Or: The Things I Get Out of Knitting Classes That I Can't Get Out of a Book
What did I do with my Friday? Briefly, this:
So there you go. My Friday was spent taking a class with Cat Bordhi at my favorite LYS in the whole world (as you all know): Yarning For You (thanks, Deb!). I can't tell you how grateful I am to have an LYS in my backyard that creates learning opportunities like this (and others; her class schedule is always busy).
People sometimes ask whether a knitting class (or retreat, or...) like this is worth the money and the time it takes to do the homework and come to the class. The question is usually asked along with something like, "but couldn't you just learn that from the book/pattern/website/YouTube video?" And the answer to that part is yes, of course. I'm a pretty smart chicken, all things considered (and you are, too), so there's almost no technique that I (or you) couldn't learn from one of those places, if we put our minds to it. That said, I don't think I've ever been to a class that I didn't think was worth it in the end, and I've been trying all weekend to articulate the reasons for that in my own head, so that maybe I'll have a chance at coming up with something vaguely intelligent when asked that question in the future. Since you are always so patient with my musings, I'm using you as guinea pigs for my potential answer(s) - lucky you.
My thoughts keep circling around - there are so many reasons - but I think that the heart of the matter, the place they're centering on, is this: knitting is a practical craft, like cooking, but it can also be, at its best, a practical art. I am a huge fan of the Arts and Crafts movement, and of its essential, foundational philosophy that things which are practical can and should also be beautiful in ways that derive directly from, and enhance, their practical purposes. Knitting is uniquely suited to fulfilling that vision. But in order to at least attempt, some of the time, to make my craft into art, I need to understand the fundamental building blocks of that craft. I need to know how knitted garments are put together; I need to know the way that knitted stitches are formed on the needles; I need to understand what yarn is and how yarn interacts with the knitted stitch to create garments, and how those things together can work to cover the human body (or whatever else we're covering at any given moment) both usefully and beautifully. The more I know about those things, the better my knitting is.
Knitting classes serve my desire to learn in so many ways. For one thing, if they do nothing else, they create time. They say that I believe that my learning and the eventual products of that learning are worthy of the effort involved in carving out space to focus. Once I go to an all-day class like this one, I'm essentially saying that my knitting is worth the commitment of that whole day. I realize that non-knitters may not understand this, but I think it's critical. It is so easy to say that we'll spend a whole day at home knitting, only to find that any one of a myriad of other important concerns have eaten into our time. I have the urge sometimes to go out to the garage and turn on power tools to protect my knitting time - people so rarely interrupt someone who's working with a table saw, have you noticed?
Then, there are also the techniques that are the most obvious purpose of the class (the stuff on the syllabus, as it were) - in this case, it was to learn about Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel (that link is for the ebook, which I will be buying; I like almost every sock in there, and this heel fits like a glove).
And then there's the pleasure of spending time with people, both the teacher and my fellow students, who are in and of themselves founts of knowledge about knitting. People who also find knitting to be interesting and compelling, and who have maybe thought of techniques, or thought about knitting, in ways that I haven't.
Often, those conversations are what I think about the longest after the class is over.
So there you have it. At least some of the reasons why I spend my time and money on knitting classes, when I can afford to do it. How about you?