Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brother Amos is off the needles, and I get all philosophical about fussy knitting

I repeat I finished! Brother Amos is off the needles! Today the obligatory front porch photo with snooty concrete cat (never happy with any sock that cat!), and I'll compare the sytk and the sytk with a twist the row after, and the ssk, a bit of musing and explaining why I am so 'fussy', and I'll save the stash enhancement until next time!

Here is a closer look at the brimstone pattern on Brother Amos, I knit the womens size on 2.25mm but used the mens 'lace' pattern.

And here is a fairly quick and ready comparison of the sytk and the sytk+ (my nickname for twisting the resultant decrease stitch clockwise on the next row), and good old ssk. What do you think? First is the SYTK+, 2nd is the SYTK, last is good old SSK.

Not much in it is there? The SYTK+ might be a little teeny bit straighter, but not much difference at all, and these have not been blocked yet. Once the knit has done a few rounds with a wet wash - well you probably wouldn't even say any were different. What I should do is compare these in a swatch in a a high twist, smooth, stitch defining yarn. Plus in this sample, as I trialled the left leaning variations on the leg section, each one was worked in a different sized needle. Ok - I am a trained scientist, I can spot the flaws in this rough and ready pretest, but hey its knitting, as my friend JH says - 'no body dies'.

Just to compare - here is good old ssk done early in the sock, on the toe, which actually looks fine to, a little wobbly, but perfectly acceptable. Whats a knitter to do? any of them, but test first, results may vary by yarn and guage.

And KathyR, here is a little bit of a response to your observation that I notice the little things about my knitting, I wasn't always that way, and your comment got me thinking so - The theory post: A Theory of thinking knitters.

But before we start I am not an educational theorist, I have done some work on the edges of educational theory, but feel a complete newbie in that area, so forgive any mistakes please, and correct my gaps with good grace please?

The thinking knitter or perhaps the fussy knitter in me has only come recently, and perhaps is a result of my teaching, and learning. Once I as a fabric clothes maker, and I was happy if it fitted and looked like I expected. Then I taught that stuff. Once I was a teacher I had to think about about control and quality, and things like that. Before I was a teacher, working on my higher degree, the methodology requirements meant I had to think quite clearly and cleanly about what choices I made and why was it best. That critical thinking flowed naturally on to how to make better garments, some how this thinking has also spilled into my knit life
In teaching you do the same, especially in the 'arts' of pattern making and garment construction, where you are always encouraging students to spot little control things that lift the quality, or that can lessen the price whilst they keep the quality intact. I had to assess them, to do that I had to some how quantify what made 'this' better than 'that'. Not easy when the question is 2+2=4 you know it is right, when a collar is perfect but the pocket lumpy - how right is it as a whole?

This thinking and judging and balancing has also crept into my knitting and is also part of designing pieces for all knitters. By that I mean you have to choose, to use this decrease or that one, this increase or that one and in doing so you control the end result. I think that this in part comes with proficiency and time and thinking, and comfort with a variety of skills, but I know beginner knitters who are stressed when their decreases don't match, and experienced life time knitters who don't notice. Neither is wrong, I am just in the first camp, and I moved over from the second camp. I will let you work out where you are.

In my resent study I learned about the solo taxonomy, a theory of increasing sophistication in understanding that is used to explain steps/stages or leaps in student learning.
If we adopt the solo taxonomy, then you can see the knitters at different stages, and beyond that the different levels we are at in a range of things in our lives. Laundry - -I'm just processing, knitting - I'm thinking I'm up around the top, Tv watching - again processing, mostly but occassionally I make links.

The other theory I became aware of is the Communities of Practice, initially with assessment, but lately i see it all around me. Basically in any community, the theory supposes that experts teach tacit knowledge, that is things that are unspoken. If you have ever taught some one something, you will have discovered Tacit knowledge, the other day I watched Toby set the table, he carried the forks and spoons by the 'eating ends', I had to tell him we carry them by the handles so we don't touch the eating end with our hands. It is not polite, When I taught him to set the table, the arrangement and number of cutlery was taught, but I missed the tacit bit - where we know how to carry stuff. Tacit is all the little things you do and reccognise are 'wrong' or 'right' but wouldn't think to explain when teaching.

The initial work was on tailors in africa, which I like. The apprentices didn't learn maths separately in a isolated subject form, but in working with the master tailor learned all the maths skill they needed as they worked. They aced maths tests even though they had never had a 'maths lesson'. I see the on line knit community as a community of practice, we see those around us and become aware of things like sock knitting, and the popular socks, and we become aware also of little traditions or ways of working. The Frog pond, the frog for which this blog was named, arise totally out of the community of on line knitters, who blog about frogging and so I learned, not from any book, or specific place, that we aim for good knitting, and successful fitting, for good matches between pattern and yarn. I learned again from the community of knitters out there that it was not only ok but almost expected for Knitters not to tolerate mistakes in their work. I learned to frog. To do that I had to work out when to frog. The books only taught me how to frog. The Tacit knowledge I absorbed from the on-line community was WHEN to frog.

Once i became aware of the frogging aspect of knitting, I had to examine my work anew and work out when to frog. So recently a knitter on Ravelry left a comment about how she was loving the SYTK, and I had to ask what is a SYTK?, once I knew, it made me aware and then being me - I had to play and play now, in the middle of Brother Amos.

Of course this applies only to me, to my knitting, I admire all other knitters work, and am always impressed by any knitter who has made anything, the act of knitting takes planning and thinking and time, lots of time, so any knitted object deserves credit for all of that.

In the meantime if any one needs light entertainment, here are the photos of my students graduate show, although all 3 years of the degree get to participate. The 3rd years are my main teaching focus, so I'm proudest of them.

oh - down off soap box, but if any one wonders why I am a fussy knitter - you all out there in the interknit world made me one! And I had a little bit of an obsessive streak coming thru from my work.

next time- well, it will be after the weekend, and back to standard knitting photos, Grandad insists we visit Waimate, home of no internet at his house, but I promise to show some lovely stash enhancement a good friend supplied me with.


Hilary said...

Wow, I love seeing your students' work. Very impressive! They look very professional. I can't sew at all and it seems amazing and magical to me that people can create CLOTHES! (I still feel that way a bit about knitting too.) It must be so exciting to see new designers emerge.

Your socks are beautiful. (Suddenly I find myself wanting a pair of warm red socks too!) I have a hard time seeing the details that you see, I am somewhere inbetween your two extremes -- dissatisfied when things don't look just right but not always sure how to improve them ... that's one reason I like reading your blog, to get scientific answers about questions such as which decrease is best. (I had never heard of the SYTK until today.)

I like your silverware example. Children remind me all the time of things that aren't taught but need to be known ...

Knitting Linguist said...

It's so much fun to see your students' work! It must be really gratifying for you to see it, too, and to know how much you put into helping them to get to the place where they can create that way.

I love your discussion of communities of practice. It's something I talk about a lot in some of my more anthropological classes (language use is all about communities of practice), and I think you're exactly right about the online community being part of this for so many knitters. I honestly think that some part of the reason why knitting "took" for me this last time I picked it up again (some four or more years ago) is partly because I was starting to find this community -- I didn't know anyone who knit really, so I had no reason to keep doing it all by myself when I was still new and awkward at it. But when you see what people can do, and read about how they worked to get there, and realize that you're not the only one who walks into a yarn shop and smells the yarn (love the vinegary smell of hand-dyes!), it's inspirational. And then you see how other people think about their knitting (like you, sharing your thought process), and it gets you started thinking about it in critical ways that you might never have otherwise done. Bingo -- community of practice, even when the members of one's own personal community are thousands of miles and a big ocean away!

Thanks for making me think about this in a new way, and please forgive my blathering :)

genny said...

I've only recently found your blog and am loving it. Your thoughts on the continual quest for self improvement and how we learn to better our skills is fantastic, you have successfully put into words something I'm experiencing. For many years I was happy to be a make do kind of person, the arrogance of the ignorant ruled me in most of my crafts and hobbies. It has been the last couple of years - not at all coincidentally the time that I have been seriously knitting and being involved with online knitting communities - that I have started striving for improvement in all my crafts - baking, knitting, stitchwork etc and this then seeps into my everyday life as well.
Thanks again - and I'm totally jealous of the Dunedin fibre scene! Although I'm part of a knitting group - Auckland doesn't quite compare to what you describe.

KathyR said...

Wooo, interesting posting! I LOVED looking at the photos of your student's work. Impressive indeed! I am always amazed at the imagination displayed at shows such as this.

Brother Amos look very cosy! I, too, prefer the "closed" pattern better for socks than lacy patterns with "holes". The purpose of socks is to keep one's feet warm, isn't it?

Very good explanation of the "fussy" (your word - not mine! :) ) nature of your knitting. Where am I on the scale? Not quite at the top, yet, but not at the bottom either.

Enjoy your weekend in our little town. Maybe we will come across each other at the A & P show? Check out the FMG marquee - the spinners group will be there and so might I!