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Wednesday, January 5th, 2005

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first post!

I got this account solely to reply to entries by users who had disabled anonymous posting, but didn't feel much need to get into the blogging thing myself.  And I still don't, much.  But once in a while I have something to say that doesn't fit into my usual outlets of messageboards, emails, or IMs, and it may as well go here. 

At this time I only know two or three people who are likely to read this regularly and post replies, but in the event that people down the line decide to read my earlier posts, it is not my intent that they "expire".  That is, replies to old posts are probably fine.  I do have a very low tolerance for what I consider inappropriate language and will censor or delete if I feel it is necessary, however.  If I can...I'm still figuring all this stuff out.

[knitting] Philosophy, part 1: design, online?
One potential purpose for this journal is to write up my knitting projects. I've been meaning to do this for a while...and since pretty much everything I knit is worked out by myself in advance or in progress, documenting it is important, especially during the process, so that reproducibility is possible.

(Is it obvious that I heard a lecture today on the importance to science of maintaining good lab notebooks? The other reason, besides reproducibility, is proving that one came up with a given idea, approach, etc. at a given time, namely, before someone else did.)

By working it out by myself, I mean at least at the stitch level. There are projects of mine that are based on designs I've seen elsewhere, inevitably, but I've never followed anyone's stitch-for-stitch pattern, and have certainly never used the same yarns as any specific published pattern I see. A sort-of exception is my very first sweater project, which essentially followed the directions in a Threads article, but the closest it came to being a specific pattern was in the number of stitches to cast on. It's possible that one reason I stopped work on it was that even with that it was too much like following someone else's idea, which I just don't like much.

Therein lies the problem. If it's reproducible it may not be mine so much any more. On the one hand, I want to document what I did so I can show what I saw as the problem and how I solved it (this is how I think of all of these, as puzzles or problems: how to turn this yarn into something neat, preferably in a way I haven't done before?) -- and not incidentally show that I do not blindly follow patterns by other people, taking inspiration but ultimately thinking of things myself. I'm convinced that I sometimes come up with cool stuff, and it'd be nice if other people thought so too. On the other hand, I don't want my stuff copied blindly either, or worse, attributed to someone else. It's unlikely that I'll ever sell or place sweater patterns, being somewhat opposed in principle (and practice) to the idea of knitting a garment that was not planned to the wearer's specific measurements, but you never know. And the internet makes it impossible to guarantee this.

For that matter, someone may well decide that I'm copying some garment I've never seen. I avoid looking at the online knitting world too much, largely because it's too geared to the idea of following patterns -- I'd rather just see galleries and some commentary on construction than those hated lines and lines of stitch-by-stitch instructions -- but would anyone believe me if I said I came up with something by myself? Several times I've had the experience of thinking of something that was interesting and starting to do some legwork on the idea, only to find a multipage article in the next mag I pick up devoted to it. This is maddening, because it seems all too likely that another knitter would assume that I'd read about it rather than thinking of it myself.

I undoubtedly worry way too much about this. Even besides the fact that this is currently an extremely low-key journal -- only one person has me on her Friends list, for heaven's sake, and she's my sister -- as a (RL) friend of mine said once, no one who knows me personally will ever doubt that I came up with something by myself. Possibly the best compliment I've ever gotten.

But one of the first things I read on the only knitting site/blog I read regularly, girlfromauntie.com, talked about the willingness of a few example knitting communities to assume that the high-profile, big-name knitter came up with technique X first and the humble person (not me, obviously) who mentions doing the same thing for years is copying/lying. And while no one knows me now, this may change someday.

The best I can do, then, to establish that I do do my own thinking, is to follow the lab-notebook model: document the process, beginning to end. What did I start with? Why did I choose this? Did I try something else first? What kind of effect did it have? How many times did I unravel that piece of yarn? (Usually at least five.) We'll see if I can manage it. Well, I'll see, anyway.

(Lest I sound too full of myself, I must clarify that I do definitely use other people's designs as starting points. Maybe it's just a change in texture or use of color. But even in the one pattern I tried to follow, the Diamond Patch blouse from Just One More Row or whatever it is, I changed the patch a bit, adjusted the number of patches, and planned different sleeves. And actually I plan to unravel the whole three patches I managed and do something else with the yarn....I just don't have much interest in following the known path.)

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