The Logic of Knitting

Filed in Skill Building by on June 24, 2014 2 Comments

If you ask many knitting professionals about their career prior to world of yarn, you will find lots of similar themes. Many of us come from a computer programming or engineering background. And the more you think about knitting, the more that makes sense.

Photo Credit: washingtonydc via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: washingtonydc via Compfight cc

Both of those careers employ a creative application of logic. Programming is ultimately about off and on, the two settings of a bit (kind of sounds like knit and purl). Engineering is about creating something that is functional and structurally sound while still meeting the aesthetic requirements of the design (like sweaters, socks and other knitting projects). Both professions work within a set of rules and parameters, but the creative use of those elements is what makes something wonderfully unique.

The Program of Knitting

The more I have thought about this relationship the more I have understood why I was drawn to knitting as my “ultimate” craft. I have dabbled in practically everything that is fiber related and truly enjoy most of them. But creating fabric through knitting is probably the most like programming (with the possible exception of weaving — but weaving isn’t as portable). As with programming, I continue to be fascinated and amazed at the variety of possibilities that are available by just combining two options, knit and purl. It may also be why I am slightly more drawn to texture knitting as opposed to color … but I digress.

Knitting Logic

The other aspect that I love is that I can solve knitting problems by applying the same type of logic I used to apply to my programming problems. Last evening I was faced with a small conundrum, how to weave live stitches together as if to purl instead of as if to knit. If I was weaving them together in the more traditional method I would just use Kitchener stitch or its close relative, tubular bind-off. But I needed a row of purls instead of a row of knits. Knitting logic to the rescue!

Reversed Kitchener

Because I understand the basic principle of knitting – that a knit and purl are created at the same time and are just two sides of the same stitch – I assumed that if I reversed all the directions for traditional Kitchener I would get purl instead of knit. And I was RIGHT!

This may not be big news to you sock knitters out there that can Kitchener in your sleep. But for those of us who only pull out the technique when we need it, this was a minor revelation. Except that it wasn’t! The logic of knitting assured me, before I made my first stitch, that doing the opposite would create the opposite result.

Understanding Versus Blind Faith

The irony is that to get reversed Kitchener I worked the steps as they are normally printed. The only difference was I started with knit sides together and the purl sides showing. The reason this works is that each stitch is treated the opposite than it would have been if knit sides were showing (standard Kitchener). Because I don’t do Kitchener as a series of rote steps, I have to understand what I am doing to implement it correctly, therefore I knew what I had to do to reverse it. It was only after I was done and looked it up did I discover the ironic part of the process.

All this to say, that blindly following instructions may be the way we need to begin; but to move beyond beginner level knitting, we often will need to understand why our motions produce the results we desire. So once again, the logic of knitting produced an “a-ha” moment for me.

When was the last time knitting resulted in an “a-ha” moment for you?

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