on Friday i was toiling away on a lace scarf before game. Pirate B sat down on the futon beside me and watched me knit for a moment.
B: are you reading a bunch of numbers while you do that?
B: you're a computer!it's not a bad analogy.
as noted in the link, knitting patterns really do look like source code. (or sometimes a punch card
. i'll get to that in a bit.)
one of my frustrations as a nOOb knitter has been the amount of energy and focus it takes to read a pattern while i knit. in response, i've developed a habit of having a project that requires less focus to take with me, and a more complex thing that stays at home by the couch.
i was discussing the lace project with scarlettina
and noted that i felt like knitting from a pattern should be the same experience as playing the piano or singing; i read the music with my eyes while my body does the thing the music says to do. but somehow after more than 15 repeats of the 12-row knit pattern, i wasn't memorizing any phrases. i couldn't hum the tune without the music in front of me.
so i started to think more about the analogy. there are two ways to notate knitting patterns, written and charted. they both look like gobbeldygook without a key.
- written patterns are easy to understand as a beginner. once you know the abbreviations you read each line and execute.
- charts are often called "scary" (plus my very experienced mom hates them and will translate them into written directions for her convenience). charted patterns are a symbolic representation of the instructions.
the music analogy led to a revelation: musical notation shows me without using words
what came before, what to do now, and what i'm going to do next. it goes in my eyes and out my hands without verbal processing.
frex, with a written pattern i was reading Twinkle Twinkle Little Star like this:
start from middle C, all notes are quarter notes unless they are called out as a half note.
Row 1: C2, G2, A2, Ghalf1, F2, E2, D2, Chalf1
Row 2: G2, F2, E2, Dhalf1, G2, F2, E2, Dhalf1
Row 3: C2, G2, A2, Ghalf1, F2, E2, D2, Chalf1
instead of this:
(here's the pattern
i was working on, written and charted both...and the finished scarf
so for me, charts are music. once i wrapped my brain around scanning right to left, left to right, bottom to top* i found a noticable increase in speed. i also started to hum the tune, feeling the relationships of the stitches and anticipating the shape of the next phrase.
*sounds crazy, but if you're looking at a two-sided thing from one side and as you work it grows on the right and down this is what you have to do. i didn't immediately grasp that and had to tear out an evening's work as part of the learning process because i am totally into doing first, checking the instructions later. fortunately knitting forgives charging ahead, since all you lose is time.