Self Realizations

Well, they say that the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. As I've been knitting today, I've come to the realization that there is something seriously wrong with me.

I'm not a knit-a-holic; before yesterday, I hadn't touched the needles since finishing my Father's Day gift. While I sort of missed them, I wasn't suffering any withdrawal symptoms. I kept myself occupied with other activities, and I enjoyed myself.

I also don't suffer from "start-itis." I'm actually a very focused knitter, and with one exception, whenever I've started a project I've kept at it until it was finished.

A lot of knitters have an obsession with collecting more and more yarn, and their stash size increases until it takes over their house, if not their lives. Not me... most of my "stash" is leftover balls from projects, since I always figure that it is better to buy too much than too little.

So, what is my problem? I've discovered much to my chagrin that I'm what I term a "knitting masochist." I have a compulsive need to try harder and harder projects. I know full well that along the way I'll get frustrated with not knowing what I'm doing, but I'll push myself to keep going until I work things out. I'd probably end up pulling my hair out if I hadn't shaved my head a couple years ago.

I'm thinking about my current project. I look at the finished picture, and I think "well, it isn't exactly my style, but it isn't bad. I'll wear it a couple times." Thinking about the construction, though, makes me shiver with excitement. Before starting this sweater I had knit exactly three stitches continental style, just to see how it felt. Now, I'm doing stranded knitting with one color in each hand. I've never done steeks before, or had to do any real arm shaping, but both are integral to this sweater. Heck, I'm not even sure I weave my ends in properly, and this sweater is going to involve several dozen of those. Oh, and I shouldn't forget Kitchener stitch, as that is something I'm looking forward to trying out.

I think part of my attitude comes from another realization... I'm a craftsman, not an artist. Many folks around here can look at a ball of yarn and see endless possibility. I just see it as a lump of wool, and the most I can say is "I like the color." I don't just blindly follow patterns, but generally I start from there and modify the design to match my personal tastes. Since I don't get the fulfillment of creative inspiration, my satisfaction has to come from personal improvement.

What worries me most about all this is that the more I learn, the harder it is going to be to get that rush of excitement as I learn something new. I'm still inexperienced enough that there are lots of techniques I've read about but never put into practice. Already, though, I'm looking at patterns with a snobby air of disgust. There was a sweater in "Charmed Knits" that I really liked the look of, until I read the instructions. "Knit front and back separately and sew them together? Done that, boring. Armhole shaping is just binding off stitches? Yawn. The sleeves have some tapering to them, how is that done? Oh, the sleeves are knit flat and just use M1s to increase. Sigh. I guess I'll pass on this one." All that, despite that it is still more complicated than any sweater I've done before.

So, am I alone in this attitude? What sort of knitting neuroses do other people have?


MMario's picture

Nothing wrong with being a craftsman; Doing something and doing it well is an art of its own. there are a lot of "artists" who can conceive an idea but not execute it.

And a competent craftsman will take a utilitarian project and by virtue of skill MAKE it a work of art.

MMario - Can anybody tell me what year it is?

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

Celowin's picture

I never really thought about it in exactly that way, but I like that attitude. I'm not at all disappointed in my knitting, and even if I'm not designing I'm still expressing my creativity with every stitch.

MMario's picture

And that's an attitude you can bank on!

MMario - Can anybody tell me what year it is?

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

rjcb3's picture

I don't think there's a THING wrong with you. You're just in that spot right now, where you're enjoying using what you have, looking forward to learning new things and all, but, interestingly enough, you seem like you're already getting a good feel for tweaking a pre-written pattern and making it your own.

Exactly what a craftsman does., you don't really want to "create" but you want to fiddle with what's written in a pattern and let your own hands and fingers do the talking...

...sounds to me like THAT is the mark of a true knitter.

Oh, yeah...and by the way...true knitters completely feel the loss of not having needles and yarn between their fingers, and true knitters usually start and start and start and (for the most part, can't say for everyone, situations, etc. but for the most part) have seemingly countless WIPs. It's been the way of the knitter for centuries before us, and, I'm sure, much later after our generations are gone. True knitters will find themselves being either embarassed at being caught staring at some stranger's sweater pattern trying to figure out the stitchwork, or, maybe even end up making a new friend, depending on the situation.

My own personal opinion is that simply blindly following a pattern with no thoughts whatsoever other than following along with those ungodly abbreviations (and flipping back to the key sometimes...and sometimes back to the picture...and sometimes just throwing the whole mess in the air in short temper) is for those who are beginners and just learning to follow patterns. I actually recommend that to people when they're just starting out, but then, as you are -- as you said "modifying" -- you've got a good feel for what you're doing and you're making it your own.

It's not masochistic to want to challenge yourself and learn something that you haven't before. It's quite admirable.

The worst "knitting neurosis" I have is knitters-block in the worst way. I'll have a gazillion things on the needles, and just HAVE to start something else from scratch, but, don't know what I want to do...I just want to knit. I'll look over my WIPs and just not be in the mood to do them -- although, they don't get shelved or anything, they just stay where they are until a few days (or hours) later. I have that whole "I want to knit something, but, I don't know what" Most of the time to fill that gap, I'll end up casting on for a preemie Tomten or something and just knit and knit and knit and let my imagination fly as I'm going along, and here and there, I'll make a note or something as it comes to my head. It's the perfect way to brainstorm! If anything, the project ends up productive enough that there's another thing to go out to the charity group that I knit for...and it cures my knitting block, the project is small enough that it doesn't take much time to do up -- and I get some other thoughts and such out of the way...I usually find m'self picking up another WIP that's been laying around, just to keep knitting away.


Celowin's picture

Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful comments. I think I should clear something up, though, as you and other people seem to be reading my post in a different vein than I intended. I guess my writing style didn't make it clear, but I meant this to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I really have been thinking about my own personal experiences with knitting, but when I called myself a "knitting masochist" I was trying to be humorous rather than truly worrying about having a damaged psyche.

There's nothing strange going on here. It's simply called PROGRESS. You only started knitting at the beginning of the year, but now you want to move on. Tweaking patterns is what all knitters do, and using the pattern as a rough guide is something else we do. Don't like to knit flat ?- knit it in the round and master the art of steeks. I'm currently knitting a V-neck cardigan in the round, but the instructions are for flat knitting. The pattern is just a rough guide. I think that in the most challenging piece of work we will find some bits that are boring, because we have done them several times already and can do them with ease.

Just get started and get your fulfilment from your personal improvement. Look forward to seeing the finished garment.

MMario's post really says it all.