Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Big Question - A Guest Blog

Here is another in the series of occasional guest blogs from Susie, who writes a great blog which I commend to the House! 

Susie tries and fails to write a focused, intelligent and informative blog over at Useless Beauty Designs and lives in Cambridge, UK.

Blog Post
I think, with a blog, you have a moral responsibility to tackle the big issues, and I like to look that responsibility squarely in the face and, readers, go there.  So, when I knew I was doing this guest post for Ros (thank you for letting me do a guest post, Ros!), I  considered doing, Is There A God?  I thought about, Is Love Real?  I pondered, How Should We Bring Down Capitalism, Is It Desirable and If We Do Can We Keep Waitrose?  But I think we all know there’s a bigger issue than all of those.  Yes.

Which is better? Knitting or Crochet?
A good functional knitted sock on a good functional knitted trivet.
I won’t use this caption to tell you how much I HATE NORO. I do though
Right. {Cracks knuckles}.  Because I know that subjects like this tend to attract heated feelings and possibly hate mail, I am going to do a disclaimer at the beginning, which is, I don’t know what I’m talking about.  So, if you read this and think, Aaaaaaaah how can she say you can’t do xx with a crochet hook when actually you can and I have done it, or, how can she dis knitting so, if she only knew about the special Patagonian knitting technique where you tension the wool by wrapping it round your left ear and knitting straight from the llama, then, you are probably right.  These are just my impressions based on not huge amounts of experience and I am more than happy to be corrected.  So look on this as a helpful field guide to/ whistlestop tour around some common [mis]conceptions of knitting and crochet, those of you who do both may have entirely different impressions, those of you who sit firmly on one fence or another may be attracted to the Dark Side.  When I get to the end I shall conclude firmly that one or the other is far superior and question why people who engage in the other waste their time.  That is a joke.  I will not do that.

1. Crochet is for grannies who sit about making poodle toilet roll covers out of giant balls of aran, whereas knitting is for hipsters who make IPod cosies out of half a skein of Malabrigo worsted. 

Although I am British, I learned the word ‘hipster’ on the internet. Another thing I learned on the internet is this stereotype about knitters and crocheters which I did not know of before so I am forced to say, nonsense, and enough with the age stereotypes.  It has been my experience that people who do not knit or crochet think we are all mad in a generic messing-about-with-wool way, and are not looking into the specifics of whether we are brandishing a hook or a pair of sticks; so in this sense internal division is not helpful.  Although, I would be much more likely to crochet a blanket than knit one, and I would definitely use acrylic, so perhaps I am just feeding stereotypes.  I have a pattern for a poodle toilet roll cover too but it is knitted. I have no IPod.

2.  Knitting is easier than crochet or vice versa.

Now, this is an interesting one.  I do not remember learning to knit as it was back in the mists of time but I do remember learning to crochet as it was about 2 years ago. I don’t find either one of them easier (honestly).  With knitting you are juggling more stitches on the needles, and knitting in the round on 5 needles is certainly quite fiddly to start with, but, with crochet you have the horror of trying to crochet into the chain (aaaaand I say again, use the Doris Chan foundation single crochet method), and you have to know where you are putting your hook rather than just having the stitch presented to you on the needle.  Also, I find it much easier to rip out in crochet as you don’t end up trying to manoeuvre a lot of live stitches, but if I was more advanced I would be able to drop knit stitches down and correct mistakes a few rows down which crochet does not do.

One thing I have found is that it is easier with knitting to just knit the stitches as they come up and not engage with the process beyond that. I mean, it’s not a good idea because it’s much easier to be able to tell what kind of stitch you’ve just made, count the rows, understand where you are in the pattern etc: but you can certainly knit blindly and just count, because I did this for ages when I had picked knitting up again. With crochet, because you have to know where you’re making each stitch, it forces you to read your work at an earlier stage (at least it did for me. Other people may be different).

3  Crochet is more efficient than knitting.

Aha.  Now I shall reveal a prejudice.  As far as I’ve ever found, crochet is miles – repeat that, miles – faster than knitting, but uses more yarn. Now, I haven’t timed myself or measured yarn consumed, but I’m pretty sure this is the case.  This means for me, who am a product crafter, that I will crochet things I would not dream of knitting because it would take me FOREVER. Hence I am a quarter of the way through a crochet blanket that if I had attempted to knit it would have led me to going mad and possibly running through the streets naked and squawking. 
 Smashing stereotypes and preconceptions with my
crocheted blanket in nice bright acrylic
4   Crochet is just about granny squares.
You see, again with the bad granny associations.  Well, clearly crochet is not just granny squares because it just isn’t, but I have to (controversially) say that I wonder why you would be attracted to crochet as a craft if you hated granny squares because they are a very useful thing to be able to make out of your scraps of yarn.  It is like saying, I love cooking, but I’m really not interested in the effects of heat on food.  Just because there were some Bad Granny Square choices made in the seventies that does not mean we should now dismiss them.  There was Prog Rock in the seventies too but we did not close down the music industry.

5  Knitting produces a fabric which curls in uselessly on itself and crochet produces a fabric that is so stiff it is like wearing a tarpaulin.
This is true up to a point.  Stocking stitch in knitting does curl and so on its own without a border it might not be your best choice for a scarf or a table mat, likewise you might not want a whole jumper in single crochet done in a bulky yarn on a too-small hook (or you might! Who knows?).  However knitting gives you lots of stitches which do not curl, and crochet can give you lots of drapy fluid fabrics, so it is no use picking out just one for each and criticising them for not having certain properties.  It is like following me round and telling me off for having e.g. no sense of direction, as although it is true I have no sense of direction, that ignores the Wider Wonder That Is Me.

6  Knitting is better than crochet/ Crochet is better than knitting.
No it is not/ no it is not.

I actually think it is a good idea to know both knitting and crochet as they are both excellent in different situations.  However, where does it all end? It is a long, woolly road, readers, and it has many stops along the way.  But I think we know where an indiscriminate learning of ever more complicated ways to loop yarn through yarn might end.
Macramé. You know you want to.
Yes. It’s a road that might end in macramé. And that really is de trop (joking. Honestly). Where do you stand on the knitting vs crochet debate?


Ros Made Me said...

Susie, I must be a freak of nature because my crochet is self taught and try as I might, I cannot wind the wool around my L hand, I do it as if I were knitting :(

I am now worried that the tatting brigade may make a pre-emptive stike to put their own case forward...

Caroline Lovis said...

I loved this post - very entertaining and well written. As a very recent crochet convert I was thrilled to overcome a mental hurdle I've had for years about this skill. Needless to say I love it because it allows me to start and finish a small project in an hour eg brooches and granny squares (as a means to a much bigger end). I've never had this with knitting and consequently end up with a basket full of half finished projects. May be I'm just choosing the wrong ones. I love the portability of crochet too, I know you can carry around your knitting too but crochet is more compact. I will never ever stop
knitting but at the moment its crochet that's winning me over.