Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Knitting Paranoia

Every once in a while, we all take a minute to step back and doubt ourselves.
For most of us, this comes naturally.
"Is this a good haircut?"
"Do I need to lose some weight?"
"Am I being productive at work?"
"If I wear this shirt right after I washed it even though I did laundry last week are people going to think that I just don't do laundry and I'm wearing a dirty shirt?"
Sure, probably, not enough and who the hell thinks like that?
Clearly, taken to the extreme, this is a terrible idea. But every once in a while, it's actually far from it. We need to take a moment to examine ourselves, and ask the big questions. Maybe it's not about things like clothes or a haircut, but the bigger questions, like if our lives are really on the right track, a quick progress report to ourselves.
So I find myself asking the question, "Am I a good enough knitter?"
Am I? And how do I judge?
I started the master knitter program months ago. Do you know it's really boring to knit all those swatches? It's kind of fallen by the wayside. And a lot of people make the very good point of, "Why do I need someone else to tell me I'm a good knitter?" At some point, I'm going to have to finish it just because I paid the money for it, so there's that. But what will that master knitter level 1 really give me? A blurb in a terrible knitting magazine, something I could list on a knitting resume, if for some reason I ever needed a knitting resume. Does it put me on the inevitable path of finishing the entire master knitting series, just to prove I can? Yeah, probably. I'm a little OC like that.
But beyond some outsider's label, how do I prove to myself that I'm a good knitter? I was pretty impressed with myself back when I was making scarves. Now I'm churning out sweaters, and I'm reasonably convinced there's no pattern I couldn't do if I really wanted. I follow directions pretty well. There are still the patterns I shy away from, particularly those knit on microscopic needles or with massive patterning.
Is that a preference or failure? I used to think basic cables were hard, now I don't need a pattern for the simpler ones. Does that mean once I really am a good knitter I should think a massively textured Aran sweater is easy?
Or how about lace? When I finally understood it, it was a like a light going off. But I don't really want to follow all those gigantic charts. I don't like charts. Does that mean I'm not good at lace? Are there multiple layers of lights that would go off in the future if I really applied myself?
What about time? Do I knit fast enough? I have a reputation for being a rather quick knitter, but I think that's mostly because I have a lot more spare time than the other ladies at the LYS, what with not having children and all. I've never timed myself. Is that really something to strive for?
Maybe I'm not a good knitter as long as I keep following patterns. Shouldn't a really good knitter understand every piece of clothing and be able to make her own? I used to follow hat patterns, now I make my own. Sometimes I even scoff at hat patterns (though that's condescending and wrong). Do I need to get to that point with sweaters?
And are sweaters really enough? I don't make blankets. Is that a downfall?
And let's not even talk about socks. I know that's something I need to get past. It will happen eventually. But I'll probably never enjoy it. Do I need to enjoy knitting socks to be a good knitter? Certain yarn harlots would have you think so....
But enough of the knitting paranoia. What it really comes down to is that I'm good, but I'm not good enough. That's how it always has been, and that's how it's always going to be. As long as you enjoy what you're doing and you like what you've done, you're a good knitter. But there's always room to grow.
And the paranoia, as long as it's brief, is actually a good thing. It makes you stop and take stock of where you are. One of these days, I'm going to conquer socks. And I'm going to make that complicated Aran sweater, and I'm going to finish that stupid intarsia blanket, and I'm going to do ridiculously complicated lace. I'll be a better knitter for it.
(And in case you missed the point here, a better person too.)


Carrie Penny said...

I don't know you, I just found your rant and felt compelled to inform you that you are not alone! I tried a sock once...I am not really sure what the holey mass in my craft room is...but I do know that it was supposed to be a sock...that is what the pretty little pattern said at least...

So, You are not alone

(BTW I love your blogs name!)

Kristine said...

Sarah- I totally went through this too at one point. I think it's part of our programming (...must...be...the...best...at...EVERYTHING!) It's par for the course for students, I think particularly grad students who have to prove themselves constantly to an advisor/law profs.

Just keep reminding yourself that you do what you enjoy, and everything else is gravy. Screw peer pressure, even if it comes from knitters, I mean really, who cares if I never knit stranded projects or intarsia? I'll avoid those, and you can avoid socks, and then no one gets hurt!

Kate said...


Do you think it's werid, by the way, that you and I are doing the Master Knitter thing, whereas other people at the shop - say, Kay, the one who's had all those fancy published designs - are like, pah, TKGA (dismissive hand wave)...?

Sarah said...

I think Kristine is right about this - notice it's also the ones with advanced degrees that are doing the TKGA thing. We must have recognition from the authorities (whomever they are)!