater construction (a la BW)...from one who's never done it, but has been assured by those with 50+ years of knitting experience that this is the only sensible way...

And the more things change? The more they stay the same...I, too, might have said one of those comments!
(((Hugs)))

Willow said...

Cleverness for cleverness's sake usually annoys me and no more so than in the knitting realm. Maybe that's why I just stick to plain easy working patterns, not because it wouldn't be great to have fancy lace, but because, well, why should I when I don't much enjoy wearing lace. Give me a tried and true pattern and let me make little changes on my own. Maybe I'm just not adventurous...

Anonymous said...

re: cleverness for cleverness' sake... When I am tempted by a bit of clever design or technique, triumphant for the accomplishment, but vaguely UNhappy with the results, I hear my mother say, "just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD."
And best wishes for the conference!
Beverly near Yosemite

lori said...

and another thing about this pattern: the anxiety-provoking admonitions about "this is an atypically shaped sweater and good fit requires a loose knit." does that mean looser than gauge? oh if only i could try it on......wait, i can't. i'm 3" away from the seaming too, but you've done it twice in the time i've done it once!

Gwen said...

Good Luck with the thinking and the knitting and the culling and don't you have a few other sweaters you could wear? Less clever sweaters, but that's not a drawback, and they're beautiful sweaters.

Helen said...

I'm late to the shrug comments party, but I'm terribly impressed with your resolution over the whole affair. I think reluctance to rip fades as one becomes more experienced, because one learns that the outcome is usually so much better. Having said that, I'm knitting a shawl just now because I can't bear any more Armhole Anxiety.

I feel almost sorry for Bakhtin AND his chronotopes.

RobinH said...

Interesting...I don't think I've ever done an origami knit, and you have likely just put your finger on the reason why. Control issues, I haz them!

Good luck with the conference presentation! Any chance you'll post a summary here? Enquiring minds, etc.

krb said...

Hi,

I'm a lurking blog follower and former women's historian (now an editor). And of course a knitter. I'm sure your paper will be fabulous. I've been collecting information about women in history who knitted. Well, more accurately, about my women heroes who knitted. Any chance you'd share your conference paper after you've perfected it? (It will be perfect, you know it will!)

Laurie said...

Hope your conference goes well...and can't wait for a shrug slog update!

twinsetjan said...

I have high confidence in this iteration of the shrug...and am wondering if a book might be in the making. You may have culling to do for your presentation timeline, but how much would you need to add to generate a volume? I'd be interested!

Anonymous said...

What an invigorating post. For many reasons. Thanks.

Bea said...

No stress involved in the knitting right. Ha. I have to say my vocabulary needs a boost. I actually looked up a couple of words in your post.

twinsetellen said...

Excellent insights - on the pattern, on your own knitting style, on knitters and knitting.

Cleverness for cleverness' sake is all well and good - if the result doesn't have to fit any particular person!