Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Relaxation vs. Stimulation

I was listening to the Sticks and String podcast yesterday, and a particular comment caught my attention. David Reidy was interviewing Ann Feitelson and asking her if she thought the popularity of knitting more complicated projects like arans and fair isles would increase now that the era of garter stitch scarves in funky yarns finally seems to be (mostly) behind us. Her response was that she didn't think so. There are certainly more people making garments and wearable items beyond scarves, but she seems to think that most people see knitting primarily for relaxation and therefore they are uninterested in doing projects that require more brain power. Conversely, she enjoys knitting for the stimulation and the enjoyment of learning a new skill, designing something herself, trying something new and keeping her brain active.

I guess this explains knitters that I've encountered who won't even give certain techniques a try because they look too hard or they take too much work or they require seaming, etc. I've always been a little confused by these arguments because I can't imagine not wanting to knit something just because it would take a little extra effort. Sure, there are nights that I just want to knit something mindlessly in front of the TV. But really, it is more often that I want some interest in what I'm knitting. If I'm going to knit "mindless" garter stitch, then I need color change or shaping or *something* to make me care about what I'm making. Trying my hand at mitered squares is much more intriguing that doing another log cabin blanket, unless the log cabin square are really small, because there is something to do in the mitered squares every row.

Maybe this makes me strange. But for me, part of the "rhythm" of knitting can more easily be found in a simple pattern than in plain fabric. I find fair isle to be interesting and not at all hard. (Really, it isn't. It's just two colors people!) I recognize that double knitting takes more effort, but I love the finished product and it isn't that difficult. It's even possible to get in a good rhythm with double knitting.

I don't know if this is a line of thought that interests anyone else around here. I think I'm in the minority of my friends that listen to knitting podcasts, even though I know many of you do read knitting blogs. I just find it kind of fascinating the different reasons that people choose to knit and how they enjoy the pastime. I am primarily happy knitting fair isle, intarsia and lace on a daily basis, and others are primarily happy knitting on garter stitch scarves once a month.

Maybe I just like knowing that I'm not alone in the way that I love to knit. :-)


Amanda said...

I knit more for the creative process, and for the stimulation. Less for the relaxation, but that too comes along with the process. Plus there is nothing like holding up something you created with some yarn and your hands and feeling proud about how it turned out. Especially if I have taken a risk on a new technique, or making my own modifications to a pattern and it worked out perfectly. It is very satisfying and empowering. I love making stuff.

cara said...

i am one to like knitting for it's relaxation purposes but the constant back n forth of garter can be mind numbing as well. i haven't done much in terms of complicated patterns either though as i'm a little nervous to screw them up and have to frog. but with this new project, i'm very excited to be almost finished with the increases and soon will be starting the lace pattern and i can't wait to try something new :) however i agree with amanda, and LOVE making stuff.

interesting post!

Michelle said...

here, here on just loving making stuff! I think I'm a blend of the two so far. I have a bunch of new things on needles that are more difficult than my past projects. I've always been slow to warm up to new things though, it's a personality thing I think. It's kind of like when I learned to ski, it took me like two or three years to really enjoy even the beginner stuff because it was hard work for me, and then as I got more confident I added more difficult things. But to some, they get frustrated with me because I don't have the need to progress as fast as they do. I like being able to do things really well after learning it and for me, sometimes that might mean making the same thing over and over until it's old hat. Fortunately, knitting never felt like work:) I think I knit for relaxation, for the sense of accomplishment, for the love of making something handmade and really knowing how much more special that is, and of course to learn new things. Unfortunately, garter stitch is the only thing I can knit in the dark in the car (so far)!