Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Product-Process Duality



Franklin Habit, Stephanie McFee, and other members of the knitterati have tackled the process-product conundrum.  In their blogs, they ponder the question:  Do I knit to create items I desire or do I engage in this activity because of the pleasure of the process itself?  Habit seems to fall into the process camp.  He actually likes to swatch.    McFee, on the other hand, seems to fit into both classifications.  When I contemplated my own knitting motivation, I looked up the meaning of process and found the following at Merriam-Webster.com:  "a series of actions that produce something or lead to a particular result."  The word process is, therefore, inextricably linked to product, so the fact that I, too, seem to fall into both classifications as a knitter makes perfect sense to me.  

When choosing a project, I am often focused on the end product—the pretty garment that beckons to me from my knitting magazines and books.  (I love Ravelry but have so many knitting magazine subscriptions and an ever-expanding library of knitting books that my guilt at financial excesses restrains me from downloading online patterns that aren't free.  I also love the combined design elements—fonts, overall page design, photo styling, etc. of knitting books or magazines and am, like a child engulfed in the fantasy world of a storybook, often literally drawn into the scenes presented in them.)  I am particularly susceptible to garments shot in romantic settings—a lacy shawl or Fair Isle sweater photographed in the English countryside or by a rocky seashore is a surefire hook.  

But, by the same token, when I see a pretty item that is created with a technique that is complex or new to me, I am eager to knit it, not only because I covet the item (and shamelessly anticipate receiving future compliments on my latest sweater or accessory) but also because I am intrigued by the challenge completing it presents and the learning process I will undergo as I explore video tutorials or reference books to assist me in the knitting process. 

Sometimes, too, context can influence what type of knitter I am.  When it is February, during the dismal and dreary point when the school year seems interminable and spring break feels eons away, knitting becomes more about the process.  In the morning, when I am weary of months of driving to work in the dark,  I lament having to put down my meditative morning knitting and often find myself knitting for far too long with a mere ten minutes remaining to get dressed before heading out the door.  And in the afternoon, on the drive home, I long for the couch and my needles.  While I do always have a finished item in mind, ultimately, during these times, I value the knitting process itself as essential to my stress relief.  The rhythm of the needles with their quieting influence calls to me when I am harried.


This Sanibel Lace Shawl (made using Santorini Yarn) is the perfect piece for relaxed, process
 knitting, but, as this was intended for a Mother's Day gift, I was product oriented as I made it.  
Unfortunately, my mad rush to create a finished product resulted in 
a huge mistake, one that forced me to frog half of this and re-knit it.  But the  cast-off and 
blocked shawl ultimately made  its way to my mother in Arizona--almost on time.  


This Santorini yarn by Classic Elite is suited for a simple pattern, as it is varied and interesting
with its alternating colors and textures.  


However, through a conscious process, over the last couple of years or so I have worked to not become too much of a process knitter, with infinite bags of unfinished projects stashed away. Getting caught up in the fun of the process to the point where I have many ongoing projects disturbs me a bit—so much so that I would rather frog a garment and neatly put the yarn away rather than let an unfinished item linger.  I think UFOs are subtly annoying reminders of some of my less-than-desirable traits:  impulsivity, fiscal irresponsibility, poor time management, grandiose goal setting, a propensity to create clutter, etc.   So I have attempted to limit my knitting to working on one or two projects during the same expanses of time—one difficult and thought-provoking--for mornings with coffee; the other almost mindless--for social knitting or TV time.  

Now that it is summer break, and I am more relaxed, I have been even more product focused.  With more time each day to knit, I have loved seeing my projects take shape in a matter of weeks, instead of the typical month or two spent on one item during the school year.  I began the Enchantment Shawl after school had ended in mid-June and had it completed well before month’s end.  I loved the variety of techniques included in crafting this garment, so the process of knitting it was both engaging and challenging.  But, as I worked, I couldn’t help but focus on the end product, on how this pretty wrap would hug my shoulders, displaying its design elements and hand-painted Gershubie yarn by local fiber artist Heather Brunner.  (The hot pink is Cascade Heritage Sock yarn.)


The process of knitting the Enchantment Shawl is engrossing.  The design includes lace, cables, dropped stitches, color-work, picked up stitches, bobbles, etc. 





For the last week, I have frantically worked to complete Louisa Harding's Pasha sweater, a project I began knitting early in June, in order to have it ready to pack for my upcoming trip to England.  Last Sunday night, I picked up stitches around the neckline, joined the shoulders, and seamed the sleeves.  On Monday morning, I sewed on the sleeves and did a final blocking.  This process of meeting a deadline was actually enjoyable (as a teacher I appreciate the structure of deadlines), although maybe its now time to slow down to simply experience the "Zen" of knitting some new projects.  





One of these projects is found in Laura Nelkin's Knockout Knits, the "Quadro Shrug," a lace shawl that converts into a shrug when the sides are cleverly buttoned up. The instructions include a complicated chart for lace medallions that make up this garment. This item, with its unusual construction and intricate chart, is just the thing to keep me on my toes, engaged in the process. It's time for me to work slowly, research a bit, and enjoy the experience.  But I know, too, that for some odd reason my practical, product side seems to have a life of its own, seeking to have its voice heard.  It will urge me on: "Get this done before month's end.  You need August to cast on something to wear to school this coming semester.  Maybe that thigh-length Sage Fair Isle tunic by Mary Jane Mucklestone, the one with the chart that looks like hieroglyphics."  I'm sure I can find great Shetland yarn in England to use to work this up before fall is over.     

Sewing opens up a whole other product-process discussion.  I bought this fabric months ago but finally set a deadline and finished this bag a few days ago.  


The pattern is from Butterick (number 5658).  The instructions did not call for lining the bag with batting, but I
used batting as well as interfacing to strengthen and give body to my new knitting bag.    

Last Friday I went blueberry picking at my mother-in-law's place in the country.  I always start
out anticipating the relaxing process of being in the country, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere,
 but I usually end up product oriented:  sweating and itchy, hurrying to fill up my bucket
(or buckets), so that I can return to the air-conditioned house.  

This year's harvest is particularly bittersweet, as a new highway is set to run through the blueberry patch.  Large
machines and marked stakes have already encroached on the property.  

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