Saturday, March 05, 2011

Knitting Architect vs. Knitting Designer

I woke up this morning, and yesterday morning, thinking about the architecture of a knitting project I am working on (in my head, so far). Knitting thoughts are not my usual contemplation: I am a spinner. I am a weaver. I am a spinner, who weaves.

I often knit, but I do not think of myself as a knitter. For a long time I have tried to describe why I do not think of myself as a knitter. It is something about the way I knit, but mostly about the way I think about knitting.

I like knitting. I've knit for over 30 years, and mostly make up my own designs. I learned to follow patterns only a few years ago when I started knitting lace.

flaming peacock big
Peacock Feathers Shawl in handspun silk: pattern by Dorothy Siemens

Patterns were a revelation. I learned lots of things from them: different ways to increase and decrease, different ways to change direction in knitting, add to the fabric, and make shapes: the architecture of knitting.

I belong to a group that meets once a month to knit together, and there are several very talented and accomplished knitters among the members. I've learned lots from them, too, like how different increases and can look in the finished fabric, how to decrease in various ways and the effect those various ways have on the fabric: holes? or no holes? smooth transitions? or a neat and tidy little seam-like line? These things are also the architecture of knitting.

So what had I been doing all those years? I'm not a pattern follower, so I had to be doing some of the architectural underpinnings, and as a spinner who knits: there simply were not patterns that I could follow. I always had to do the math in some way to make the yarns work. But I knit mostly during the Big Sweater years of the 80's, where shaping was not the goal: the colors and patterns of the fabric were the goal: the interior design of the sweater, so to speak. I think in terms of the colors, the overall impression, the picture of the sweater/socks/mittens, and borrow the shape, or architecture from knitters more clever than I. One of my favorite finds this past year was Knitting Pure and Simple patterns:

ps sweaterr  back
Easy Baby Cardigan by Diane Soucy

Diane does all the math: I just have to plug in the yarn and the stitch pattern. I've made baby sweaters (several), adult sweaters, baby bunting, all from Diane's formulas.

I can use some of these architectural tools now, and like any interior designer, the more construction tools one has at one's disposal, the better the design: one can move walls, or re-orient windows, or move light boxes, etc. and have a more satisfying result than just painting, furniture placement and window dressing would allow.

silk baby hat

This silk baby hat is on my project page in Ravelry. I'm quite proud of it in that I have learned enough to alter the pattern for the construction methods I wanted to use (knitting the star in the round, rather than flat), the size yarn I wanted to use (fine silk, rather than the cotton specified, so I had to use the yarn doubled, and add repeats to the star to make it big enough) and also the size head I thought it might fit (I have not seen it on the head-for-which-it-was-made-yet, but all the hats I made for said head were a bit large so far. Baby still growing though, so I have hope!). I have indeed learned some of the tricks of knitting architecture, and I'm beginning to feel more confident in those skills.

But I am still a knitting designer, but not much of an architect. I still think in weaving terms, sometimes translate that weaving architecture to knitting (which can be a good thing). Weaving architecture differs from knitting architecture in many ways, not the least of which is construction in weaving is usually flat-to-shaped, rather than knit-to-shape. 2-D to 3-D, rather than created in 3-D.

Much to think about, fun to contemplate: and not done yet. Still learning.

January 2011 046
If I cannot eat my hat, I will eat my toes.


Blogger sarah said...

Perhaps toes taste better than hats?
But that's too lovely a hat to be chewed. Very pretty!

3:31 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Reading this post just now has some irony as I had email exchange today with Diane over the latest patterns that she has just released. They are so not those shapeless things that we mindlessly made but nicely formed and I told her one of them will find itself on my needles very soon.

I had hoped that she could come to Spindle Camp, but alas, she like you is otherwise obligated.

8:17 PM  

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