Monday, July 9, 2007

To Know Thyself

Knitters often debate whether they are “process” or “product” knitters—whether they enjoy the process of knitting more than the product they produce or vice versa. I like to think of myself as a process knitter, but it’s a mixed bag.

A process knitter doesn’t mind ripping back to correct mistakes, because it’s the act of knitting that is enjoyed more than the finished project. A product knitter goes full steam ahead, because the part a product knitter enjoys is the finished product—small imperfections are not a problem. A process knitter tends to be more of a perfectionist—he or she would rather get it right than get it done. A product knitter will often use big needles and fat yarn, to get to the product faster. A product knitter may especially enjoy felting, because it hides minor imperfections and is usually a quick knit.

Although I like to think of myself as a process knitter, lately I think I’ve become more of a product knitter. Perhaps it’s the shoulder pain that limits my knitting time these days. If I can finish something quickly, I get the satisfaction of knitting and don’t have to be in a lot of pain for it. I seem to be doing a lot of felt projects and things with a large gauge lately--maybe that’s why.

Bag for my new Treo--pre felting:

My latest FO is a bag for when I only want to carry my Smartphone around instead of my whole purse.

But, this past week I got bitten by the Mystery Stole 3 (MS3) bug thanks to that Harlot, the hussy! Almost SEVEN THOUSAND people around the world have gotten caught up in this project.

(Don’t worry, if you haven’t already been bitten, you can’t get involved now, since sign ups have closed. So you can’t blame ME for getting you hooked like that Harlot hooked me!) But, if you really want to, you can buy the pattern when it comes up for sale in a few months, neener, neener, neener . . .

I looked at it thinking “no way”, and 20 minutes later I was signed up. I had the yarn (KnitPicks laceweight merino and the beads, so all I really needed was a #13 crochet hook to put on the beads. (The hook on this crochet hook is so small that I cannot even see it with my over 40 eyes. I just have to take it on faith that it's there!)

Of course, I ended up spending some money, but relatively little. The beads I had at home were a lovely purple. I decided that I didn’t necessarily want purple beads, so I justified buying a tube of beads. But., of course, who could decide what color was good? I bought THREE tubes of beads. Ecru beads that perfectly match the yarn, clear beads with a pale pink sheen, and some opaque beads in an ashes of roses kind of shade. Ultimately, I decided on the ecru beads.

I printed out the first clue and put it in a 3 ring binder and optimistically cast on.

Somewhere around row 15, I made an unredeemable mistake and had to frog and start again. Same thing around row 25. Aaarrrrggghhh!!!!!!!

Then I got going very well. but around row 59, I made an error. I fudged. Then another error and another fudge. Slightly noticeable but not too bad.

Around row 65 my count was way off. Tink and redo. Still off. Tinked back a few rows to redo. Still off, and oops, there’s a dropped stitch, darn it. Tink, redo, fudge a little. Oops, I did a pattern row on the wrong side, two rows ago. Tink, redo, fudge some more. Back on track, I think.

I hold it up. It does not look like the ones all the uber* knitters have posted of their finished clues #1 and 2 (show offs!). Theirs are perfect and beautiful and in lovely colors of yarn and beads. They had time to pin their results on blocking boards to show the lovely pattern, and take great photos of their perfect work. Some ubers posted their photos of the finished clue #2 THE SAME DAY THE CLUE WAS POSTED. Don’t these people have lives????

Mine was imperfect. Not symmetrical. Didn’t look right. I tried to ignore it. Forget about it. It’s such a small part that it won’t show up on the whole completed project. Very much . . . Even though I will know it’s there and point it out to anyone who makes the mistake of complimenting me on it.

Oh &^^%$#@

I spent most of Sunday (when I was supposed to be cleaning house--big tragedy there) tinking, redoing, fudging, and HATING myself for my imperfect knitting. I tried to clean house, I swear I did. But I kept going back to the knitting. WG was giving me those looks as he completed all of HIS chores and a few of mine. While I sat there doing nothing (knitting). At one point I finally realized how much this was bugging me. It was bugging me A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Somehow, fixing this knitting was as important as saving the world to me. The more I picked at the knitting, the worse it became. I got frustrated, didn’t eat when it was time because I wanted to fix the knitting instead so my blood sugar dropped. I was ready to scream at one point, wanting to yell at my little one and my husband for breathing when I was trying to concentrate on this thing.

My frustration wasn’t all about the knitting.

I am amazed at how much it bothered me. I think it’s echoing something in my work that had some mistakes in it. Nothing crucial, but I work in an adversarial environment, and the adversary in this case took enormous satisfaction in pointing out each and every mistake again and again and again. I am in the process of making corrections on that, but it’s like cleaning yourself out for a colonoscopy. A rough and embarrassing process. And somehow, that knitting became the stand in for what’s happening in my work.

And so, I ripped. All the way back to row 27, which I knew was correct and the stitch count was just right.

Once I ripped back to a place where I was sure of myself, I felt a lot better. A weight lifted off my shoulders. A queasy feeling in my stomach eased up. I could breathe again. I didn’t feel like dirt. I did some more chores around the house. I felt human again.

I really want to play MS3 with all these other knitmates in the world, so I have to prepare for the long haul. When I get to row 500, there’s no way I’m going to frog it all because of a mistake. So while I try to build in steps to avoid the mistakes in the first place (color coding the rows, using visual aids to keep my eyes on the correct row, double checking stitch counts, etc.), I’m also building ways to correct things before they get out of hand with lifelines (thanks to KnitPicks Options [insert link to my KPO blogpost here] this is very easy to do by threading the lifeline through the tightening hole on the right hand needle). And I’ve been adding a lifeline every 10 rows from there, so I’ll never have to rip back more than 10 rows again. My MS3 will be as well-done as the uber-knitters’, and nobody has to know it took me 4 times as long with much ripping and reknitting along the way, while the uber knitters just churned out perfect rows without a thought.

My high school biology teacher once asked, “why do we study biology?” The answer was “to know thyself”. Why do I knit? Turns out I learned something about myself this weekend while working on the MS3. Maybe it’s not about process or product for me. Maybe it’s about who I am. . .

MS3, about row 73
Not perfect.

But working on it.


* If you are one of those uber knitters and you are reading this, please don’t take offense. I am just jealous. I really admire you very much. But how in the heck do you have time to read my blog and get all that knitting done too???