Monday, November 29, 2010
After a few weeks of letting the notion bounce through my thoughts I began to follow the question of why knitting provides its practitioners with an overwhelming sensation of well being. All knitters have experienced the emotion and yet for most, although welcomed, it goes un-researched. I began with a simple evaluation of how one can attribute values to the sensation. The foundation of the sensation, although a simple suggestion, seems to revolve around an easement of stress through elimination of intruding thoughts: a pseudo. In my first bit of research, bounds of material provided specific examples of the therapeutic qualities of knitting, yet none cantilevered into any form of explanation. Further examination of stress relief techniques finally directed me in a suitable direction- the juxtaposition of mind and body through physical and mental techniques of meditation. The research of one particular individual, Herbert Benson, went to dimensions of research that no other individual had even thought pursue. In multiple quantitative studies, he showed the physiological changes that meditation elicited. The easiest way to logically portray the concepts he discovered can be seen through counter evaluation of stress. When an individual crosses a particular stressor, their body sets off a series of reactions that heightens an individual’s awareness and strength, preparing them for a reactive evasion of danger. Although this is one the most innate and simplistic bodily reactions to stimuli, it is an overworked system that taxes the body due to constant stimulation during the constant hustle of life.
So how are we supposed to escape the escape the pounding pressures of life? Knit! Herbert Benson, the same individual who studied the stress response, developed an adverse concept called the relaxation response. This response elicits the reverse physiological response as the fight-or-flight response- lower blood pressure, slower heart rate, and slower breath rate. The body’s hormone levels are calmed. After further exploration as to how the relaxation response is induced, Benson found that repetition- of parse motion or sound- blocked intrusive thoughts and allows individuals to relax. In knitting, as mentioned previously, this escapable mind-clearing phenomenon is the concept I so desperately questioned. According to Benson, the key lies within the repetitive act of knitting. Under further investigation I discovered some research that went hand in hand with Benson’s ideas. This study found that the rhythm of one’s fingers, as long as following an external focus, stimulates the cortex to allow for a greater degree of concentration. I’ll explain how I feel this logically flows with the concept of relaxation but first let me take a side trip into how this cunningly correlates well with our class structure.
Each Craft Wisely class, we, the student, come in and knit for the first fifteen minutes of class. After the fifteen minutes are up, the class is started and we continue our knitting. At the beginning of semester I found it a bit difficult knitting while class discussion was firing around the room. I honestly felt uncomfortable knitting during class despite my highly attentive state of mind. But now, after discovering positive fingertip-cortex paralleled research, I found evidence, and subsequent ease of mind, establishing knitting driven attention peaks.
An increased level of attention logically supports the relaxing nature of knitting because if the mind is heightened to greater state of attention, it must be cleared and free from intruding thoughts. Thus such fingertip-cortex connecting research, through logical deduction, might just lead to the root physiological processes that I have been seeking. Stimulation of the finger nerves may stimulate certain regions of the cortex that in turn elicit the relaxation response where blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows, and reactivity to noreprenephrine decreases- all causing the relaxing sensation experienced while knitting. Although the pathway is not concrete I find it reassuring to be able to identify a scientific basis for knitting induced relaxation, showing that the sensation is not merely a fabricated emotion.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Moving forward to my current project. This is actually the first time that I've used double pointed needles, or knitted in the round. I really like this way of knitting, the only problem I have is that the area where I carried the yarn is much tighter then the rest of the glove. This I hope to fix in later work by just keeping the yarn loose.
This pattern I actually modified to include the purple and I have changed a couple other little things that aren't visible yet. For some reason I seem to be unable to leave a pattern as it is, which I don't think is that bad of a habit. For example, this pattern involves the bass clef. In the pattern the clef is actually located on the wrong line of the staff and being a music person I feel that it is important to have the clef located in the right spot. Hopefully this will be an easy fix, but you never know!
Well that's all for now,
Sunday, November 21, 2010
|A handbag my Grannie crochet while in college..|
|Grannie Iris' matching hat as well!|
|See the original crochet square in rainbow? it is the start of this hat!|
|My second crochet hat of the week!|
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
What "magic" can one do with a pair of circular knitting needles? I call it whatever can be done "magic" because not everyone can master using circular needles well--I once tried and failed. I think of this as a challenge to me, but my classmates in my Honors Crafting class keep motivating me with the work they are doing.
I opted for making hats for the Conway Cradle Care project that we are doing. This idea sounded crazy to me at first but then our class is going to have a knitting workshop in which I look forward to learning this new craft.
When I started working on the circular needles, I searched on how to use them and one website (http://www.knittingforcharity.org/5_tips_for_knitting_on_circular_knitting_needles.html) impressed me by giving 5 tips for knitting on circular needles:
Tip #1 -- Always read your knitting pattern before startingTip #2 -- Educate yourself about circular knitting needles
Tip #3 -- It's all in the details.Tip #4 -- If at first you don't succeed...keep trying.
Tip #5 -- Choose a beginner level pattern.I have been trying to work on these tips, but I know the crafting workshop we are going to have will help me a lot in figuring out what exactly to do. Therefore, what I am trying to show in this post is that crafting requires most of all, patience and co-operation because I believe those people who know how to knit in the round faced difficulties as well at first. Co-operation is required in terms of helping each other out in figuring how to do something, through my class's cooperation I am going to learn how to knit in the round.
You were my mortal enemy. You haunted my nightmares. You stalked me in dark alleys, always whispering “Kimmmm, I have bested you. You will forever be condemned to work with two needles. You can never conquer me!” So, I’d just like you to know...
YOU HAVE BEEN CONQUERED!
At the craft-in Ariel taught a group of us how to crochet a hat (Well, we learned how to crochet the first part of a hat.) There was this wonderful epiphany I reached. I finally understood the basic principals of this illusive hand-craft. I give all the credit to Ariel and our little crafting group. There’s something so fantastic about physically knitting (or Crocheting!) together. I had a person there every step of the way to teach me where to put the needle and how to hold the yarn. I think everyone should thrust aside their youtube videos and call an expert to come to your house and craft right next to you.
So, after our craft-in, I went straight to Wal-Mart and bought a size I crochet needle, came home, and then found a crochet scarf pattern. I decided that I wanted to re-make my Red-Scarf for the Orphan Foundation of America. I knitted one scarf during the summer but didn’t really know what I was making it for. Crocheting a scarf for them felt more...right. I encompassed on our class goal of expanding our crafting knowledge and I got the benefit of understanding the cause I was crocheting for WHILE crocheting.
At first I had some difficulties. It was quite cold at the craft-in so my hands were dry and smooth, allowing the yarn to easily move around my fingers. My warm bedroom caused my hands to become a little sticky. It was hard to hold the yarn but after a while I got the hang of it. I was surprised to find that crocheting was both quick and easy! I used the trinity crochet stitch and whipped through that scarf in two days.
I guess this little allegory should warm you up to the idea of learning a new craft. If I can learn crocheting, anybody can.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Knitting is often a light-hearted activity, and I often count yarn time as some of the dependably enjoyable moments of my day. Fascination with knitting is contagious, and like all bugs, it spreads rapidly in families. Not only do people desire hand-knitted items, I have found that friends and family members soon become fascinated with the strange possibilities that knitting offers for creativity. Over the fall break, my younger brother texted me a picture of himself in his friend’s knitted beard hat. The outgoing pair had been making a stir among the other freshmen. What an ice breaker!
When I had gone camping with my family a month ago, my littlest sister, Ella grabbed my face in her doll-sized hands, looked me in the eyes, and whispered, “You drink too much coffee. You are going to grow a beard, and Mommy will braid it and put bows in it.” And thus was born a new long-time joke between me and my sisters. After Jake sent me the next, I decided to write about the escapade in a letter to my three siblings at home. I included a sketch of three of them with their future knitted beards. Anna, had a long flowing beard, like the mains of the horses she loves. Josh had a curly black goatee to sport when he was a master spy plotting against his arch enemy. Ella, the baby of the family, had whiskers that were larger than life. The kids loved the drawing. Dad had just read The Hobbit to them, so I plan on making them bearded dwarf helmets before they end the series. When I talked to Anna on the phone, she wanted me to make a little beard for the cat, Sparkles Elizabeth Diamond Castle Pitts. What a hairy feline!
Although it is strange, I look forward to learning the knitting techniques for pulling together a few of these bearded monstrosities. Wayne and I talked about wearing them as our costume for a climbing event we plan on going to next year. I admit, this is a strange kerfuffle of events, but all of them centered on a very beautiful thing, my family’s laughter. (And with Ella’s plotting smerf giggle, that is something special indeed). I love the beard pattern, and I am looking forward to making several for my family and friends. They are not exquisite like scarves or “cool” like funky hats, but they are undeniably fun. It is a hat for kids in which to play pranks, host a nerdy Lord of the Rings Trilogy, dance to crazy music, or amuse your friends. It is a hat that is as irresistible as a ghoul mask at a cheap thrills store. People want to pass it around so that they laugh at themselves and others when they look like Gimli or a lumberjack.
To join the Ravelry Beard Group click here!
Monday, November 8, 2010
I believe that crafters and artists hold a crucial role in society. Not only is this role necessary, but it is beautiful and respectable. My classmate Eric blogged about his hesitancy to knit in public as a male. I don't feel that a handcrafting hobby of any sort should be looked down upon in any context, whether the creator is male or female. Class topics such as craftivism reinforces my thoughts on crafting. It is important for society to consider that men might perform stereotypically feminine tasks to prove a point or to stand up for something that they believe in a way that might not be easily understood. Art and crafting gives us an outlet by which we may express ourselves in a productive, non-violent way.
Coming from an environment that embraced creativity and crafting, until this point I don't feel that I have ever considered any stereotypes that I might have toward people who craft and create. However, after entertaining this question, I have concluded that I lump artists and crafters into one category in my mind. I believe these people to mold the world that we live in.
Consider what the world would be like with no one that created. We would not have snazzy looking iPhones. We might possibly possess the concept, but with no designers these handy inventions would not be nearly as attractive as they are in our society. Consider jewelry and clothing without the weavers, knitters, crocheters, or jewelers, we would have neither of these goods. In fact, if we examine how most of today's goods are made, we would see that there is still some human element required in most of production.
If we search back in our history books to when people had to be self sufficient, we will see that it was crucial for people to create with their hands to survive the elements. If we were to lose machines and cheap foreign labor, we would be forced to once again return to creating for ourselves. Many people who craft for themselves today do so as a form of protest against the machines and unfairly treated laborers. I cannot find a reason to cast negative judgment upon these people.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
This experiment of temporary community is also known as the Burning Man Project. Participants must bring all of their own water, food, and supplies to build a living structure for the week made to withstand the harsh desert storms. Survival is not hard, however, because people help each other out. Radical self-expression is encouraged within this city as well as informality and collective effort. There are small communities within the city in which people hold craft fairs, yoga sessions, meditation classes, environmental education classes, discussions of feminism, discussions of gay rights, classes on organic gardening, etc. There is no government in this city. The power lies in the people who live there. There are no rules other than to respect one another and the earth. Burning Man offers a different experience from the norm of a world shaped by insitituions, service workers, and commercial transactions. Black Rock City is a place of sharing and free exchange within a gift economy, thus there is no money allowed. In Black Rock City, people are just people. The entire Burning Man experience reminds me of Ashbee's social ideals because Burning Man first encourages radical self-expression. Within our modern society, our "selves" are often stifled by what commercial society tells us we should be. Thus, we are disconnected from ourselves, creating dissonance between ourselves and the world, other people and within ourselves. Once we are able to embrace our individualities, we can once again connect with ourselves and connect with the world around us. Social relations are not entirely external because it really takes each individual to first become mindful and conscious of his/her self. Then, we can connect with others, creating strongly bonded communities.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I’m not sure what it is about knitting that fascinates people who aren’t involved with the craft, but they seem to regard it as a novelty, a unique skill that, while they don’t practice it themselves, is interesting and compelling. Rarely do I see my family members get worked up about factory-made clothes. Their reaction was solely reserved for my handmade clothing, and this makes me feel that more people appreciate handcrafts than we think.
Many of us are concerned about the prevalence of factory-made products and people’s willingness to rely on these things. But I don’t think we’re giving them enough credit. How many of them have immediate access to homemade crafts? Sure, they can buy pretty much anything off the internet, but people have come to expect their commodities to be immediately accessible. Convenience is key. How can we make handcrafted items more readily available to those around us? That’s a question I think we should all consider.
When I found out, I started crying and felt really lonely. So, the first thing I did was hop on Ravelry to find the perfect grieving pattern. Yes, I knit when I feel sad; my addiction has gone that far. I wanted something colorful, slightly challenging so that I could focus on something but not so hard that it would frustrate me (because I didn't need frustration on top of my grief). After looking through the prayer shawls, I thought they were all too stuffy to fit Dan's carefree personality, and I finally decided on this great pattern called "Simple Fair Isle Hat." It's been in my queu for a while, but I never found the inspiration to make it. I chose my colors (two blues, a grey, and a beige), and cast on, gauge be damned!
Between classes, hanging out with other ASMSAers, and sleeping off my tears, I finished the hat in just over a day. Gathering the stitches at the top and weaving all the colored ends in, I felt peaceful. I no longer felt the need to be sad over Dan's passing. I know that he's gone. But I knit all my sadness, all my grief, all my loneliness, and all my shock at the face of death, into this colorful hat.
And as I finished it off, tried it on for the first time, and took pictures, I listened to a song by Yellowcard. It's one of my favorites, and the in the lyrics they say, "I'm sure the view from Heaven beats the hell out of mine here." Ain't that the truth.
Note: I'm having a hard time attaching the photo of the hat to this post because it's a huge file, so I'll try to attach it at a later date, in case it's just my computer screwing up, but if you would like to see a picture of it, you can click here. That should take you to my Ravelry project for the hat, which I titled "Mad Hat-ter."