I recently got an email from a student asking to interview me. Ryan wrote to me and said that he will be "participating on a project where I get to learn about anything that interests me. I have chosen to learn how to knit because I get to challenge myself and learn a skill that I have always been interested in. In my independent learning project I will learn the basic skills of knitting a scarf and slippers and keep a weekly journal on my progress".
I've found that answering someone else's questions has the benefit of clarifying my own thinking. I was also interested in hearing what would a non-knitter ask me. Ryan is going to provide me with a copy of his final project and I'm intrigued to hear about the learning process from the very beginning, perhaps I will get some insights that will improve my teaching. I'll let you know the outcome when I see the final project. Ryan's questions and my answers follow:
1. How long have you been knitting?
I've been knitting steadily since my teens, so over 35 years. I have absolutely no recollection of learning how to knit. My mother and both of my grandmothers knit so I assume that one or all of them taught me. I do however remember the first sweater I knit and I still have the pattern.
2. Why do you knit?
I find knitting to be amazing in both it's simplicity and it's complexity.There are really only 2 stitches, knit and purl. However, we could argue that there is really only 1 stitch since they are the reverse of one another. Combine them in different ways with different yarns and the possible variety of outcomes seems to be mathematically impossible and in an odd way, mysterious and mystical.
It is an artistic pursuit and a technical challenge for me. I love to make beautiful things and to work with the wonderful colours. As well there is a feeling of comfort when the yarn moves over over my fingers and I enjoy the fabric being created. Knitting fulfills an inner need for self expression.
Knitting makes me happy!
3. Does knitting help you relieve stress? If so, how?
Ask any knitter and they will confirm that knitting reduces stress. It is a form of meditation. Recent scientific studies have found that knitters can actually lower their heart rate by about 11 beats per minute when knitting, brain waves are slowed at the same time. As well, research shows that knitting, similar to rhythmic breathing, yoga and other meditative movements, calm an individual. The trick is to choose projects that have a rhythm for calming periods and attack the challenging bits at appropriate times.
4. How has knitting changed your life?
Knitting has provided a rich, full, beautiful life for me. I have many friends that I met at knitting events. I regularly attend a small knitting group, a large knitting guild, http://www.
downtownknitcollective.ca/ and a professional knitters networking group. Now knitting is also my career as a designer, blogger and teacher.
5. What does a career in knitting involve?
I've been interviewing professional knitters on my blog knittingrobin.blogspot.com for 2 years. The careers vary widely. There are technical editors, hand dyers, wholesalers, distributors, yarn shop owners, teachers and designers. The work varies widely from one individual to another. I spend most of my time writing, either patterns or on my blog and developing course materials for when I teach. I knit everyday but most of that is in the evening in front of the TV or at the knitting events I attend. I also have days dedicated to photography and I'm starting to work on instructional knitting videos.
6. How have you made an impact in the knitting community?
I've been teaching knitting classes for the past 25 years in various venues in my hometown Toronto, Canada. I'm passionate about teaching and the face to face contact lets me know that I'm passing the skills of my craft onto others. I have a very strong background in sewing, tailoring and millinery. That impacts my approach to knitting. I'm also very interested in mainstream fashion which influences my design aesthetic. The professional knitters group I mentioned earlier is a group that I started a little over a year ago and we continue to add new members. I've done several presentations at my local guild on topics including body image as it relates to knitting. Recently the numbers reading my blog have really started to grow and I get a lot of emails from readers telling me how much they enjoy the posts.
7. What is your favorite thing to knit?
I work mainly on women's wear, both garments and accessories. I like to experiment with lots of techniques. I especially like to take knitting classics and add a new twist with a unique detail.
8. What lessons can knitting teach you?
Knitting can teach you very basic things like manual technical skills, mathematical relationships, garment construction, three dimensional spatial relationships, logistical thinking and technical writing. More importantly it reflects your character back to you as you learn and grow as a knitter. It teaches persistence, and how very small seemingly insignificant actions (a single knit stitch) can add up in a big way. It also teaches us a lot about our societies perception of time and it's value.
9. Why is knitting a good skill?
It's a way to be productive in unproductive situations, while commuting to work or waiting for appointments. It's a stress reducer in a hectic world. It teaches us many things beyond the actual knitting skills, bringing an unexpected abundance to our lives that surprises knitters as they move from novice to experienced knitters.
10. What is your favorite type of yarn to use?
I tend to prefer natural fibers in a wide variety of weights and textures. Yarn is a medium, just like paint for a artist or wood for a cabinet maker. It's hard to express the feeling I have for fiber. It is something like a cross between love, admiration and awe at it's infinitesimal beauty.