Thursday, 12 November 2015

Two Nutty Knitters

Knitting heaven

We had a terrific Book club meeting, as usual, this week, but the high moment for me was when I was presented with a basketful of unfinished knitting projects by one of our ladies. She had e-mailed us the day before to say that she was 'chucking out' and would anyone like to take over some unfinished jumpers etc.? Completely forgetting my resolution to empty my cupboard of odd bits of wool and de-clutter a bit (mission finally accomplished last week) - I joyfully replied, "Me, me, me!".  In my defence, I have to add that we still do quite a bit of long distance driving and I must knit or go crazy on a six-hour trip. I don't share the driving. My concern was: how could someone half-knit so many jerseys and then give up and start another project? Some still have the needles in, there are two pairs of scissors, a sewing kit and four brand-new little kits for rag dolls. I am in knitter's heaven.  Can't wait to get started. Actually, have already knitted a square in front of the TV last night.  I have decided that apart from finishing the jerseys (and maybe giving them back), I would make her a 'memory' blanket with at least one square in every color. Meanwhile, what do the psychologists make of this kind of personality? Maybe, she just got bored or couldn't resist another purchase in a wool shop?  One thing for sure:  she must have a limited supply of jumpers that she can actually wear. I am going to start on the pretty lavender one: only one sleeve to go!


  1. I can understand not finishing a project, but not at all the thing about then starting a new one to go unfinished. Just a sleeve left? That seems insane.

  2. I think it would depend on why your friend was knitting. Obviously it was not for the end result of making clothes.

    I have a theory. I think that involving our brains in some form of repetitive activity, not too complex and yet not too simple, helps to shut down the internal chatter box and leaves us in something of a more contemplative zen like state. I used to get this from sweeping floors at work. We would get slow and we would be put on various clean up projects. There was acres of floor to be swept and I could get lost in thought. Something that should have been as boring as watching paint dry would pass in no time flat. It was like, "wow it is time to go home, where have I been?"

    I can get this driving too, if I am driving under the right conditions. Open road with little traffic. Driving though is an extremely complex task and even though it seems simple, I believe our brains are doing a tremendous amount of work under the surface. I can usually go non-stop for about 5 hours and then I get woozy. I am not sleepy but rather almost drunk like. Why does that car have bright red lights on the back of it? Ohhhhhh those are brake lights. What do I need to doooooooooo? I think the internal calculators get overwhelmed and need a rest.

    To put that into context, standard lane width in the US are 12 feet (3.6 meters). When driving 70 MPH (113KPH) you are moving at 103 feet per second (31 meters per second). Under those conditions it takes you 116 milliseconds to move a lane width. Our brains have impulse transit times and processing times. That is we live a wee bit in the past. By the time we are aware of something, we have moved some distance closer to it. So while driving 70 MPH, you are moving 3.1 meters every tenth of a second. Another way of putting that into context, think back when you were learning how to drive, how difficult it was. It is still that difficult and it places a tremendous amount of processing demand on our brains. It just seems like it is automatic because we have learned how to shift the work to the huge of brain processing that resides outside the ring of light from the fire of our consciousness. Most of our lives are lived quite automatically down in the subroutines. The tyrant that is us that thinks it is in control, is fed bits and piece of information just to keep it thinking it is in control. Stuff like regulating our heart beats or breathing is not entrusted to the conscious idiot in the control room.

    Anyhow, when I feel that woozy feeling coming on I stop at a rest stop and take a 15 minute nap. After that I am good to go for another few hours.

    Anyhow my theory is that your friend was not knitting to knit, she was knitting to occupy her mind and get into a somewhat zen state. When the project got to a certain point, it would start to occupy too much of her consciousness and stop being pleasurable. She was no longer knitting, she was making a jumper. By going to a new project the pressure was off and she was "mindlessly" knitting again. None of this was something she actively thought about. She would probably get to a certain point and then find it being curiously set aside for a few days which then turned into a few weeks and then she would find that she was missing knitting again but going back to the previous project didn't feel right. There would be vague promises to finish it later. Later never came. By going to a new project the pressure was off and she was "mindlessly" knitting again.

    1. BTW what the hell is a jumper? Yes we have jumpers in the US but I have no idea what they are. From the dictionary:

      1 N. Amer. a collarless sleeveless dress, typically worn over a blouse.
      2 Brit. a sweater.
      3 historical a loose outer jacket worn by sailors.

      Perhaps you should suggest coloring to your friend. There is a trend for adults to buy adult coloring books. These are not erotic coloring but complex designs that require meticulous effort to color. I think it works on the same principle I was talking about above.

    2. Excellent analysis. I'll put it to her. Sorry, of course I meant 'sweater'. Yes, I've seen these coloring books: quite fancy them myself. Perhaps I'll get one for my friend and see how she likes it.

    3. The other critical question I did not consider, did your friend ever complete a piece of knitting? If she has 20 some completed projects and these few sitting about not done, would that not be indicative that she simply got sick of working on these pieces for what ever reason?