Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Litmus Test(s)

There are all kinds—and few of them are good (well the REAL one, used to quickly determine if something is acid or base/and how much so...well that's a great use!)

There are some of the other kinds metaphorical litmus tests—(shibboleths (3rd meaning), if you prefer); the all or nothing kind of test exist that everywhere—in religion (the ONLY way to get to heaven is to believe THIS) in politics (the only view to hold on this topic is this or I WILL NEVER Vote or support you) and in Knitting (THIS IS THE WAY TO DO DO—Everything else is wrong!) I don't like this sort of thing.

There a some knitting knottsies out there—who say: MY way is the only way!
Me? I try to be open minded—though today, I am not being so.

To me—the correct way to do something is the way that ends up with the correct result. (Are there better or worse ways—yeah, sure sometimes. But better isn't always the RIGHT way—and for sure not the only way!)

Going for garters stitch? Knit Every stitch, in every row--It's the most the common way to do it.

But if you want to purl every stitch, in every row, go right ahead!

And if you want to knit a row (conventionally) and then work a row of purls –in a true left-handed way (from left needle onto right)—well it's not my choice, but I agree, that would result in a fabric that looks likes (that IS,) garter stitch.

That last method wouldn't be my first choice (or second!) style to use, but if it works for you? Do it.
Any of these methods results in a fabric that IS garter stitch. (And there are others methods that would work too!)

I Judge the results, not the process. Are there processes that are speedier? Sure (And do I knit using one? YES) but do I think knitting fast is a superior way to knitting? NO!

To me the only litmus test in knitting is the result. IF it looks right, It is right. The method or process used doesn't matter. There are ways to make mistakes in knitting, but there is no WRONG way to knit.

And to be honest, I use that as a sort of litmus test.

I don't mind in the least if a KNITTER has a strong opinion (I THINK THIS IS BEST PROCESS, and here is why; or I ONLY KNIT THIS WAY—(I acknowledge other processing or styles exist, and they might have some value for others, but I DON'T use any process but mine!)

Strong opinions are welcome. But I don't like DOGMA: I knit this way, and this is the only way to knit. I DON'T CARE that you get the same results doing something else; if you don't work in the same style as me, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

Dogma is my litmus test.

So last night I went to see Debbie Stoller at the Brooklyn public library.. and when some one asked “What's next?” She said—“I don't know!” (what a wonderful refreshing answer!)

I suggested she could do a book about knitting styles--since one point that I was really bothered by, in her first book, was a bit of dogma about right and wrong (stitch mounts). (There was other dogma, that I didn't like—but since I am a combo knitter, this little bit of dogma bothered me especially.)

Debbie went into an fun little skit explaining why EASTERN CROSSED knitting wasn't the same as standard stocking knit--and then went on to say: “Sure, I have talked to Anne Modiset, and others, but other styles of knitting, (besides European);I know about working with yarn tensioned round your neck, or working in a style that keeps the yarn always in front of the work (as to purl) –but they Are wrong.

She went on further to say—It's a shame these styles of knitting will likely die out--(but, then, they are wrong).

And with that bit of dogma, (and another: “There is a design section in my newest book—it covers the 4 styles of sleeves” ) she lost me.

Let's come back to that second bit of dogma. THE 4 styles? Wait, since when are there only 4 styles?! --the 4 styles she acknowledges are Raglan, drop (no armhole shaping at all) simple (a decrease at under arm, but not much more) and set in (and she couldn't ever remember the term set in!) and apparently nothing else.

I guess we no longer have kimono sleeves, or dolman sleeves, or gathered sleeves, or leg o' mutton sleeves, or bat wing, or .. (I know about 40 different styles of sleeves—some only sort of—I don't know the official names of the styles—I just know they exist-- There are sleeves that are different front and back, (and I haven't a clue what they are called!) or ones that that use gussets,(gusseted sleeves?) or that ...

Well WAY more than 4! (even as basic styles!) And yes, there are some styles I don't like (dolman, and to a lesser degree, batwing—a style that can resemble a moo-moo!) but just because I don't like them, or use them much, doesn't mean they don't exist!

And then, almost as a kicker-- while spouting dogma of her own, she noted that her first book was 'rewriten' when it got translated into Danish –and any mention of holding the yarn in the Right hand –(commonly called English style) was omitted. She was sort of amazed that this could happen. Apparently she is such an authority on knitting,(not!) only she allow is allowed to dogma.

So, my un-comfort with her dogma in Book 1—a bit of dogma I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on—wasn't a mistake. She doesn't say “FOR ME, and the books I write, I am only going to discuss and use European style knitting—other styles exist, but I never use them, and especially, never will advocate any of them, for any reason. (a perfectly valid point of view) –

What she instead says is: THE ONLY WAY TO KNIT IS THE WAY I WAS TAUGHT, the way my mother knit, the way my grandmother knit. Any other way to knit is wrong. End of discussion.

I think its sad. And while I am not going to toss out my copies of Stitch n' Bitch, or Stitch n' Bitch Nation—I am never going to buy any other books by her. I went to the talk with an open mind. I excused her bit of dogma as editorializing. But she opened her mouth, and made her views clear.

I think its sad. She has done much for knitting. But for me, she has failed the litmus test—She want to make up the rules for knitting, and for her, the first rule is: MY way is the only way.

And I totally disagree. I think all methods and styles of knitting are valid.


Judy said...

She and people like her are the reason the needle arts almost died out.

I appreciate the fact the ladies at the LYS didn't tell me I was wrong but gave me the caveats of combo knitting in the round, decreases, and most patterns are written from the Western perspective.

I actually think I am a more versatile knitter because I can knit more that one way. I do need to learn how to knit Eastern just in case I happen to find I like it better than Eastern Uncrossed.

Virginia G said...

I agree, however she did a lot to make knitting more popular, and for that I will be grateful. I also taught myself to knit from her books (and really ramped it up from EZ, who can also be seriously dogmatic).

That said, she (and her dogma in the first SnB) is EXACTLY the reason why I never asked for help with my knitting in the early stages or talked to LYSs. Because I knew damn well that if I had asked a question and somebody told me I was knitting "wrong" I would have dropped the entire thing right there and never looked back.

Yeah, the sleeves thing really ticked me off. Also her irritation at the other ways of holding yarn. And then she had the gall to get pissed that the Danish version of her book rewrote the section on English/Continental knitting to feature only Continental? Really? After you just told us that you believe there is only one *right* way to knit?

On the whole it was a very positive experience for me. I'm bracketing. The good: Listening to her talk, getting the new book (cute patterns) and having her sign it. The Awesome: Meeting you. The bad: Eh. I'll forget about it soon enough.

PJ said...

People like that ruin what should be a fun experience. I've been researching all my questions on-line with You Tube videos. I watch a couple and decide for myself. I find there's less anxiety that way.

Another thing I've found is yarn and needle snobbery. It can be rough when someone can't answer your question before first saying you should use better yarn and/or needles. Most people aren't going to invest more money in their hobby until they get better at it. I just finished my pullover, and it was a learning experience to say the least. If I used expensive yarn on that pullover, I would be crying now. lol

Debbie Stoller said...

hey, this post came up in my google alerts, and i'm glad of it because it gives me a chance to respond!
first off, thanks so much for coming last night; I actually really enjoy debating about the subject of whether there is a wrong or a right stitch mount (because that's actually what you asked, and what I was responding to). I do want to clarify that I certainly did NOT say that the other ways of knitting (Eastern knitting, holding yarn around neck, Portuguese knitting, etc. etc, )were wrong - I would never say that, and I'm sorry if it sounded like that's what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say, however, that if someone is following the instructions in my book, the way I explain them, for either English or Continental knitting, then there is a right and a wrong way for your stitches to be sitting on the needle or you will end up with an incorrect end result - your stitches will be crossed. And although crossed stitches is the standard way of doing Eastern European knitting, as I explained in the demo, the fabric that crossed stitches yields will not be as stretchy as uncrossed, standard western knit fabric. And so (I know I was very careful about how I worded this part) if you are crossing your stitches and using a Western knitting pattern, your project will not come out as stretchy as the designer is expecting it to, and it most likely will not fit correctly.
There's a lot to say about my explanation of 4 basic sweater types (4 most common solutions to the attaching sleeves to body question, which I explained as drop-shoulder, raglan, circular yoke, and set-in sleeve or fitted sleeve [never said 'nuttin about a 'simple' style, i don't even know what that would be, actually]). Of course there are other ways, but those are the most common solutions and those are the ones I explain Also, I wasn't pissed that they edited the book in Denmark, just the opposite - I thought it was interesting that they felt so strongly about maintaining their traditional way of knitting that they got rid of the parts of my book that explained English style. And the point I was making was that I actually really appreciate that various regions have their own traditional styles of knitting and I worry sometimes that these might get lost.
Finally, I did not, would not, really and truly did not say that the way I knit is the only right way! What I said was that, for me, knitting right-handed is the most enjoyable and the way I want to knit because for me, one of the joys of knitting is feeling like I am a part of history, and I know that all of my female ancestors knit that way. (If I did say, 'and of course that's the only right way' I would have only meant it sarcastically, jokingly. If I really meant it I would not have spent so much time in my first and this last book discussing continental knitting in equal length).
Just goes to show you how difficult it is to communicate things and make sure that what you're saying is what the other person is hearing. clearly, i did a crap job of that since you came away with something very different than what I felt i said, and certainly than what I intended.
Oh one more thing - you say that if something looks right it is right, and in many ways that's true; but knitting with crossed stitches can actually look right, but it's really not the way a Western pattern is going to expect that the fabric is going to be constructed. Can we not say, then, that crossing your stitches is wrong? It is, unfortunately, by far the most common error I come across with knitters, and I always try to correct them and explain why they wouldn't want to do this. How do you feel on that subject?

LizzieK8 said...

Great commentary! I totally agree. Dogma just doesn't have a place in a well rounded life.

@Debbie: "Can we not say, then, that crossing your stitches is wrong?" No, it isn't wrong. It will give a final result that looks like this. If that's what the knitter wants, then keep on. If that's not what the knitter wants, doing it this way will give a different result.