Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Solitary Knitter

Knitting is a solitary task. Most often, I knit when I'm in front of a tv or a passenger in a vehicle. Sure there is usually someone else there, but I'm the only one knitting. Even if I am knitting with other people, my task is mine alone. In my knitting group, "What are you knitting?" is an acceptable question, but an infrequent one. The conversation revolves around family, friends, politics, current events, with only a little discussion of knitting. Sure, we are all knitting, but the knitting is just a sideline, an excuse for getting together.

Perhaps there are other knitters who disagree, those who say their knitting group focuses on group projects, encourages interest in each other's knitting, or those who consider knitting a social event. Nonetheless, I feel I am on firm ground with this statement. The results of Clara Parkes' Knitter's Review Survey agree.

She's summarized her findings in the linked article, but she's covered a lot of topics in her questionnaires. I wonder if Clara is planning a new book from all these surveys. Is The Book of Yarn to be followed by The World of Knitters?

Reading through her findings, I came across several common answers that surprised me --responses that are contrary to what I thought about knitters:

Most knitters don't go to guild meetings. In explaning why they don't go, they say they don't enjoy guild meetings or don't like the other knitters at the meetings.

Knitters often don't care about how their knitting affects others. They want to knit and they don't think anyone has the right to object. (Probably I already knew that; I've got another post drafted on a similar topic.)

Looking at some individual survey responses told me:

Most knitters aren't interested in knitalongs.

Most knitters are blissfully unaware of negative opinions of them and their knitting.

Really. Just a couple of days ago, I heard a non-knitter (male) describe his trip to a yarn shop. He was there at my suggestion to buy a single ball of yarn to mend one of his favorite sweaters, and expressed his amazement at the behavior of those in the shop. He was first surprised as he waited at the counter watching a woman who was buying "a dozen tiny balls of little, thin string of one color, and several more of different colors, three that were green, two yellow, and so on." He was shocked that they cost $7.00 each and at her remark, "This is for a new pattern, and I just can't wait until I get home to start it." "Was she serious?" he asked me. "What did she mean by a 'new pattern'?" "Was it just out, or did she write it?" "Why was she so excited?"

As he walked through the shop, he saw some women sitting on a couch knitting socks. He thought it very funny when one said, "I have my husband's sweater at home I need to finish, but I just can't stop knitting these socks." Laughing, he repeated, "I just can't stop knitting these socks." Since I couldn't explain this behavior to him, other than to confirm that it is very common among knitters, he now thinks knitters are strange.

Strange? I don't know, but certainly they are solitary, by the nature of the task. I'm wondering if someone's preference for a solitary task, one that she "can't wait to get home to start" indicates unsocial behavior? Is it a marker for someone who is introverted, meditative, or just plain shy?

I should be the last one to become convinced that there is a coorelation between knitting and personality. I am the one who says that knitters have nothing in common but knitting. I disagree with all those who generalize this group of crafters to be generous, kind, thoughtful, etc. I think that there's too much variation among knitters to allow anyone to say without qualification, "Knitters are ...." any more than anyone could say "People are...."

I've seen no research which would analyze personalities of knitters. I could judge based on those I have met, but I wonder if my judgment would be skewed by my exposure to on-line knitters. There's a general assumption and some studies which assert that internet usage and shyness are related. I can understand that internet use would be considered a less social activity. However, I thought there must be some variation among those who use the internet, ranging from shy to social. I assumed that bloggers are the more social of the on-line knitters.

I looked into my theory about bloggers and found a study that tags bloggers as neurotic. That is not what I expected. Looking at the "Big Five" personality traits, this study has found a coorelation between blogging and neuroticism (defined as having a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily). There does seem to be some logic to this coorelation. After all, most bloggers are just writing about their opinions. Surely someone who often is angry, anxious, etc. would have strong opinions.

Possibly, this coorelation may not apply to knitbloggers, most of whom are blogging to show and track their knitting projects. Surely they would score equally as high in Openess (marked by appreciation for art and curiosity) and Conscientiousness (a tendency to show self-discipline and to aim for achievement). I have no proof of this, since I didn't find any study of the personality of knitbloggers.

Based on my own experience in blogging, I can see some evidence of conscientiousness. I find that putting a project in my blog motivates me to complete it, just as starting a post motivates me to rewrite it until I'm ready to publish it. I've published this one because it has been sitting in my drafts folder for several weeks. Now that the end of the year is a few days away, I suddenly want to "clean out" those old drafts.

I've got a couple of other drafts stuck in my craw and hope to either publish or delete them in the next few days. Blog traffic is very slow during the holidays, so a few contemplative posts might fit in well. The people who are traveling or otherwise away from the internet won't miss this post since it has no photos of knitting, and those who are reading probably have some spare time since they may be off work.

Now there is just one worry that is biting at the edges of this "clean out". I can see where some of these posts might be have been inspired by some emotion I was experiencing at the time. Am I fitting the correlation with neuroticism? This is getting depressing. So far I've got that knitters are strange because they get excited about knitting or neurotic when they blog about it, unsocial if they use the internet, or shy if they prefer knitting alone.

I'd much prefer to believe that knitting has been shown to calm and relieve anxiety, increase self-confidence as new skills are mastered, provide opportunities for social interaction and, if nothing else, turn out a darn good dishcloth. I'll review these old drafts and try to sift out their positive aspects. Maybe I can work them into some New Year's resolutions.

Thank you to everyone who wished me merry. I have been making merry a good bit, but still fit in some knitting. I hope you all have had a fun and pleasant holiday that included a bit of knitting.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Embossed Leaf socks, knitted

Green socks, just in time to wear for Christmas...

I was a bit worried that I would finish them in time, especially since I had to allow a couple of days for blocking and drying. It has not been good sock-drying weather here, but, nonetheless, I braved a bit of the outdoor temps to attempt a photo which shows the true, bright, emerald green of this yarn. At least there was some sun, even if the glow is a bit weak this time of year.

Sock details: Embossed Leaf Socks from Interweave Knits Favorite Socks book. Yarn is Baruffa Aerobic merino, a heavy fingering weight, maybe even a sport weight yarn knit on size 2 dpns. These socks knit up a bit on the large size, but they knit up quickly. I eliminated the last eight rows before the toe to snug them up a bit. The only modification I made was to screw up the double-stranded tubular cast-on for the first sock.

I've rewarded my efforts in completing my Christmas knitting and learning a new cast on by starting a project just for fun. I was looking at some nice versions of the Modern Quilt Wrap on blogs and on Ravelry, and wondered if the same approach could be used to make a seamless mitered-square dish towel.

Obviously, it can. This is just the beginning, the first three blocks. Nine more to go. It will be a large, 18" x 24", towel.

I'll be adding a few blocks to the dish towel. It's a free pattern, thanks to the graciousness of Interweave Knits on line downloads to Knitting Daily subscribers. I'm using leftovers from other towel projects and enjoying it a lot.
I've been weaving the ends after I finish each square. Since the backside doesn't look very neat, having bi-color garter ridges at the color changes and picked-up stitches at the edges, I figure woven-in ends won't hurt. However, I might start weaving in as I go, using the recommended tutorial.

I do wonder why I'm liking such a mish-mash of colors. Maybe I just need something bright on these dull gray days.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Knitted Guest Towel

I've completed another guest towel. I chose a different edging for this one. The edging on the first one is nice enough, but the dots of contrasting color are formed with bobbles that tend to pop in and out of the slip-stitches surrounding them, making a less-than-ideal fabric for hand drying. Cute to look at, but not totally practical.

This second version has a variation of a dot slip-stitch edging, slightly modified to make it lie flatter. I also had to use a different main color, since I didn't have any of the white Pakucho cotton left from the first towel. This color is "avocado", really more gray than green.
The Pakucho and the Blue Sky organic cotton both produce an exceptionally soft towel. I'm not sure that knitted hand towels are as good as the standard terrycloth ones. However, they work well as a guest towel, if a unique look is wanted.

The Blue Sky cotton is very loosely spun, and thus is exceptionally soft. This may mean that it won't wear well--another reason to use it for guest towels. The colors are pretty and may last longer without fading or pilling if they are washed less often than hand towels are usually.