..In Mysterious Ways

May 2011 057Yesterday I had a meeting with a well-known knitting designer and I was asked to tell her about myself. I reverted to my age-old answer: "Oh, I am a failed academic.." and then realised to my great astonishment that my age-old answer no longer applies.

(Maybe it never did apply because the only academic failure I ever had was that my PhD funding fell through. As many people have pointed out, that hardly counts as failure.)

Regardless, I need to figure out how to contextualise myself. Who am I nowadays and how do I communicate this Self to other people? In order to figure this out, I did what I always do when I need to think: I sat down to knit.

And I want to write at great length about this knitting project, so I hope you are sitting comfortably.

I am using a pure wool yarn which was purchased in my mother's supermarket(!) in Denmark. It is a quite lofty yarn with a beautiful handle and I'm terribly pleased with it (the price was great too). My only problem is that I bought it on the basis of it knitting up 14sts/4" but it actually knits up 17sts/4" (which makes it aran-weight). Those three stitches really make a difference - particularly as I am using the yarn for The Most Popular Sweater In The (Ravelry) World - and this particular pattern does not work with an aran-weight yarn.

May 2011 063Before I go any further, here is a photo of my knitting/zen spot today. Pretty, non? The sound of the river running was also really calming. Handy when you are suddenly not knitting what you thought you were knitting.

And .. exhale.

On the other hand, I like knitting bottom-up sweaters and so I just went auto-pilot on the project whilst soaking up much-needed Vitamin D and thinking about self-presentation, self-image and all that. Then I went home and did a very clever thing. I started my DVD player.

My lovely colleague LH has lent me her Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop DVDs. I have taken my time getting through them all: mosty of her techniques are familiar to me but there is still a lot to take in when you watch. Today I was watching her masterclass series whilst idly working on the sweater's body.

For anyone not familiar with Elizabeth Zimmermann, she is the doyen of contemporary knitters around the world. She passed away some time ago but her legacy is maintained by her family through Schoolhouse Press. Her influence can be traced in many contemporary designers from indie designers like Jared Flood and Ysolda Teague to established designers like Sarah Hatton.

I recently had a twitter conversation with Mooncalfmakes about EZ. We agreed that  while neither of us find EZ's aesthetics all that pleasing, we found her approach to knitting much more interesting. EZ made a virtue of liberating the knitter from patterns. You are the master of your own knitting and with a few basic rules tucked away inside your skull, you can knit anything you like.

So while my mind was being blown by EZ's top-down garterstitch multi-dimensional pockets - you have to see it to believe it: it's a very cool knitting trick - I was knitting away on my Failed Most Famous Sweater In The (Ravelry) World. I was adding short rows to the lower back like Kelley Petkun once recommended as my lower back is always, always cold .. and then I realised that I can take this FMFSIT(R)W project anywhere I want to take it. Of course I can.

So for the time being it is a a bottom-up seamless sweater and who knows what I'll do when I get to the yoke. Maybe I will add that parliament after all. Maybe I'll use up oddments of aran yarns I have kicking about. Maybe some colourwork. Maybe not. Who knows? What a pleasure this making-it-up-as-I-go-along type of knitting

I still haven't sussed out how to introduce myself to people, but hopefully I can make it up as I go along too. Sometimes I actually think that's how life works.