Monday, December 04, 2006


I'm still musing on the next lace knitting project. I'm vacillating between knitting something just for the pleasure of the process, and finding something to knit that I might actually want: working toward the product. This is a variation on a theme, for me, because my weaving is generally all about the end product.

Once, long ago, on a warm Sunday afternoon, I had one of those memorable conversations with a group of spinners. Memorable, impromptu, unplanned, unbidden, all those things that make for an unexpected gift in one's life.

We were talking of spinning, and of weaving. Two of us were spinners and weavers, and we both happen to have an ethnic weaver's perspective on the craft: you make what you need. I need a new bag: I set up the loom with appropriate yarn, in an appropriate size, and weave away. If I need to spin for it, I now have the parameters: which fiber, what grist, what amount of twist. I need a new jacket: I start with the plan of the jacket and work backwards: how much yarn will I need, what size/color/fiber will I use, etc. Traditional people all over the world have woven that way forever: weaving as a process to obtain a needed item. While it can be fun, it is also very practical.

Spinners often do not think like that. Often it is: here's a nice fiber, fleece, color, (whatever), I think I'll spin some up. We often buy fiber that way, especially now, with all of the beautiful hand-dyed rovings calling their Siren call. Then that *what will I do with the yarn* process comes. Start with the fiber, and work toward the project: the reverse of the weaver's perspective. Often, not always.

I have the weaver-mind on: which project, then which fiber. I try to reverse my thinking: spin up some yarn, then decide. That gets me lost in the spinner-mind: oooh, this is a nice fiber, oooh, this is a nice color. Sort of crow-like, or kid-in-a-candy-shop behavior. Maybe it's time to just play a bit with some of the fibers, sample.

Play comes into both weaving and knitting too, of course, experimentation, fooling around, trying things out. Sometimes weavers do the swatch thing, as in trying out a new weave structure or fiber, but usually there's is an end product: a scarf, a shawl, a blanket. Weavers can weave just a sample, but I don't know many who do. Usually we are weaving a thing.

So this mental debate of mine is trying to come to grips with knitting something just because. Because, that's what my lace knitting is. It is not because I need or want more lace, it is because I enjoy the knitting of it, and want project to pick up, of an evening, to work on as I work through thoughts of my day, my week, my month. A pleasant activity that allows for rumination, that takes one away from the everyday world, if only for a few moments, like being in the cone of silence, but anywhere: in a coffee shop, on a commute train, in a busy living room, in a corner by oneself. Thus, my intentions are the process, not the product. A new way of looking at things.

I have given away more of the lace knitting than I have kept. I guess I am making gifts, a store of things for the future.

Luckily I have time: I'm working through the edging on Boundary Waters now. It will take me a month maybe, and I will ruminate on which project I spin for next. But(! you knew there was a but!), I have to get on it: I want the yarn spun and ready to go when I finish this knitting.

So I'm back to square one: what will it be? Slap me someone. I think I'll go spin :-).

(Happy Birthday Jesse!)


Blogger Charleen said...

While I've done both, spinning and knitting what delights me puts me in my happy place!

8:54 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

I have two Marianne Kinzel books about lace knitting: table cloths, dresser scarves, doileys, etc. Wonderful designs and ideas. Imagaine something in silk!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Birdsong said...

Up til the past few years, I was always product knitting, much like the ethnic weavers you describe, but I am grateful that life has given me more ease, and that I can consider it from both sides, and make so many things to give away, as most of my "needs" are met. However, I do still hear Elizabeth Dailey's voice ringing in my ear, telling me to spin for an intended project, so that I can better direct my spinning results. Very thought-provoking.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Marcy said...

I'm still getting used to this weird thing of you being this productive lace knitter.

Anyhow. Have you considered something other than give-away lace? How about a sweater for you? It would satisfy the things about knitting that you enjoy and it would satisfy the weaver part of you who wants to be working toward an end. Design the sweater, decide on the fiber and color, spin it, then knit it.

I'd love to see your silk jackets morphed into a sweater. :D

6:10 AM  
Blogger Judy H. said...

I am a 'process' knitter who has always bought yarn for a specific project. I turned into a 'magpie' spinner, buying whatever catches my eye. But, I've discovered I only *finish* spinning those fibers that I have an intended project for! Which means I have lots of fiber sitting around with one spun skein in the bag. :) I think I need to either get my fiber buying more in sync with my yarn buying, or buy only a skein worth of fiber!

10:38 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Thought provoking! I think I'm caught somewhere in the middle of end product and fun. It's hard to spin when I don't when how to spin it and lace? I'm still not a convert through I suspect this is a virus. First Birdsong, then Amy and now Mim, the mother of the mother of my sheep, are knitting lace. I still enjoy working up eclectic samples into hats and bags but suspect it's a phase. I realize that we all approach a subject as a study, like Monet's lily pads and Matisse's Tahitian girls. I find that I'm all about a color or project - until I'm all about the next color and project. So for now, my end-product spinning is for a woven TV lap blanket from our Shetlands, but Mim is knitting a lace shawl from her Shetlands. Lace - is it catching???

9:44 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

Well, I'm not really a lace shawl person either. But I like making them and giving them away.

Productive AND gifty, all at once.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Purple Fuzzy Mittens said...

I tend to be the other kind - I start with the fiber and let it decide what it wants to become as I work with it. When I see a fiber to purchase, I immediately think of all kinds of possibilities. I seldom go looking for a specific fiber. I once went to Black Sheep Gathering in search of just one thing - a steel grey fleece. Came home with a carload of wonderful stuff, yet the one steel grey fleece I purchased has never inspired me. Perhaps the organicness of letting a project evolve is why I prefer knitting to weaving. Weaving takes so much preplanning, while if I start a sweater from the bottom, I can decide on the sleeves while I work up to them. Ditto for the neckline. My current exploration is knitting from patterns. It takes self-discipline for me to keep from wandering off the path... perhaps I have a short attention span...

3:45 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

So far, almost all of my handspun (all 4 skeins) is still sitting in skein form in with my stash, but I finally have a project in mind for them. Or at least one or two skeins.
As for lace.... I want to knit a lace shawl. A triangular lace shawl because I can weave a rectangular one any time. I have the pattern. I have the yarn. I have needles. I have a great fear of lace. Getting started is going to be my New Years resolution.

4:57 AM  

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