Monday, February 28, 2011

Existential knitting crisis

Ever since I opened the first bank account where I had to give my job occupation and said 'writer', I've been pretty clear about what defines me as a working person. Still - spending the last week or so knitting up a sample for an idea that was accepted for publication and working up swatches for two other ideas - I kinda wondered.  Designing patterns is definitely a form of writing, and it's not as though I wasn't knitting almost as soon as I was writing, back in my teens. 

It is a lot of work though.  Even patterns I think will be easy when I first get ideas for them: working them out, oiling the gears, smoothing the edges, dropping details that overpower the whole, writing it all up in the clearest way possible - ouch.  It takes hours.  It almost makes me forget you can spend the same number of hours sweating over a single passage in a story. 

Makes me wonder, too, how designers who do seriously big projects for a variety of magazines and yarn companies, producing maybe 10 sweaters in a year plus as many skirts/coats/shawls/socks, pull it it off?

Enter The Designer's Studio, a blog wherein Faina Goberstein undertakes to interview a whole ton of knit designers. I spent a fair while there the other night and here is what I learned:

An awful lot of high-producing designers tend not to spin yarn, or dye wool.  There isn't time; they have to focus. They knit on planes and their knitting groups don't necessarily meet in the same little place a few blocks from home every Tuesday (or if they do, they aren't always with them) because they are traveling all the time giving workshops.  Yep, they teach.  And like Kathi, who comes up with the cutest designs for her classes, they tailor little projects to showcase the particular skill they are covering. 

Little projects that, like my little designs, surely take hours to work out.

Okay, so enter me again, not much of a flier and feeling like I'm already doing as much on the knitting front as I can get away with, and recognizing I need to cut back a bit at least while things are as unsettled and heavy in the time demands department as they happen to be right now, requiring me to be a little less wedded to the sofa. 

What I decided: I gotta stop getting excited every time I see a call-for-submissions I can swatch for.  Yes, it's wonderful to be able to come up with an idea that somebody might actually take (this is so much rarer in fiction-writing, I still can't quite get over it.)  Yes, knitting's a fabulous creative outlet with a lot of assets, including mobility and the freedom to hold a conversation while working, that fiction just does not offer.  But it's hours of work with a deadline attached and people counting on you.  Gotta stop.

Yep, gonna be sensible, I thought: after these swatches go into the mail: taking a break.

And the next morning I woke up with an idea for a really fantastic vest literally knitting itself together in the very front of my mind (without actual needles, oddly) just like I used to find short stories coming together when the words were flowing. 

And the next day?  An idea for a pillow I really want to have.

So now I gotta rethink the whole 'sensible' thing and drop something else from the schedule.  Like cleaning, maybe?  Or laundry?


Unknown said...

Have you considered incorporating your knitting into your writing? Maybe your sleuth/heroine could own a yarn shop, be a knitting designer, or just knit as a hobby? I know the best writers tend to write what they know.

Mary Keenan said...

Oh yes, there is knitting in the stories I'm working on now, but I'm not able to write at all at the moment... what I'm trying to balance is having a creative outlet while having the other parts of my life, and those parts are looming large right now ;^)

Kathleen Taylor said...

It helps that I've been at it for a really long time, so I have skeleton patterns for almost everything- mittens, gloves, socks, sweaters, hats-in several yarn weights, so I can adapt most of my ideas around a basic shape that has already been mapped out. I've never been one for reinventing the wheel (or knitting a sock from the heel out, or any other really cool, but complicated innovation), so I don't have to start from scratch very often. That said, it still takes forever...

Unknown said...

Can't wait to read your work. Good luck on the balance. Every time I think I have it figured out, everything shifts!