Today I read Lisa's post on RosieBlogs, called "Stop Insulting My Grandmother," and it really made me think. (Which is saying something, since I didn't have to work today, and therefore was prepared to do as little thinking as possible ...)
Lisa talks about there being such an abundance of books being published that promise to provide the knitter with easy or simple or anyone-can-do-it type of patterns. She goes on to question how beneficial it is to teach someone to knit, and never challenge them to go beyond garter stitch scarves, for example. She points out that it is true that once you know how to knit and how to purl, you have learned the basics, and a lot of the rest is both practice, and learning some new techniques. This helps you not only advance your skills, but allows you to broaden your knitting horizons considerably.
So I started thinking about my very own knitting, and whether or not it has progressed that much at all. When I learned to knit, Lisa was the person who taught me. I took a group class, and everyone was going to knit a sweater. I remember saying, "What kind of pattern should I pick," and Lisa saying, "Whatever one you like." So I chose one with cables, since I love cables. It took me a while to finish it, as Slow Knitter + Sweater Pattern = Long Term Project, but when I was finished, I not only knew the basic stitches, but how to knit cables. It was only later, when I would talk to other knitters, that I would find out that for a lot of them, cables were in the gee-I'd-love-to-but-I-know-they're-too-hard-to-learn category.
But there I was, with my cabled sweater. When they offered a class to learn to knit hats, I signed up. Likewise with socks. At no point did I consider myself an expert, but I would see yarn, or store samples, or other things that people were making, and would think, if they could do it, I could do it. So I'd wait for the opportunity to learn. I'm one of those people who needs to see something demonstrated, then I can follow it in a book. But most of the time, reading the directions and looking at illustrations don't do it for me, when it's a new technique. Have I made incredibly simple things, even though I know how to do some of these other things? Duh, yes. But I've also tried, with different levels of success, to go a step further, and at least try something. Like any other endeavor, I like some things better than others, but I like to feel like I at least gave it a shot.
So in thinking about Lisa's comments today, I realized that at least for me, knitting is like reading. I love to read. Sometimes novels, sometimes mysteries, really just about anything - it depends on both my mood and what else is going on around me. For instance, during our holiday break, I was in the mood to start something new, but not anything too involved. I was tired, and wanted to read something that wouldn't be incredibly serious or detailed, or even true-to-life. So I picked up a mystery that I had in a stack of books, and it was just perfect. I really enjoyed it, and it was just the right combination of what I wanted at that time. In the last couple of weeks, I've been reading The Woman in White, which is the January selection of Knit the Classics. So far, I'm completely involved in the story, even though it is a lot more complex, as far as language, number and type of characters, and themes, than the mystery I read only a few weeks ago.
Right now, I'm working to finish a scarf I'm knitting for the Red Scarf Project. It's a simple pattern, so that a) I can finish it in time to send it before the deadline, and b) so I can knit while watching TV, talking to people at lunchtime at work, etc. It's just right for what I need right now. What will my next project be? At this point, I'm not really sure. I have a few things that I really should finish, so I might work on finishing something, while also starting a new project. I have learned that I like having two projects going, one that is basic, or simple, or whatever you want to call it, and one that is more challenging.
Knitting, like reading, appeals to people for a number of reasons. I am glad when I hear that more people are knitting - or reading - and to some degree, I believe that doing either one is a good thing at any level. But if everyone only ever makes plain garter stitch scarves, or only ever reads the quickie celebrity bio of the week, it gets pretty boring, pretty quickly.
You know what you should try? Cables!