Monday, August 10, 2009

Burn After Reading

I’ve never bought Knit ‘N Style magazine before,but after reading the article “Are you missing out by hiding behind a weakness?” by Leslye Solomon, I had to buy the issue so I could blog a rebuttal.

In the article, Solomon takes up several deficits that might cause people to “miss out on enjoying all facets of knitting,” such as:

  • Are you a knitter who...wants to knit everything in the round?
  • Are you a knitter who...always “knits to gauge” and never makes a gauge swatch?
  • Are you a knitter who...always needs a needle that is smaller than what is suggested?
  • Are you a knitter who...always needs a larger needle than what is suggested?
  • Are you a knitter allergic to wool?

These (and a few others) are apparently detrimental to your knitting enjoyment. I think this is bullshit.

To take up the first question, yes, I want to knit everything in the round, and it is not, as Solomon suggests, because I need to educate myself”as to where to insert and exit that sewing needle.” Yes, seams are time-consuming, but I like knitting things in the round for other reasons as well. Who wants to spend time knitting several pieces only to end up with a garment that doesn’t fit? For me, this is the main reason for knitting things in the round, so you can try them on as you go and make adjustments accordingly. This gives you, the knitter, power over your project.

Solomon seems to want to give the power to the designer: “Your job, as one who is trying to follow directions from the designer, is to duplicate exactly the number of stitches-to-the-inch that the designer achieved. That means all knitters must test the gauge and use any needle that duplicates the designer’s gauge?” What is this, a knitting dictatorship?

The assumption here is that if you follow a designer’s directions exactly, you will end up with a perfectly fitting garment. This would be true if we were all sewing dummies, and could adjust our own measurements to exactly match those given in knitting patterns. But most of us aren’t. And patterns are idiosyncratic in their fit (even if they follow the CYC guidelines, they vary in the amount of ease). Perfect gauge does not equal perfect fit.

Instead of adjusting the knitter to the pattern, why not adjust the pattern to the knitter? Patterns should give the knitter choices.This is why gauge isn’t absolutely crucial for most of the Knitty Professor patterns—we tell you when it is important to try things on and how to make adjustments for your body. Rather than trying to exactly match your gauge to a pattern (especially if this is hard for you), it is good to learn a few simple strategies to help you fit things to your body type. For example, learning to knit bust darts has been very important to me, as someone who is not particularly petite in the bust area. I can add them to any pattern now, and it gives me much better results. But that has little to do with guage per se.

As for the tight knitter/loose knitter issue—if it bothers you, sure, try to adjust your technique. But knitting is supposed to be fun. It shouldn’t be like boot camp.

Finally, about the wool issue. Solomon suggests that most people aren’t actually allergic to wool, and that you can simply wear turtlenecks under sweaters to ‘separate rough texture from my skin.” Heads up: turtlenecks aren’t exactly the epitome of fashion, and they haven’t been since about 1986. In terms of yarn, if you like it, knit with it. Given all the available alternatives, I don’t think someone is going to die of yarn starvation if they skip scratchy wools. If you think it is going to be scratchy, it probably will be (although it might soften up upon washing). There are plenty of soft wool yarns or wool blends to choose from. Why suffer when you don’t have to?

In short, I think knitters should have the power to choose what they knit and how they knit it. Rather than writing (and trying to follow) patterns as though they were engraved on stone tablets and passed down from Mount Sinai, they should be flexible guidelines that YOU can follow, or not, in order to knit something that is right for you.


Jocelyn said...

I read this article a little differently. I think it was meant for knitters who are insecure about their skills - to give them a kick in the pants. When I read it, I thought about people who run around their backhand in tennis. Better to address the issue head on and learn how to hit it from both sides. Hope that metaphor makes sense.

Joan said...

If you had ever read any of Leslye's other articles for Knit N Style you would understand that her articles are generally lighthearted, and sometimes a bit satirical. This article was, in no way, a knitter's mandate, but as the other comment mentioned, a wake-up call to many fearful knitters. I work in a knitting shop and see people like this everyday...they make excuses to not try things that they feel are either beyond their capability, or are resistant to changing the way they are knitting even when they are having problems. I agree, we don't need the knitting "police" telling us the exact way to do everything, but we should not be afraid to learn a new or different way of doing something.

KRGP said...

Ironically, Jared Flood has a great article in VK this month about converting all patterns to knitting in the round--because it's the best darn way to knit everything for all the reasons JJ just listed.