Thursday, 13 August 2009

Musings on learning new stuff

My latest joy is watching Kirstie's Homemade Home on 4oD (I missed it when it was on actual telly) with a cup of coffee and my knitting. I can't watch an episode tonight because my husband is watching a big pile of shit (points for recognizing the quote) and as my 'puter is in the living-room..

Anyway, last night I watched The One Where Among Other Things Kirstie Learned To Knit and it got me thinking about learning new things, how our preconceptions can make it difficult, how I like to learn things and how mystifying knitting must be to my husband.

Learning New Things

Watching Kirstie learn new things makes me want to learn new things. Maybe not blacksmithing - I've seen too many farriers at work not to be impressed by their work, but likewise too many not to have noticed how fiery and hot and frankly dangerous their work is. Maybe not so much for people who are less clumsy and short-sighted than me but those are not characteristics that go with hot metal and fire. Soldering silver is as scarey as I've ever tried or wanted to try. Stained glass looks fun though, patchwork I've been meaning to play around with, screen-printing looks good...

Preconceptions and Learning

One of Kirstie's comments was that a relative tried to teach her to knit when she was wee but gave up because Kirsty was left-handed. From this Kirsty was left with the impression that left-handers can't knit and so never had a go until making that programme. I'm right-handed but both my aunt and my granny tried to teach me to knit when I was little. They were both lefties, it didn't work! But I learned at primary school so that was okay.
However the downside of learning at school was that I'm not very confident of my knitting abilities, possibly because I hated it at school (the class was weekly torture as far as I was concerned) and possibly because I associate it with there being a right and a wrong way to do things. Therefore I'm unadventurous with knitting, reluctant to experiment. Oddly though with every other textiley thing I've tried - naalbinding, braiding of various types, crochet, weaving, sprang - I've worked from diagrams or written instructions (mainly things I've found online) and just had a go, not worrying about what was 'right' or 'wrong', just seeing what seems to work. Or not in the case of tablet weaving. I keep meaning to go back to that! But the point is I had a go.
It wasn't the teaching of knitting that was in any way at fault - looking back it's pretty impressive that Mrs Manson could take a bunch of largely disinterested eight-year-olds and teach us enough of the basics that we'd be tackling Fair Isle projects within two years. I think it's more to do with the way we learned anything at school at that point (and this may have changed with new teaching methods or it may be just the way primary-age children think) - it was all quite black and white, and experimentation although not actually discouraged was not really encouraged either. So it's only since I've taken up knitting more enthusiastically in recent years that I've learned new things. Things as mundane as other methods of casting on. I learned the long-tail cast-on so always used that, but it's so handy to know other ways. I'd never tried lace-knitting until last year, a full 30 years since I started knitting! It's partly having more interest now, but it's also down to consciously reminding myself to have a go.

Liking to learn new things

This is the positive side of what my mother has always referred to as my 'butterfly mind'. There's always something new to learn or try. The negative side of course is the number of unfinished objects in my various knitting bags!

The Mystifying Knitting

My Beloved is occasionally disparaging of my knitting, but more often when he comments it's with an air of being faintly impressed with it - it's something technical that he can't do or understand. Bear in mind that he's a Software Engineer, a programmer, a proper geek. He installs Linux on things for fun, then slags it off, all the while referring to it as Lunix. He reads xkcd and understands all the jokes. But he's impressed by two sticks (or one or four or five) and some yarn. He was even more impressed when I gave him a list, as requested, of Things I Might Like For My Birthday and he became aware of the technicalities of needle choice. This was prompted by KnitPro interchangeable circs - he asked about them and I started telling him about the various types of needle there are, the properties of different types of material in needles (metal vs. bamboo vs. plastic) and so forth. He looked both put out and impressed that I was a tech geek too, just in my own field. He is equally mystified by the fact that I can read music, and pick out the Iggle-Piggle song on the piano by ear. Funny old world innit?
To get back to Kirsty, seeing her struggle with the basics of knitting when she's so clearly competent and knowledgable in other fields was oddly reassuring to me. Compared with a complete novice I must seem fairly competent and confident - to non-knitters it must seem we have weird arcane (and pointless?) knowledge, possibly the reason my husband refers to my knitting group as the Coven.

So what shall I learn next?