The ever-cool Lisa has bought The Naked Sheep, just a few minutes' walk from both my old apartment and my new one, and she has graciously invited me to teach some classes for her. This means that I have had to pay more attention to the knitting zeitgeist than I usually do, so as to know what the heck people are talking about when they join my classes.
What I'm finding is that we're still lying to ourselves about some pretty fundamental things:
- The irrational hatred of seams continues with ongoing propaganda attacks and untrue claims that seams "weaken" (if you do them right, they strengthen), "are difficult" (not if you bother to learn how), and are "a pain" (again, not if you bother to learn how). Come 0n, guys. I think Elizabeth Zimmermann is amazing too, but I prefer to look to her as the inspiration for keeping my own knitting wits about me, not for being a "blind follower", as she referred to knitters who followed patterns slavishly and never thought about what was best for them. It's got to the point where Meg Swansen, Elizabeth's daughter and an amazing knitter in her own right, is writing diplomatic, logical magazine articles trying to remind the knitting proles that there is no right way to knit. When Elizabeth came on the scene, knitting in the round was unheard of except for socks and gloves — she had to push to get circular knitting accepted as a general technique. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, with some knitters acting as if they've been asked to trample their fair trade cashmere in manure if someone so much as mentions seams. Is it not better to know how to seam so that you can when it's the best method for the job at hand? Maybe (gasp) you might find you prefer to knit as I usually do, and view seaming as a pleasant end to a knitting job well done. And if you don't, at least you won't be ignorant anymore. I have altered patterns from in the round to flat pieces, and I have also done vice versa. It's whatever it takes to get the job done right, and forget about dogma.
- I am going to be an aunt for the first time sometime around New Year's, and have already picked out what I'm going to knit for the baby shower. I am also knitting for friends of mine who are expecting their first in November. I've looked at a lot of baby patterns in the last week or so, and I noticed something: most of them emphasise how quick they are to do, even when they're also labelled "heirloom." I'm currently working on a cabled pullover for the baby due in November, and I have these empirical measurements to offer: 93 stitches for the front and back, 23.5 cm in length. 93 stitches is about normal for an adult-size sweater — just in thicker yarn than the fingering-weight I'm using for the baby. 23.5 cm is almost halfway to an adult-size length for a sweater. My conclusion is that baby sweaters are not that faster than adult ones. So since I'm making two baby sweaters, one due in October and the other in November, I had better get cracking.
- "Circular needles are superior in every way." Again, if an educated knitter has a personal preference for circs, I won't argue with them (unless they are disdainful of my own personal preference, in which case they better be ready to do a thorough defence). But straight needles, especially those lovely fourteen-inchers that I prefer, came into existence for a reason. The way I knit, I tuck the right-hand needle under my arm and hold it still while my right hand feeds the yarn and my left hand worries about forming the stitches. It works great for me, and is the normal way to knit in the eastern Netherlands (where the grandmother who taught me how is from), and so I'm told, in parts of Scotland. When I first learned how to wield double-pointed sock needles and circulars, I had to completly re-learn how to knit, and it was not fun. I'm now at the point where I'm pretty comfortable with the other method, but I do find that I really enjoy settling down with a pair of nice steel straight needles after finishing a project on circs.
Now, some of this is going to lead to the time-honoured comment of, "Well, that's your opinion, but everyone's free to say what they like, and the truth is that most knitters prefer..." True, this is my own opinion, but I don't buy the part about "most knitters." Most knitters never even get to hear these opinions, because they're drowned out by all the noise coming out from other sources. There are knitters who always knit in the round, always use circulars, and whip off baby sweaters very quickly (like the ever-original Brenda, who is also well on her way to being a wizard of the top-down method), but it seems to me that they need to fight to be heard as much as I do. Maybe it's time we all stopped being such blind followers and took this to the next level.