Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the nature of craft

Today, I ripped out one of my first knitting projects, a Clapotis. I have no idea why I started worrying at the edges of it like I did, but I kept eyeing the yarn and thinking there had to be something better I could make from it. I had a large amount of the yarn left over (and I still have it somewhere in the stash) so whatever I do make will involve more yarn and hopefully incorporate the attributes of the yarn better than the clapotis did. I don’t know what it’s made out of; it feels like wool, or maybe a wool/rayon blend. But it’s a slightly boucle’d three ply sportish weight yarn that was a royal pain in the ass to do the drop stitch rows. Perhaps I’ve resented it ever since. I don’t know.

It got me thinking though, on the potentially transitory nature of fiber craft. It wasn’t that I didn’t value the piece, I just thought I could do something better with it. I saw yarn, pretty yarn, that was not being utilized to the fullest potential so I reclaimed it. Recycling my own craft.

People comb thrift stores for sweaters and so on to unravel for the yarn. I’ve done it. I have three sweaters waiting to be ripped out into the yarn they’re made of. Many times I’ve gotten a long way in a project, only to frog it. My pinwheel sweater only needed half of one arm but I ripped it out. Half a top-down raglan tee in Interlacements Kansas got ripped out. And the Lovlund sweater was about ¾ done when I ripped it out to make the luna moth shawl.

Long story short, I’m not afraid to frog, especially where projects for myself are concerned. A totally finished object with nothing in particular glaringly wrong with it that I’ve been wearing around for over two years, though? That’s a new one. It made me think. I took the materials. I made them into something that at the time was a big deal. This was my craft, my creation. I took the time, and the tools, and created the object and now I’ve uncreated it so I can create something new with it.

Perhaps it goes back to my time as a writer. Words are easily reclaimed, but you can’t make them totally disappear. And once they’re out there in the world, forget it. You have to own them. When I self-published my book of poetry and essays back in the dark ages of my life, I was totally happy and pleased that I’d done it. Now, many of those words make me cringe. I can’t unmake Drumming through Woodsmoke, and I have to reconcile myself to the fact that it’s out there, good or bad, (or good and bad, which is probably closer to the truth.) This scarf had snags, mis-stitches, mistakes, wasn’t quite long enough, was made out of questionable materials. I was able to unmake it. Does this make me more or less accountable for the content of my art or craft? I’m not ashamed of the work, I just know that I can do better now. And I have pictures to remind me.

I heard somewhere that in Japan, they knit yarn into sweaters and when it’s time to wash the sweater, they unravel it, wash the yarn, and reknit it into a new sweater. Now that is reinventing your craft. I have no idea if it’s true or not and I can’t even remember where I heard it, but it made me ponder the transitory nature of yarn crafts. If I make a sweater for my husband or a shawl for my mother or a blanket for some baby, once it passes out of my hands, it could become anything or stay the same. It could be felted into a mess and thrown out. It could be unraveled and knit into something else. It could line the bottom of a dog crate or be sewn into a pillow for a couch.

Maybe part of this is why I am so ambivalent about selling my handspun yarns. Part of me feels like they’re not really good enough yet. Part of me feels like I couldn’t price them high enough for their value to me. And part of me wants control of their destinies.

Enough philosophy.

Brief crafty update-I’m more than ¾ done with the red socks. The DNA socks are approaching the ¾ point, and I started a pair of thick socks for my mother-in-law that are going so fast, they’re almost ¾ done as well. I also took a spinning break over the weekend and did up a three-ply sportweight out of some batts I got in a destash. The batts were gorgeous, candy colors. Pink and light green and shiny white. Unfortunately, those things may not go so well together in a yarn. I’m reserving judgment because often, I’m not sure about a yarn until I see it knit up. But I have great anxiety about this one. We shall see.

Pictures soon, I just don’t have time to take them-short work week followed by a long weekend so there should be ample photos then.


LisaBe said...

i love that. i've never thought about any of this that way before. extra-cool.

Simbelmyne said...

I have such a love/hate relationship with the knitting. I'm working on my first knitting project since my early teenaged years, and remembering how hard it is to not slip a stitch or mess up a pattern. And yet, it's so warm.

This one will probably get recycled. It's too big for it's purpose, but I'm just to stubborn to quit until it's done.