Product, process, progress

Knitting breaks into two divergent camps: process knitting and product knitting. Process knitters are said to do it for the love of the craft; the tactile sensation, the soothing motion, the meditative aspect. Product knitters are in it for the results; they love having handknit items, and knitting happens to be the best way to acquire them.

I’ve never fit completely into either category. I like making things and having them. It’s the same with spinning; I love the act of doing it, especially with a wheel. It’s calming (more so if the cat isn’t around), and it’s a good time to catch up with a TV show or podcast. And it produces handspun yarn, which is incredibly enjoyable to use even minus the self-satisfaction of having created it. It has a personality that’s lacking in even the most gorgeous hand-dyed yarn. I have knit with some amazing indie yarn, but what makes it interesting is the color, not the character of the yarn itself. I think most indie dyers use the same handful of suppliers for their bases, so structurally, it’s not much different than something with Cascade on the label.

I think I have a bit of process and product knitter in me. But what I am more than either of those things, is a progress knitter. As a progressive person in general, I feel like it’s a good fit.

It’s not just political (although it is, to a degree; the personal is the political). It’s not just about seeing a sock take shape or a sweater grow sleeves (or really radical stuff like women being treated as equals and people not dying for lack of basic healthcare). It’s about this weird sense of accomplishment I get whenever I clear something off my queue. Updating my stash page to “all used up” is like the ctrl+z of adding yarn to the stash. I never feel that great about adding stash, no matter how much I love the yarn, because I already have a ton of gorgeous yarn I never have time to work through. (The double-edged sword of being in school is that, even though I never have time to knit, I also never have money to buy yarn.*)

It’s sort of a theme in my life. It’s one of the major reasons I work in healthcare – I like seeing things get better. I understand that it doesn’t always necessarily happen. People don’t always get better; sometimes they get worse, but in my opinion, the ones who never get better or worse are somehow the most heartbreaking. One of my greatest fears is of being in a situation where I am incapacitated, unable to communicate, and completely helpless. Patients like that, who are being maintained by machines, I always wonder if they are aware that they are alive, and if they are glad.

But the ones who are getting better? The ones making progress? They give me what I need to go on. I’m doing clinical rotations in a SNF right now; their PT/OT department is, in my opinion, the happiest place on Earth.


The prospect of progress is also, to me, the most appealing aspect of having children. I’ve rarely felt the desire to procreate. At best, I’ve had moments where I’ve thought “I could do the mom thing.” Generally these moments are soon followed by “thank goodness that didn’t happen.” I’m very aware of my own limitations, and one of the most glaring ones is that I’m way too selfish to have dependents. And [whispers] I don’t really like babies.

It might be more accurate to say that I like babies on a case-by-case basis, such as when they’re related to me, or when they’re especially cute and well-behaved and my exposure to them is limited. I’m starting to think I may be the only person in the field who is utterly disinterested in being a labor-delivery nurse. (Which is not just because of babies; it also has to do with the fact that a postpartum vagina looks a lot like a lasagna that got dropped on the floor.)

The need-to-productivity ratio with a baby is just too high for me. Give me a second-grader who can read, learn, joke, dance, and do cartwheels. Give me a teenager who I can listen to talk about their triumphs and setbacks and worries and dreams. Give me a child who has the capacity for self-awareness, not one that cries as its primary form of communication.

In a way, a baby is like a cast-on. Both look kind of weird until they really start to take shape. I’ve never liked anything I’ve knitted until I’ve gotten at least past the ribbing. In human terms, that might be a three-year-old.


That all said, I have very little use for swatching. I don’t know how other people approach it. I would think a process knitter shouldn’t mind swatching because knitting is knitting to them, whether it’s a small square or a blanket. Project knitters probably resist swatching because they’d rather be actually working on the item.

I myself will do it if absolutely necessary (like I’m making a sweater), but only because I’m pragmatic enough to realize that if I don’t, there’s a good chance I’ll wind up with something that doesn’t fit, and end up having to backtrack and frog. Characteristically, I do it out of the fear of losing progress.

If only there was a way we could have swatched America.


*It should be noted that I do have time to write. There’s always time to write. The South Carolina state motto is dum spiro spero. My own motto is dum spiro scribo. 

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