27 June 2006

Excessive Curiosity

So, I've been seeing all these questionnaires people are filling out on their blogs as part of secret pal swaps of various kinds. I'm not a secret-pal kind of girl (and am in any case under strict orders to myself to buy NOTHING MORE that does not directly contribute to keeping us fed and housed), but I really love these questionnaires. Heck, I love all questionnaires, and silly quizzes, and especially reference books. I like to know things, and I like to see them organized into lists. I particularly like to know about people, and especially about people I like. Obviously, knitters of all stripes are in this group.

I should admit, here, that I'm the one who came up with the Knitter's Geek Code featured in knitty.com a while ago. It was motivated by the same impulse as what I'm about to show you -- to know more about what makes my fellow knitters tick - but here's hoping that this idea will take off better than the code thing (fortunately, it's not technological at all).

Herewith, a questionnaire for Those Who Knit, to be filled out on one's blog (or via email, and passed around to one's S-n-B circle), for the edification of the curious. I guess I'd better fill it out myself. But scroll down for a blank version that you can copy and paste for yourself.

The Knit-Geek Questionnaire (unrelated to any swaps or secret pal exchanges)

1. What's your worst habit relating to your knitting?

A tendency to want an FO so much that I accept small problems instead of doing what it takes to fix them. Then, the problems drive me continually crazy, and the FO ends up getting much less use than it ought.

2. In what specific ways does your knitting make you a better person?

It relaxes me, gives me time to think, and focuses my mind on what really matters. This counteracts a tendency I have to work myself up into fits over deadlines, politics, everyday stresses of all kinds...

3. How might you or your life be different if you were suddenly unable to knit?

Besides feeling absolutely bereft, as if I'd lost a person I loved, I think I'd be even more tense and hostile than I generally am. That's a scary prospect, indeed.

4. If money were no object, what one yarn, and what one tool or gadget would you run out and buy first?

Enough of Debbie Bliss' cashmerino to make the Simply Marilyn sweater. And a Boye Needlemaster set. I already have the Denise set, which I love for its travelability and versatility (how cool it is that you can get extra cord length, change a needle size, put sts on a holder, etc, all without actually moving any sts anywhere??), but I want Boye too for the smaller sizes.

5. What knitting technique or project type are you most afraid of (if any)? What, specifically, do you fear will happen when you try it?

I'm afraid of anything really large-scale -- like afghans or coats or dresses -- because the chances of my actually finishing something like that are about as good as the chances of my getting elected President. Not technically impossible, but -- I think it's best to stick with sweaters. I'm too easily distracted, too quick to fall just as madly in love with some other pattern. Probably a much smaller one. That said, I thought I stood fairly little chance of finishing the Icarus shawl, much less finishing with no visible mistakes or compromises, and I did it in record time (personal record, that is). And it's perfect, I swear. So you never know.

6. Who is/are your knitting hero(es), and why?

Elizabeth Zimmermann. Her sense of humor is my biggest reason for re-reading all her books on a regular basis, but I also think the way she thinks about knitting is just marvellous, and it really changed my own thinking. Instead of thinking in terms of making my sticks and string look like some external thing I have in mind (whether a pattern or just an image), I think now in terms of the structure and possibilities of series of loops, and what they can do. It's just a different perspective - like turning around and looking at a room from a different direction and make you see things you missed before.

But I also really admire the exhaustive technical skill of Montse Stanley. And the Yarn Harlot's sense of humor and passion for knitting make me continually fall in love with knitting all over again, and Eunny's technical brilliance and incredible sense of style hold me completely in awe.

7. Do you consider knitting, for you personally, a mostly social activity, or a mostly solitary activity?

It's been mostly solitary, so far. Partly because it's how I relax and rejuvinate, and those are things I infinitely prefer to do alone. That said, I also enjoy knitting with friends (though it's best if I choose a simple project for such occasions!), and thus have been enthusiastically encouraging more and more of my friends to taking up knitting! I haven't yet gotten around to joining any knitting circles or SnB's yet, just because they're all so far out of my neighborhood, and it's so much more than I can do to keep up with the friends I already know and write a dissertation at the same time. It's just not a stage in my life when I'm into socialization.

8. Is there a particular regional tradition in knitting that you feel strongly drawn toward (e.g., Fair Isle, Scandinavian, Celtic, Orenburg lace)? Any theories as to why it calls to you?

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Norwegian knitting styles and techniques, as this is what made me truly hooked on knitting. My Norwegian host moms, who re-taught me to knit when I was sixteen, after I had dropped the hobby for a few years, thought it was the most natural thing in the world for me to make a large multi-colored sweater (three colors in some rows!) in DK weight for my first project. It never occured to them that this might be hard, because, of course, it isn't. I'm just so glad that no one told me such things are supposed to be daunting until after I'd already made a few sweaters. :-)

9. If you were a yarn, which yarn would you be?

PeaceFleece, in Katya Pink, of course! (for those who don't know, it's yarn made from half Russian wool, half American)

10. Some statistics:
(a) How many years have passed since you FIRST learned to knit?


approximately 26 or 27.

(b) How many total years have you been actively, regularly knitting (i.e., they don't have to have been in a row)?

about 8 or 9

(c) how many people have you taught to knit?

5

(d) Roughly what percentage of your FOs do you give away (to anyone besides yourself, i.e., including your immediate family)

um... maybe 35-40%

11. How often do you KIP (knit in public)? i.e., once a week, once a month, etc. Where do you do it?

Except for the very occasional subway ride when I'm trying to finish something that happens to also be very portable, I only KIP when hubbster and I are taking a walk to the park - I knit a scarf or socks while walking as well as while sitting on a bench looking at the river. In most other situations ripe for KIPing (waiting in lines, etc), I usually prefer to read (it's easier to throw a book in my bag than all my knitting and all the necessary or possibly necessary accoutrements, plus I have a morbid fear of dropping my yarn on a subway platform).

12. If a genie granted you one hour to stitch-n-bitch with any one knitter, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

The woman I'm writing my dissertation about (a gentrywoman from Russia, who lived from 1799 to 1866 and knitted a lot of stockings and scarves). Obviously, there are a few things I would like her to clarify for me.

13. What aspect or task in knitting makes you most impatient?

I hate, I really really hate, having to do the same thing again. (see next question for reasons). So, second sleeves, second socks, major frogging, doing the same pattern a second time no matter how much I may have loved it -- always a problem.

14. What is it about knitting that never lets you get bored with it?

I'm always on the edge of my seat to see how it's going to turn out. I love that you get to be intimately involved with every step that brings an FO into being, yet you're never sure what it's going to be until it's done. I compare it to sewing -- which I do for the finished object, never just for sheer pleasure -- in sewing, the cutting and the stitching go by so fast that I always seem to have finished before I had entirely decided what I wanted to do (no, I'm not a big planner, generally). And then, of course, you can't go back - I love the malleability of knitting. Any project ever made can always be ripped out and made into something else. It's like each FO inhabits the yarn only so long as somebody wants it there, and then it floats away to make room for something else. I feel like I'm participating in something ongoing, and that something is filled with rich colors, luscious textures, and rhythmic, soothing, yet complex movement. By contrast, sewing to me seems final, full of points-of-no-return, stressful, and usually (in my case!) ends in highly unsatisfactory results.

15. Describe how and where you most often do your knitting - where do you sit, what is going on around you, what tools do you use and how are they (dis)organized?

I usually knit at home, whether in a chair, on the couch or the bed. Usually I have a movie on (or more often, DVD special features from some favorite movie), or I listen to the radio, books on tape, or podcasts. I have a little black travel cosmetic case containing my most essential tools, which stays with whatever I'm currently knitting, while other tools live in my new Craft Closet (ura!). The main, or biggest, WIP lives in a wicker basket (lined with cotton), on the floor near the couch. Various other smaller WIPs sit in handbags, either hung an a chair where I've recently been working on it, or if I've been good about putting them away, in the craft closet.

16. Which one person is the recipient of more of your knitting than any other?

Hubbster, without a doubt. My parents, niece, and a few of my oldest friends have gotten various small items, but I'm ashamed to say that the second sweater I've embarked on knitting for my mom is still languishing, mostly because I keep starting other projects, for hubbster at least as much as for myself. The thing is, he *loves* handknits. His grandmother used to knit nearly all his clothing when he was little, and he still associates receiving handknitted items with love and care. He also really wears wooly sweaters, and scarves, and hats and gloves and slippers, a LOT. He loves natural fibers, particularly. How did I get so lucky? He thinks having married what he considers his personal knitter makes him lucky, but I think it's the other way around - I can justify almost any yarn purchase or any amount of time spent knitting just by whipping off another hat or something for him. >:->

17. What's the oddest thing about your knitting, or yourself as a knitter?

I'm told that I knit funny. This sounds likely, though I haven't studied other knitter live and in person lately to find out. I think I must have been taught the Anglo-American "throwing" method by my Aunt and a school teacher when I was younger, but when my Norwegian host moms reminded me how to knit later, they certainly demonstrated the Continental "picking" method. So, I keep the yarn in my left hand and "pick," but I seem to move my hands around more than other Continental knitters, so that whatever I'm doing, it looks strange to them. Whatever - I'm pretty fast, and my gauge is usually pretty even, even on purl rows in StSt, although I have trouble switching from knit to purl in the same row - the first purl stitch after a knit stitch comes out very loose, so I often wrap that one stitch under instead of over, to tighten it. But my purls in general seem to be odd - for some reason I seem to need to bring the first finger of my left hand way down in front of the work to hold the tension properly. I don't know why I do this or when I started.

18. What do you see yourself knitting - if anything - twenty years from now?

I guess I'll be knitting for my children as much as for myself and hubbster. I'm hoping I'll always have at least as much time as I do now for knitting, maybe someday much more...

19. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only ONE SKEIN of yarn, which yarn would it be and what would you do with it?

Himalayan wool & recycled silk, in red. No question. If I could eat this stuff, I would. I would knit it, first in StSt, then rip it out and knit it all up again in garter, then in every other pattern I could think of, and in between I would roll in it. It's not as soft as many others of my favorite yarns, but I could get drunk off these colors. I really could.

20. If you were allowed to own only one knitting-related book, which would it be? (you'd be free to browse others, but you couldn't keep them)

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Around. Because I love it more as a good read than a knitting book. Her Knitter's Almanac is an equally good read, and also has some great knitting in it (it's why it was the only knitting book I packed for my recent year in Russia, otherwise only scanning in some patterns I thought I realistically might make). But if I could only choose one, it would be Knitting Around because it's history as well as knitting - I gotta love that.

21. Is knitting the new yoga? Why or why not?

Ummm...I don't think yoga is out, at least not for me. Knitting is like yoga, but different. Like yoga, it's very trendy. Like yoga, it's trendy because it's healthy, hugely improves your quality of life, and has the effect of making you feel more centered no matter how chaotic things get "outside." But yoga involves your whole body, while knitting is a relationship between your mind and your fingers. Yoga makes your body feel loose, strong, flexible, healthy, capable. It makes you focus your mind inward, onto your own muscles, joints, and organs. Knitting focuses your mind on the most basic, good, right, healthy things in the outside world -- texture, color, the interaction of your own muscles with the materials of the world around you. It allows you to create a tangible, sometimes useful, object, and therefore to connect yourself and your mind, with the tangible, outside world. In contrast, yoga connect your mind to your own, physical self. Both are important, both are good. It seems natural that both are so appreciated right now, when politics and the internet and globalization are making most of us feel unhealthy, weak, and bombarded for almost every moment of our lives. I like yoga and knitting because, though they give you the same kind of benefits as escape, they leave you physically and mentally better prepared to deal with the world than you were before.

EDIT: This last question added by Caroline:
22. What important thing are you trying to put off doing whenever you knit?"

My dissertation, of course! Works very well, too....

BLANK VERSION for copying and pasting into your own blog, web site, or email:

The Knit-Geek Questionnaire (unrelated to any swaps or secret pal exchanges)

1. What's your worst habit relating to your knitting?

2. In what specific ways does your knitting make you a better person?

3. How might you or your life be different if you were suddenly unable to knit?

4. If money were no object, what one yarn, and what one tool or gadget would you run out and buy first?

5. What knitting technique or project type are you most afraid of (if any)? What, specifically, do you fear will happen when you try it?

6. Who is/are your knitting hero(es), and why?

7. Do you consider knitting, for you personally, a mostly social activity, or a mostly solitary activity?

8. Is there a particular regional tradition in knitting that you feel strongly drawn toward (e.g., Fair Isle, Scandinavian, Celtic, Orenburg lace)? Any theories as to why it calls to you?

9. If you were a yarn, which yarn would you be?

10. Some statistics:
(a) How many years have passed since you FIRST learned to knit?
(b) How many total years have you been actively, regularly knitting (i.e., they don't have to have been in a row)?
(c) how many people have you taught to knit?
(d) Roughly what percentage of your FOs do you give away (to anyone besides yourself, i.e., including your immediate family)

11. How often do you KIP (knit in public)? i.e., once a week, once a month, etc. Where do you do it?

12. If a genie granted you one hour to stitch-n-bitch with any one knitter, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

13. What aspect or task in knitting makes you most impatient?

14. What is it about knitting that never lets you get bored with it?

15. Describe how and where you most often do your knitting - where do you sit, what is going on around you, what tools do you use and how are they (dis)organized?

16. Which one person is the recipient of more of your knitting than any other?

17. What's the oddest thing about your knitting, or yourself as a knitter?

18. What do you see yourself knitting - if anything - twenty years from now?

19. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only ONE SKEIN of yarn, which yarn would it be and what would you do with it?

20. If you were allowed to own only one knitting-related book, which would it be? (you'd be free to browse others, but you couldn't keep them)

21. Is knitting the new yoga? Why or why not?

EDIT: This last question added by Caroline:
22. What important thing are you trying to put off doing whenever you knit?"

3 comments:

kate said...

brilliant! and the knitters geek code is a hoot! you've taken knitting academia to a whole new level.

The Purloined Letter said...

Although it took me a while to get it posted, here are my answers:
http://thepurloinedletter.blogspot.com/2006/08/knitting-questionaire.html

Great idea!

Specs said...

Hi! I've done the survey, too. You can see my rambling answers here:
http://spectacled.blogspot.com