Thursday, March 30, 2006

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  • Trying to Wing It

    There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
    — W. Somerset Maugham

    While I can not in good conscience call myself an experienced or adept knitter, I have amassed my small measure of skill in the five odd years since Terri taught me to cast on. I've made a few projects I'm quite pleased with: a sweater from Vogue Knitting, some lace scarves, a felted bag. I'm probably the most accomplished in my small knitting circle. And yet, there's something I've never managed to do, that even the most novice knitter can probably handle. I've never knit without a pattern.

    It should be so easy. You cast on a few stitches, you go around a bit, you try things on, you keep going and then you stop. I see people who've just learned to knit making hats this way all the time. But unless I have that little road map in front of me, I can't even start the journey.

    I'm not like this in all of my creative endeavors. In fact, in my writing, I can't outline or plot at all. I once tried to write a book with the entire plot written out in a detailed outline, as many published authors do and recommend doing. I wrote 30,000 words and abandoned the project. I was bored. I felt like I'd already written the book and was simply typing it out. When I wrote my just-completed first novel, I had the opening scene and few details about the characters in mind when I started. From there, I just wrote, and all the incidents that came later occurred to me, somehow, just before I wrote them.

    A lot of knitters I know (some personally, some online, some through their writing) speak of knitting as a creative outlet for them, an expression of individuality and aesthetic principles. For me, it's something different. I feel I'm exercisingg my judgment and creative abilities when I write. Knitting is more of a meditative, physical thing. I love watching my project grow, physically, with each row. I love touching the yarn and seeing colors and patterns form.

    Maybe that's why I don't feel a need to step away from the pattern. I like having a blueprint. I like that someone else took the time to plot and plan and count and calculate. For me, it's enough just to knit.


    Blogger Marina said...

    Well, same here and every day, I thank all those talented folks who design, for giving me something lovely to knit.

    3/30/2006 9:44 AM  
    Blogger Norah said...

    I can totally relate to this. Although, like you, I need creative outlets, knitting isn't one of them. For me, it's more a visceral pleasure (feeling the yarn, watching the progress of something I've created) than a creative one. I also enjoy the challenge of following a complex or elegantly simple pattern with success--I was always the kid who slavishly copied the Lego diagrams rather than creating my own dioramas, too.

    3/30/2006 9:46 AM  
    Blogger Liz K. said...

    I use knitting as an exercise in precision and exactitude, as I am much more of a "whatever works" kind of a person. I use it to practice math which keeps me, a stay at home mom and literature type, from becoming totally stupid. And I use it to keep from snacking! So, no, I don't need to design either. That's enough for me. Great thoughtful post.

    3/30/2006 10:13 AM  
    Blogger Carrie K said...

    I try to follow a pattern slavishly but my ineptness gets in the way. Nicely put about knitting, the creative process, and the meditative quality knitting has.

    3/30/2006 3:14 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    And yet, knitting isn't "painting by numbers". The tightness of the rows; type and consistancy of the wool; skill of the knitter makes each garment an unique achievment.
    I think that following the directions is a lot like driving to Cleveland. You start here and end up there, take the same highway even, but there are multiple unique rest stops, detours and greasy spoons along the way that make each journey individual.
    PS--Beautifully expressed blog.

    3/30/2006 7:11 PM  
    Blogger Nik said...

    I think i originally started using patterns because I thought that you were just supposed to. But after learning some technical skills from those patterns, I've tried to take what I've learned and try to design stuff for myself.

    I'll let you know how that goes. lol.

    3/31/2006 9:07 AM  
    Blogger Theresa said...

    Thanks, flitgirl. Checking in from Sweden again (lovely country). I, too, rarely cast on without a pattern, except for simple socks. In Germany, I got sock yarn that stripes like the German flag. I cast on right away for my friend and travel companion. I mean, the German flag. How cool is that?

    P.S. I love my car. Photos to follow.

    4/01/2006 1:59 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I can identify! I am probably the most accomplished knitter in my group as well, but I don't care to design. I can do it and have designed one sweater (just to prove I can), but it's too much work. Like you, once the design is mapped out, I feel I'm finished. I find knitting very meditative and even complicated designs can be soothing. Designing is not. Guess that makes us more process than project knitters, huh? Dorothy (Missouri Star)

    4/01/2006 7:59 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    What an interesting and thoughtful post -- even moreso because it has generated such reflective comments! It's interesting to see the variety of things people get out of the same hobby and how they adapt that hobby to better suit their particular style.

    4/02/2006 6:46 PM  
    Blogger Kate Diamond said...

    Hurrah for the Flitgirl. I promise to send you a chapter soon!

    4/09/2006 3:37 PM  

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