Knitting (in) circles

Circular cowl
Knitting on a circular needle – not my favourite

I thought I would break with recent tradition and grace the page with a photograph of a piece of knitting, and not a moment too soon I hear you say if you’ve been following this blog thinking it was about knitting.

Thus far, I have knit a number of nice woolly cowls to stock this Etsy shop that is lurking on the horizon, but I have knit them all flat and joined them into a circle by working a seam. I have made them that way because that is how I like to knit and the first rule of trying to earn money from a skill is to avoid doing something you hate. Each time I have completed a cowl I have asked myself whether it would have been more correct to knit it in the round, and the answer I have given myself is maybe, perhaps, but I don’t know, and I don’t like working in the round, and it’s not like you can’t actually achieve the same end result working the piece flat and then seaming it. You see – even when I’m talking to myself I find it hard to just give a straight answer.

This week, however, I have been discussing the progress of my projects with a knitting friend who is very strongly in the “use a circular needle for everything” camp and it has prompted me to try one project using a circular needle so I can compare it in terms of speed of knitting, quality of finished object and (ultimately) preference of buyers. Also, most importantly, can I get myself over the hurdle of the flappy cord that joins the two needles and from which the work hangs? For it is this, gentle reader, which annoys me most about the circular needle. This, and the fact you can’t use your forearms, elbows and torso to support, or control, the needles and fabric whilst you are working. It is a very different experience knitting when your work is held on two solid, straight rods compared to when it is suspended from a thin, flexible line.

So there is knitting in circles and this is where I am with it. I am also interested today in the “knitting circle” which might be a group that actually meets or just the people you know with whom you share the hobby of knitting. We like to think we are Musketeers, all for one and one for all; that the shared interest is a marvellous basis for friendship, but sometimes the criticism of your circle is harder to brush off than the criticism of the wider world. In the knitting community we pay a lot of lip service to the fact that there is room for all the various ways of doing knitting, nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Yet I find myself unable to escape the feeling that some things, to borrow a theme from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, are more right than others. The use of circular needles is one of the instances where the consensus is strongly orientated in one direction and if your preference lies in the other direction you find yourself being quite defensive. Whilst I can argue the case for seams in a garment providing a structure which is helpful in a knitted fabric, I am less able to argue the case in something like socks, gloves, or my cowls.

Something I regularly read is the Positivity Blog by Henrik Edberg. When he talks about self-confidence, he often touches on the fact that whilst we may take comments people make to heart, they aren’t really all that bothered about us and the things we do, they just move on. We might spend an inordinate amount of time pondering a conversation, re-playing it, trying to think what we could have said to put our point across better, but they won’t even remember the conversation ten minutes after it has ended. In Edberg’s philosophy, if we remind ourselves of this we can save ourselves a deal of anguish.

I would like that to be true.

Yet what if the barbs that sting us really are barbs? If the person who looks at you askance and says “Oh, you’ve knit these flat have you?” is criticising rather than simply observing? What if the people who predominantly knit their sweaters “in the round” (as a series of tubes) really believe that this is a better or more authentic or, yes, superior way of working? That, no matter how much they coat the pill with sugar, they still mean that you are doing something wrong?

I suppose if this is the case, then the best that can happen is that we accept that friendship isn’t about always being in agreement and some of the most rewarding friendships are the ones that challenge us, and in challenging us help us to define our own attitudes.


One thought on “Knitting (in) circles

  1. I sit in a weekly knitting group, and though I personally love the circular for portability, I teach people how to knit on straight needles and believe firmly anyone should indeed make in whatever way works best for them. I’ve met two folks recently who I observe to be literally knitting “backwards” in such a way I would not think would be physically possible. It’s how they learned, it works for them, and who am I to judge?

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