Saturday, November 3, 2007

improv vs. pattern

Last week, I was sitting in front of my computer, trying to catch up on all my Thurs. night shows and I just picked up the yarn and started knitting. I started with a vague idea of making a pair of simple ribbed fingerless hand-warmers with some SWS that I had. As I went, they spontaneously turned into a pair of ribbed mittens (that now need have a thumb). My knit nite friends were not surprised. They said "You're always knitting without a pattern and making up projects!" What? This is news to me.

So I started thinking about this a bit... First, I looked back at all the things I've made and realized that I have made up a few here and there, but most are pretty spontaneous rather than intentional shun of a pattern. I don't dislike using patterns, I actually love the idea of following instructions and knowing you'll get the results you want. I'm the same way with cooking, I'd rather follow a recipe than have to forage through the fridge. I think the reason I end up "making up" my own knitting comes from just taking advantage of the situation. Let me explain.

Take these mittens. I currently have 3 projects on the needles right now, the baby sweater for Gabriella, a sample ruffle scarf for SASI, and my Wyvern socks, all of them are at least half way done or not that far from finishing. Why start a completely new project? I'll tell you - the other three projects all have patterns - patterns that I can't or haven't memorized. This means I have to have the pattern out and ready in front of me, know where I am in it, and have the quiet to focus on reading it. That means if working from a pattern, I need to plan out a lot more before I even start knitting!

If I'm making up the pattern, it's something I don't have to think about. I can just pick it up and go. As I'm shaping it or going into something more complicated than stockinette, I just fiddle with it until I get the results I want. That's why I think it's so hard to write a pattern, - while I'm working on it, I'm not really thinking about it, I'm just improvising. Which means afterwards, I have to try and remember, what did I do exactly...??

This is very similar to what I do at work. My job is to lead a group of youth or adults through a variety of activities to enable them to work through some pre-determined issue (i.e. lack of communication, trust issues, being accountable for their actions etc. etc.) and also enhance their cohesiveness. Every day, I facilitate a different group. Different sizes, different ages different objectives and different lengths of time to work with them. I usually get the information about my groups about 5 minutes after I've met them. As my day continues, the activity I choose to introduce to my group next depends on where they are at that point in the day. I couldn't map out a day with a group if I wanted to, because it depends on what they give me. It works the same way with the mitten, depending on the yarn, and the stitch I'm doing, what size or shape I need it to be, I have to adjust as I come to that part.

Now the problem with making up a pattern can be that it can cause a pretty simple thing to take much longer. When I was making the giraffe, I ripped out the legs (each one) 3 or 4 times to get it how I wanted it. Partly because I wanted them to look the same, but also because I was trying something a little different, to tweak it, and get it just right. With a pattern you don't have this issue. Someone has figured that part out, and you just need to follow their directions. If it doesn't match what you intended, you can then alter/adjust it to make it work, but you at least have a foundation for your intended path. That is one of the advantages of a pattern. You know if you follow the pattern it will (or should if it's written well) work, and it will look nice and unless you mess up there's no need to rip back or do it over. If you look at the pattern in advance you can plan for the techniques you don't know as well and have all your materials at hand. In the same way at work, I can rely on the activities themselves to stabilize me. This activity is supposed to be set up for a group in this way. If I present it to my group in the basic way, it will (or should if I present it correctly) work, and it will still get my group to interact and work together and communicate and etc. etc.

So what it basically comes down to is, I need to have the prep time and quiet before I start or work on a pattern project, and that things might take a little longer if I wing it, but it'll be better catered to what I'm looking for or expect. Now.. the next question is how to I apply that to my life?? yeah yeah, I know I'm not supposed to bring my work home with me *grin*

Here are some more shots of the mittens:

Here's me knitting the thumb on, I had just cast off for an opening for the thumb, but then when I changed my mind and decided to make them into mittens, I just went back and picked up the cast off stitches and used the 3 DPN's to add a thumb.
I do really like the way the ribbing looks inside out, but I don't weave in ends well enough to turn them inside out.

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