Monday, January 09, 2006

Whoa, it's Monday already

Yesterday I decided it would be a good idea to clean the baseboards in the bathroom. Oh, and clean the kitchen, catch up on all my laundry, knit past the heel of the Prize sock, and work on a freelance project. Then watch a little TV. Nice day of "relaxing" right? Then around 10 I got a migraine. It's really no wonder.

Just sort of thinking along the lines of what Wendy over at Knit and Tonic posted today - I don't understand the people who go to yarn store owners and ask them to do their dirty work...that is, to ask them to find their errors and frog it for them. I have been at yarn shops when this is happening, and my response is always the same - why are you knitting a pattern that is so difficult for you you can't frog it yourself? I mean, it might just be time to get a glass of your favorite adult beverage, sit down and rip, come what may. You will learn more about the pattern and become a more fearless knitter. Why not at least try it?

But instead, you get in the car and drive to the yarn store and ask her to do it?

See, the problem is that at least one-half of knitting is actually knitting, and another great big chunk of it is learning how to fix problems. If you can't expertly whip out a crochet hook and start fixing that ladder, you are never going to be a happy knitter. If you can't figure out why you have too many stitches, you'll make the same mistake again and again. And if you can't frog back a repeat of a 10-row pattern, then you really (sorry for saying it) haven't lived.

When I was in college I took several black and white photography classes - not that you'd naturally assume that - and we had assignments each Monday and then on Friday we had to post our work. In between we'd have discussions about what made good photos. So I'd race around for two days and shoot whatever I could find that looked cool, then take my last deep breath of fresh air for the night and go develop it. Occasionally I'd sit in the darkroom for an hour before I got the film wound right into the canister. Then I'd mix my chemicals, soak the film, rinse it, fix it, dry it. The next day I'd have to go through my negatives to see what was worth printing, and then confine myself to equally stuffy, equally dank, equally smelly darkroom conditions and print that one negative. Sometimes ten or fifteen times before I got the enlarger set right, the exposure right, the burning and dodging right, and the developing time right. Then you wait for it to get through the dryer. Then you go get a Payday out of the machine and go home, because hey - you invested yourself in this work.

Come Friday I'd be in the lecture room, proud as punch of my work and totally blind to any aesthetic value it might have because I spent so much time on it. And this lovely, lovely print would sit up on that wall all through the lecture while he talked about Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon and these people who were mythical in stature compared to my small college butt, and the whole time I'd be breathless with excitement about what my professor might say about my modest little picture.

And at least six times of every nine, he'd rip all the photos off the wall, pronounce them crap, and the assignment for next week would be a reshoot. Because he was teaching us to make something, from the beginning process of concepting, through the artistic work of shooting to the technical work of printing. There was no point in mollycoddling us - that would not make us better photographers. We'd have to actually SEE what was wrong and then learn how to correct it. Often we'd just have to reprint, but it was just as painful.

Those hours I spent in the photo lab taught me to never take my work so seriously that I was crushed if it was hated or ruined. That rule has carried me through most of my adult life, and it's a good one. Especially as it applies to knitting. Knitting is not an art form - unless you're a designer. It is a technical process designed at getting a final piece of work that looks a certain way. Part of that technical process is the undo and the redo.

If you don't care enough about your work to frog it yourself, then you don't care about your work at all. And if you care too much - that is, if you're so afraid of wrecking it that you won't touch it yourself - then you ought to develop a thicker skin and remember you can always (usually without bloodshed) do it over.

I know people become emotionally involved with their knitting and that is a good thing - so do I. But you must limit the emotions to those that actually help you. Emotion is one tool and reason is another.

Don't ask people to frog your work unless you've tried and you're desperate. Your work is worth your time and your investment, even if it hurts.


Blogger Chris said...

That's really a fantastic essay! Here here. (And whew - am I glad I can frog my own stuff!)

5:48 PM  
Anonymous mimsie said...

Agreed, good essay. I may shirk from beloved projects gone awry (maybe make them serve time in the knitting basket) but I couldn't even imagine asking someone else to frog/undo/fix them for me. It won't be mine anymore!

6:18 PM  
Blogger ~kirsten~ said...

Yeah, yeah. You tell 'em. I did have to have someone help me...twice...but help is not the same as "YOU do this for me." Come on people. Someone else frogging YOUR work? that's just silly.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Niquie said...

I hate that... when you see people who can't do their own knitting. I will ask questions now and then, but I do it all myself. I might not do it right the first 10 times, but I know I can do it if I really try, too many people are scared of themselves or too lazy. That is just sad to me. I like you more and more as I read your blog.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Thanks extra super muchly!

I've had to ask for help too, but sheesh, making someone do it for you...yipes!

11:34 PM  
Blogger patti said...

Wow that post brings back memories! I used to be so scared of rolling my film wrong on that metal reel and ruining the images I had captured. Exposing and exposing until I got things right. Staying in the darkroom for hours, and staying way past bedtime. The excitement of your finished assignment.
Funny, I don't get the same way about my knitting. Hey, if I knit that 10 row repeat, and have to frog it? Well I did it before, I am sure I can do it again! And unlike that roll of film in the developer, you can't RUIN your work- you can always frog!

6:36 AM  
Blogger just_me_2 said...

Amen Sister! I know I've already told you this but...


You rock and I'm so glad to know you.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous a from florida said...

Thanks, I work in a yarn shop and to have to frog when they give me a sad look and whine that it's so difficult - but I keep a smile on my face and say "It's no problem" - and try to teach them to do it themselves!!!

11:10 AM  

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