meeting knitting

So I’ve found that I can focus in meetings where I’m not participating much if I have something to knit. It keeps the fidgety part of my brain out of the way, keeps me from doodling about things not related to the meeting or futzing about on the internet. So I actually listen better. But there are a few key points.

Some particularly formal meetings or groups just aren’t a great fit. It helps to show up a little early and already be knitting when the meeting starts, especially if one’s habit isn’t widely known in the group. And I think it’s helpful to occasionally stop to make a note or whatever when there is something that’s specific to why I’m there.

As for the knitting itself, it should be relatively small (no afghans!) and simple; scarves, shawls, and the bodies of hats (not the crowns) seem particularly well-suited. Patterns shouldn’t require any noticeable counting, either of stitches or rows. Basically, it should look like you’re not really looking at the knitting, just doing it.

Probably my favorite pattern for meeting knitting so far has been something called the Fibonacci Scarf. It’s a ribbed scarf, but with a bit of variation, the ribs being in Fibonacci sequence: Slip knitwise, knit, purl x2, knit x3, purl x5, knit x8, purl x5, knit x3, purl x2, knit, knit; then the other way around for the even-numbered rows. It turns out really pretty, and has a bit more variation than the usual ribbed whatnot. Plus math!

Theories of Fidgeting

Reposted from Twitter, with edits:

  1. Bracelets are a superior form of jewelry: less noticeable and make it less likely that earrings will be fidgeted.
  2. In lower status meetings, knitting is the best form of fidgeting. (In higher status meetings, a pen is an acceptable alternative.)
  3. Having a single focus object (example) is good for desk work, but can cause emotional trauma if misplaced.

In a reply to a question — is tweeting about fidgeting a form of metafidgeting? Well, possibly; more that I’m attempting to bring a semi-conscious process into the forefront. A longer rumination follows….

I have been fidgety for as long as I can remember: I fuss with jewelry, pens, zippers, anything handy. And I don’t always realize it, and it’s totally obvious to others.

When I was in high school I was in Academic Decathlon, which has a speech component and an interview component. After my (favorite!) teacher watched me progressively fidget with every single piece of jewelry I was wearing (and I wore a lot more jewelry then) over the course of my practice speeches, she insisted that I remove all of it before the actual competition. She would stand outside the room with her hands out, and I’d take off everything for her to hold until I was done. According to at least one of my sisters, she used that as an example; I’m guessing while talking about ums and ahs, knowing your own weaknesses, and how to be more composed while speaking. Which sounds embarrassing, but since I remember the experience with fondness, it isn’t really.

I’ve only recently discovered the three rules listed at the beginning of this post. Rule #1 came from the MetaFilter Craft Exchange: one of the items I received was a lovely bracelet that I started wearing initially as a reminder of the goodness of humanity. (Or something.) But then I discovered that if I was wearing it, I tended to fiddle with it instead of with my earrings (especially if my hair was down), and that that fidgeting was significantly less noticeable, because it keeps my hands down away from my face.

I think I may have already written some about knitting as an advanced form of fidgeting; what I’ve discovered is that if I knit while I’m in a meeting or listening to a webinar, it keeps the distractible part of my brain occupied, so I actually listen instead of zoning out making (unrelated) notes. (I totally would’ve retained way more in college if I’d been knitting then.) FWIW, this also works with expository sequences in D&D games. The trick, of course, is not being seen as rude. First aspect of that is to be knitting something that doesn’t itself require much if any concentration, so you can maintain eye contact when necessary. I’m currently working on a tablet cover that’s 99% seed stitch; it’s been great for that. Long stretches of stockinette or garter work too. The second aspect is to feel out the social status signals and meeting function. So far I’ve been trying to err on the side of not knitting.

And finally, I’ve had that fidget object linked earlier for quite a while, and it’s in my left hand pretty much any time I’m at my desk and not actively typing or writing on paper. I will say that a few times I’ve misplaced it in odd spots in my cubicle and freaked myself out. Security blanket? Mind focuser? I don’t know. I just accept that it’s an important part of my work environment.

At this point, I’ve also accepted that this behavior is part of who I am, and what I can do is be conscious enough to stop when it’s a problem (LEAVE YOUR JACKET ZIPPERS ALONE) and to redirect those tendencies into things that are either less noticeable or more useful.

Knitting in the fall

[ed: am finally posting this thing that’s been on my tablet’s “local drafts” for I’m not sure how long — am guessing approx mid-November 2011.]

It’s been about six weeks now since I found the (horrible) Idiot’s Guide to Knitting in the back of a closet and decided to take up the hobby. So far I’ve made two scarves, two and a half pairs of fingerless gloves (wrist warmers? wristers?), and a french press cozy, and I’m in the middle of a third scarf. Suffice it to say that I’m enjoying the process.

I’ve basically ruined one partially-used skein of yarn, which seems to be irreparably tangled. Happily, it was a teal acrylic that I didn’t like very much anyway; less happily, I only did one half of a pair of wristers and was looking forward to doing the second one. I’ve discovered that I’m really picky about texture. I bought a skein of a wool/acrylic blend that I might just give away, because I hate the way it feels when I try to knit with it. And my new favorite scarf is a wool-acrylic blend that was so soft and easy to knit that I was almost sad to finish. Right now I’ve got several weights of the least expensive blend from the yarn/fabric store downtown that I really like; the scarf-in-progress is a chunky weight knit on fairly small needles, so it’s really plush.

I signed up for Ravelry (epersonae, as everywhere else); it’s a clever site, good to be able to track projects and yarns. I get more enthusiastic about taking pictures, so I can post them, even though I don’t know that anybody is seeing them! More dangerously, I’m in love with the pattern browser. It’s astonishing how many free patterns are out there, and it’s delightful to be able to narrow by skill level, yarn type, project type, even methodology. (I have yet to learn knitting in the round.) My two wish list items: a decent mobile experience and a way to say “not” — ie, “not infant”, “not knit-in-the-round”, etc. Of the three wrister patterns I’ve tried, I found two on Ravelry, and they both came out quite nice. Actually, one of them is now my go-to for when it’s cold at the office, which is most of the time.

The scarf patterns (such as they are) have been from books; I’ve sampled a variety of books from the library, mostly to pick up techniques. Chicks With Sticks was good; Stitch ‘N Bitch was as well. I also bought an inexpensive book that looks promising; I don’t have it at hand, can’t remember the title. It’s mostly a catalog of basic techniques with really big color photos, which is just the thing for me. I’m thinking about using what I can untangle of the teal acrylic to try out increases and decreases.

I have gotten some help in person — I went to a knitting group at Skep & Skein (mead & cider place on the west side) with a woman I know from Twitter, and she helped me get a better cast-on technique. That was one of those things that I just could not figure out from any of the half-dozen books (websites, etc) that I looked at, and she walked me through it a few times until I got the feel of it. Curiously, I think I was making it more complicated than it actually was; my basic reaction was: oh, that’s it? And it was fun to sit and knit with other people, although they all knew each other more than I knew anybody.

Knitting on the bus is strangely relaxing, and a combination of weather and health has put me on the bus quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, so I’ve been enjoying that. I’m also guessing that T-Mobile upgraded a tower someplace, because now I can get streaming audio on my phone all the way to the office, instead of it cutting off somewhere around 40th SE in Lacey. So yeah, I’m that lady sitting on the bus, knitting and listening to NPR. I think I’m okay with that.

It’s a little late in the year to be able to make much for giving away for Christmas, but beware: there will almost certainly be knitted gifts next year!

On Knitting

A few weeks ago, while I was cleaning I found a knitting book that I bought some years back in a burst of optimism,  thinking I was going to be all crafty and stuff. But who has time for that sort of thing? This time, though, I figured I might as well give it a whirl. I went to Fred Meyer, bought a skein of yarn (in fern, I think – a color very similar to a sweater I had as a child) and a pair of needles, and started in on the book. Which sucked, at least for me; but all of that is in my knitting book reviews, including my notes about other books I’ve tried, am reading now, and am thinking about reading later. That’s not what I wanted to write about.

The process of knitting is interesting for me, and I’m glad I started it up. For one thing, it’s a good experience in learning something totally unfamiliar, and being bad at it for a while, and experimenting with techniques to get better. In some ways, I’m practicing failure in a safe environment. If I totally muff binding off a test piece, and end up tossing the whole thing, or have a few backwards rows or WTF happened to those stitches, it’s all okay, as long as I keep trying.

I imagine I’m building my spatial skills in particular – the part that’s been most difficult is translating text and drawings into fingers, needles, and yarn. Each book has slightly different descriptions of each technique, so I find myself jumping back and forth until I find one that makes sense in my head. Alas, the only casting on technique that I can make sense of doesn’t seem to make for a particularly nice edge. I may need to get help in person.

I’m trying to stick with inexpensive yarn, but I’m also discovering how cheap is too cheap. The first yarn I tried worked fairly well, but the second one (teal), not so much. I got a piece done, but it felt like fighting the whole time, and the same with that borked test piece I mentioned earlier. (I should get a picture of that. The basketweave look was pretty cool.) Yesterday I bought yarn from an actual yarn shop: Cascade Pacific in Ginger. It’s so soft! And easier to work, as far as I can tell, either that or I’m getting better at maintaining appropriate tension.

All my life I’ve been a fidget. Notoriously, when I did the speech competition for Academic Decathlon in high school, I was required to remove all my jewelry (and I wore a lot more then) because otherwise I’d just work my way through playing with Every Single Piece. To this day, I have to consciously stop myself from worrying at buttons, zippers, earrings, etc; at my desk, I have a fidget toy made of safety pins that I worry at basically all day long.

Turns out knitting is like fidgeting, only you end up with a scarf (or whatever) at the end of it; perfect for watching TV or for being a passenger on a long drive. And I find it both relaxing and oddly compulsive.

What this hobby doesn’t help with: my poor overworked hands. It’s more of the same small finger movements as working on the computer, which is probably why it’s a good match with fidgeting. But I definitely should be pacing myself!