Thursday, May 03, 2007

Product vs. Process

There are people who knit to produce -- to create something, to wear, to display, to make a statement, to give as a gift.

There are others among us who knit for the process. I'm one of these. I will cheerfully spend hours creating something without a single thought to who will wear it -- or indeed whether it would ever be worn at all.

Designers, I think, have to be process knitters. Or at least those who knit their own samples. I've knitted all sorts of things that will never be worn by anyone -- store samples, samples for photography and the like. I've also knitted things that I've immediately taken apart -- design ideas that didn't work.

I've knitted many things for the sake of it, because the technique or construction has interested me. Toe socks. Thrummed mittens. And notably, lace. Those who know me well know that I'm not a lacy sort of girl, but I love knitting lace. My very first lace project I gave away, but others languish at home, collecting dust. I occasionally use the Highland shawl as a wrap when I'm watching TV, and the cat has taken to sitting on it. The cat's paw shawl sometimes goes with me to class to show off the technique. I will, I'm quite sure, continue to knit lace and will continue to struggle with what to do with the output.

(In fact, I've just started the Swallowtail shawl from last fall's Interweave mag in Sea Silk, just because I wanted something different. Looks nice. Anyone willing to bet whether I'll ever actually wear it?)

And then there's the Elizabeth Zimmerman Ribwarmer. I've knitted the damn thing twice, in two different yarns. In both cases, it was no more than a couple of days before I undid the entire thing. It's a great design -- all short row garter stitch, in one piece, lots of corners and cleverness. But, dare I say, it's kinda ugly and ill-fitting. At least on me. Maybe if I was shaped a bit differently? The first time I knitted it, about 12 or 13 years ago, I used a great long-discontinued purple tweedy shade of Galway.. Now, fashions were different then, and a cropped fit vest wasn't really in tune with the rest of my wardrobe.

As styles changed, and as I acquired a bag full of Noro Sarubia in a trade, I thought that the Ribwarmer would be a good idea. Nope. Once again, loved the process, but hated the result. With any other yarn, I probably would have given it away, or kept it as a sample -- but I ripped it out almost immediately and the yarn was repurposed to a happier end.

There are, absolutely, times when I will knit something because I want to wear the result -- Handmaiden's Jane is currently on my needles, and I'm dying to wear it. But for the most part, I'm a process knitter.

It's clear that it's possible to enjoy both process and product knitting, but I have to wonder if people lean more strongly towards one or the other? Does it change as a knitter gets more skilled, more experienced?

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