It’s *THAT* Time of Year

As my time working on final deliverables increases, the less work I seem to actually be getting done.

A shot of my Spring Cleaning Shawl folded up on a table.

Normally on these blog posts, I tell you about something I read or insight I found while knitting. The fact is that at this point I am spending more time trying to synthesize that stuff for my final deliverables than I am here.

So while I push through these final weeks and write the first two chapters of my dissertation here is what I actually did this week:

  • Finished developing my survey
  • Worked my way through the IRB training courses
  • I finished knitting two baby hats as a gift
  • Finished a hat
  • Emailed the place I bought my spinning wheel from
  • Came up with a contingency plan in case the wheel doesn’t show up until February.
  • Blocked and finished a shawl (another Christmas gift)

And in all of that, I did manage to come up with some more insights about myself and my knitting practice.

There’s something about knitting baby hats that makes me very uninspired.

Two “Basic Baby Hats” made for a baby shower.

I was knitting baby hats for my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law. I ended up making two hats and by all accounts, they should be enjoyable knits.

  • They are small
  • They are simple

However, for whatever reason when I cast on baby hats something that would take me an evening suddenly takes me three events and a lot of scowling.

From my perspective, this likely has everything to do with the process and materials I was using not the recipient. I like who I knit for, usually, but there’s something about the materials, pattern, or tools that makes me move through this process much slower.

The confounding bit is that I don’t mind simple patterns.

Shots of a Paper Bag Hat made for a friend of mine.

The thing is that some of the things that I didn’t think I liked about knitting the baby hats showed up in this Paper Bag Hat I made as a gift. Its panels of knit and purl stitches knit in the round on circular needles.

In contrast to the baby hats, it was easy to get lost in this pattern and just watch the hat grow in size. There was no shaping, nothing to distract me from my stitches.

It was easy to hit a tempo until I realized I was running out of yarn on this skein and needed to start decreasing. Even then I had to adapt a little bit because I was consuming more yarn than the “recipe” led me to believe.

I feel behind on the spinning and experimentation but I have a contingency plan.

Last week, I posted some sample spinning I had done and mentioned that I was worried about being able to produce an abundance of material with the drop spindle I was using.

This week I emailed the vendors where I ordered my spinning wheel from to get an ETA.

As I start to think about and finalize possible designs for my practicum I wanted to be clear on what strategies I was using. I was hoping to knit yarn that I produce with a conductive core into the project, but in the event that the spinning wheel doesn’t show up in time, I am preparing secondary designs with the intention of using a process called duplicate stitching.

It would result in a similar look but be done post-production.

This week also brought up what happens when a hobby turns industrious.

Shots of the Spring Cleaning Shawl by Stephen West.

I spent a large amount of time between 2018 and 2020 either not knitting or only knitting for certain occasions and I think a large part of that was because my knitting was seen as a hobby not as actual work.

However, the more I prioritized knitting for other people the less I enjoyed it and that came to a head when my mother asked me if I could make her another scarf like one I’d knit her before.

One of the problems I’ve had over and over again with family asking me to knit things is that they want a certain fiber and they want a certain pattern but they don’t want to pay for materials. So, what ends up happening is I end up doing the math to make something shorter that ends up being too small and that they don’t like.

This is the first time in years that I’ve produced as much as I have in such a short amount of time, and it’s increased that uptick again.

It’s also increased the notes I get from people I’ve knit for in the past. As early as this morning my mother told me, “Oh, I like this scarf you made me, but I wish it was shorter.” (An hour later, she would tell me she took it off cos it was too hot and too long.) I told her that particular pattern wasn’t easy to shorten because you have to shorten it from the beginning since it’s knit from the outer edge to the inner edge.

It’s made me really consider where and how I do my labor and specifically how it may relate to the history of knitting as a whole. I don’t know that this pertains to my thesis, but I think that it does help to shape the context of what I think I want to make as an end result.

And all these thoughts about labor brought me back to this Ted Talk by Kate Davies.

In this 15-minute talk, Kate Davies talks about how she became a disabled woman with a brain injury. She discusses her recovery and how it gave her a new perspective on what’s creative. She breaks down things like making a sock ball and how that was once an easy task she didn’t think about but how she had to relearn how to do it in her new body.

Knitting was important for her rehabilitation, but it also helped her during periods of neurological fatigue. She says:

When I was suffering from fatigue, I’d often feel overwhelmed by the sensation that nothing was happening. But if I was knitting then things were in fact always moving forward. A row came to an end, a pattern repeat would change, and the sock that was on my needles would always grow just a little. The main business of my post-stroke life had to be self-care and I found that knitting always promoted rather than challenged that goal.

If we go back to the idea of cybernetics and knitting that I started out with, I feel that Davies speech speaks to that point really well. The process of knitting keeps moving forward in a set of repeats and loops. In fact, we could draw a conclusion that pattern repeats are a bit like a p5.js sketch in that the simplest of patterns could be seen as running loops.

Where is this all going?

I am still not sure what my final deliverables will be and that’s what I am hoping to nail down within the next week. I am trying to see the dimensions of what I’ve read about and what I may want to create so I can encourage myself to focus on one thing and save the rest for future arcs in my practice.

However, as the title of this post suggest, it’s *THAT* time of year. And while I meant for this title to refer to the mix of finals, holidays, and end-of-year to-dos, I am also thinking broadly about goals for the year ahead.

A large part of my life, in general, has been trying to chart my goals and my hopes for the future. It’s been the source of a lot of my transformation over the last few years and I am realizing how vital it is. One of the things I am thinking of doing, is using my new wheel to practice spinning with the intention of completing a sheep-to-sweater challenge.

This is something some spinners and knitters have attempted with the help of local farms. They’ll acquire a fleece, spin the fleece into a yarn, and then knit a sweater. I have yet to really research what’s involved there, but I think it may be a good arc for post-thesis knitwear design life.

One of the side-quests I found out about was this growing movement called Fibershed, where textile artists and designers are starting to think about where their material is sourced from and how they may be able to create a more circular lifecycle for a garment. I just acquired the book written by the founder of this moment and hope to read it in the near future.

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A place for thoughts, musings, notations, and synthesis of ideas for my thesis research.

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Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser

Grad Student at NYU Tandon. Associate Editor for Tell-Tale TV. Pop Culture enthusiast. Writer with a dog. Knits.

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