Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Won't Knit in IKEA

One thing that people who knit or crochet are often told is that they are not truly creative people. "You didn't make that. You just followed a pattern. It's just like if I bought a shelf at IKEA and put it together."

Um, no.

Sir Ken Robinson often says that people often think they are not creative because they're not writing symphonies or painting frescoes everyday. He says having an imagination means having ideas that never existed before. Creativity is when you do something about it. Theoretical physics is creative because it takes ideas and makes more out of them. Dentistry is creative because it forces the dentist to solve problems in your mouth.

I'm not a great ideas person. I will freely admit that. I think I'm a good modifier. A problem-solver. Someone who can spot the weaknesses and think of ways to get around them, much to the annoyance of those around me.

I don't write music, but I can sing and make a song my own.

I don't write recipes, but I can make the meal damn delicious.

I don't design patterns, but I know how to make it work for me.

People who knit, crochet, cross-stitch, weave, spin, they all make decisions that make the end product unique. They choose their own colours, use different needles or hooks. Weavers might set their warp in a certain way. You can tie your threads in cross-stitch in different ways. And these products would not exist if they had not existed.

There is an excitement that grows inside of me when I bring home a ball of yarn. It's got something locked up in there, something beautiful to wear or something cute to adore or something functional to use. It's up to me to find it, and if there's anything I like, it's a good search. I'll spend hours, even days, looking for a pattern to inspire me, something that says, "This is meant to be. Make it so." I'll obsess over the perfect shape, or pull a couple of ideas together. Sometimes, I'll take a gamble that it'll work out. It doesn't always, but that's just another puzzle to figure out. And it works the same way if I buy the yarn with a project in mind. It's a gamble, a puzzle with a picture that changes as you put it together.

So, while it is true that when someone knits or crochets from a pattern, they didn't create the pattern themselves. What they are doing is creating an object, taking an idea and doing something about it: making the stitches one by one with their own unique muscles, braincells, fingers, breath. They are holding the strands just so, with their own tension. They are reveling in the sensation of the yarn sliding around their fingers, the yarn they chose and dreamed about. They are watching each row take shape, watching the sock heel turn, watching the sleeve cap curve, judging its weight, its length, its drape, and wondering if they've made all the right decisions, ripping back if they haven't and thinking of ways to make it better. They are waiting to see if the yarn is accepting its fate, or if its trying to say its too stiff for this project, or too thin, or too thick. And if you don't listen, the yarn will rebel. It's a good idea to listen.

This yarn started out being lace scarf, but it was better as a plaited basketweave scarf instead. It took me months to figure that out, and days to get the stitch sequence right.

This yarn came home with me from San Francisco. The first ball wanted to be this Orca Tail Scarf, but the other two still don't know what they want to be. I'm having fun trying to find a perfect match, or at least, find an idea that will work.

I thought this yarn would be fine on its own to make a baby blanket, but it really needed some flannel on the back of it to make it perfectly cozy.

So, no, it's not like building a shelf from IKEA. We are not churning out clones of Malm drawers. We're taking the Malm and making them into Sven or Johan or Magnus or Barbara - something new that works for us and makes us feel great for making it our own.

I will likely never knit a sweater in IKEA, but then, they'd probably never want me to.

It'd be too unique.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! What a perfect example of "those who can, do, those who can't"...well, they say teach, but in this case, just complain. Boo-urns on them not trying something new. :)

AdrieneJ said...

@Li - You hit the nail right on the head! :)