Monday, April 19, 2010

Learning through Process

This has been an interesting few weeks for me, designer-wise. I learned a great deal, both about myself and about designing.
I am an instinctive crocheter. I learned the basic stitches long ago, and followed patterns, at least the beginning of them, for a while. By the time I was 12, I was using free crochet (long before the term was likely invented) to create 3-dimensional unicorns, dragons, pillows.. anything I wanted to, really. I never wrote any notes about those patterns, never tried to record the directions in any way. I don't even have photographs of them, as to me, they were not that special. I thought everyone did that sort of thing.
Knitting was entirely different. I learned to knit at least 4 times, the first two, just garter stitch, the third in order to make a sweater in Japan (following directions written in Japanese, I seldom shy from a challenge) the final time I learned, I added to the basic knowledge of knitting stockinette and kept on adding to it first from my sis-in-love, then from online and book sources, mostly.
When I began to write knitting patterns, I was drawing on knowledge gained from helping my sister in law test her patterns. It was a very good way to learn, as her patterns are of high quality and explain things clearly. I have been a teacher, and writing a knitting pattern draws on that ability as well, for me. As I was relatively new to knitting (compared to crochet) it was (relatively) easy to place the techniques and patterns into words explicitly and concisely.
I decided a while back to write a crochet pattern, for a shawl.
As I often did when I crocheted as a kid, I just leapt off and began, except that I wrote down what I did as I did it this time. and the next time.. and the time after that. Six times I've tried. The first attempts were too long as compared to the width, the others didn't have a good smooth simple way to increase, etc... The seventh seems to be working out, so far. My pal Lynx has been with me every step of the way, telling me how beautiful it was going to be, making key suggestions, just being there to listen when I failed. Thank you Lynx!
In retrospect, if I had approached writing the crochet pattern the same way I do knitting patterns once or twice would have done it. If I had drawn a sketch of the stitch pattern, a basic ratio of height to length, and translated that into the form I was trying to achieve, I would have realized what adjustments needed to be made without all those failed attempts.
Believe me when I say the next crochet pattern will be approached very differently than this one!
The final shawl pattern will be worth it, I think. It looks lovely so far, and matches what I saw in my mind's eye when I began, but it would have been just as lovely if I had figured it out within a few attempts instead of seven!
I don't regret the time spent, really, as perhaps it was the only way I would have learned these particular lessons in design.
I have a tendency to learn best by miring myself in brambles and having to figure a way out.


Yasmaen said...

I know the feeling. Recently I thought I might like to write down what I do just in case I might want to do it again.
I'm worse with recipes, because I love inventing things in the kitchen, and it seems sometimes as if writing it down might stifle the creative flow. Do you ever get that with designing I wonder?

Kym said...

I learned to crochet by instinct, too. In fact, I've never used a crochet pattern! (And I used to crochet ALOT when I was young.) Knitting, though? A whole 'nother story. . .

Lynx said...

You are *so* welcome, sis! :-) I am beyond extremely honored to be in on the ground floor of an Otterwise pattern. It's like getting an email from Kim Harrison, "what should Rachel Morgan do next?"-- you want MY opinion?!? Flougging orbunns, I *must* be special after all!!!

PS: if Zelda ever needs a new home, or her twin shows up, I have (or will make!) room for her!

morewithles said...

Neither knitting nor crocheting came instinctively to me, unfortunately -- my understanding is through blood, sweat and tears! :)

LynnM said...

After our last email exchange I bet you know what I do when I encounter knitting brambles. Yes, I go away and wait until they're ripe in late summer--after Wimbledon!

Leslie said...

BTW, thanks for the lovely blog prize, arrived yesterday.

Food I can pretty much recreate at the drop of a spice bottle, free-range knitting/crochet, not so much... Process, process, process, don't slow me down to make notes...