Thursday, February 08, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pinheads.--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Throughout the past five years of my writing this blog, I've been asked a lot of questions, from the sublime to the completely ridiculous. And I usually answer them. As long as they don't involve my sex life.

However, the single most frequently asked question has been "What knitting books do you recommend?"

A question that is difficult at best to answer, given people's various needs, skill levels and interests.

Book 'Em, Dano
If you are at all observant, you'll notice that I've added a new feature to the sidebar, a random listing of my books via, a newish, web-based utility that allows you to catalog books. Not all my books are there, mind you. Just knitting, spinning, weaving, miscellaneous fiber-related books and the odd crochet book.

I managed to compile a list of 115 books so far, 89 of which are knitting books. And I'm not done yet. Which is completely frightening yet illuminating, I think. Forty-three of the books predate the start of the internet. There are no "Quick 'n' Easy" books. The majority are technique or genre books rather than mere garment compendia. The oldest dates back to 1952, when I was two years old. Heh.

So if you'd like to see what I own, click on the link that says "my library" and you can see exactly what's sitting on my sagging bookshelves. With more to come. Compiling this list has made me all too aware of what's missing.

And boy, I own some weird fucking books. Popeye and Friends by Melinda Coss. Now I know that was a gift but from whom? My guess is the somewhat clueless husband, who saw "knitting" and loved Popeye.

As my mother says, what I'm thinking always shows on my face. I can only imagine how I looked when I received that gem.

Speed Racer
I promised Joy I would write about how to knit faster. Well, Joy, I have no quick fixes on that one because I am not exactly Speedy Gonzales myself. Despite all the lovely how-to illustrations that abound, not one actually shows you how to connect brain to hands--all they do is show you where to insert the needle, not how to manipulate your hands and arms to do so. So everyone develops those particular skills differently and that's what constitutes speed or lack thereof.

What I do know, from experience, is that from age 8 to age 33, I knit using the English method (throwing your yarn with your right hand). My mother, although a Continental knitter, had decided that it would be easier for a child to learn how to throw than to pick. God knows why.

Finally, frustrated with the agony of knitting ribbing and knit/purl combinations, I taught myself how to knit Continental by watching my mother. No books that I owned at the time really showed the Continental method. It was extremely difficult to learn a whole new way of knitting but in the long run, I became a faster knitter. I purl much faster than I knit. Go figure. It's extremely helpful to know both methods when knitting Fair Isle patterns, too.

I would say that it's less important to knit quickly than it is to knit accurately and evenly. No matter how pokey you feel you are, in the long run it's more important to enjoy what you're doing than to win any imagined race.

Tech Writer Wannabes
So some readers asked, "How do I become a technical writer?" Well, I transformed myself from a knitting/crafts editor and writer to a technical writer/editor who specializes in end-user software manuals and online help, both careers being closely connected.

Think about the knitting directions that you read when you're knitting and then imagine having to write them either from scratch with only the garment as reference or having to divine what the fuck the designer did from slightly coffee-stained index cards written in longhand. Now that's technical writing.

If you can write cohesive directions that an idiot can understand, u cn b a tknkl wrtr. If you can reverse engineer any process and write about it so that your 83-year-old mother knows what you're saying, you're in.

Most people need to write as part of their jobs and hate it. When I trained corporate suits in Business Writing, it was as if I had a bunch of recalcitrant toddlers as students. However, if you do write as part of your job and you write well, look for opportunities to turn that skill into something that will benefit your company. My first stab at that was back in 1997 when I worked as a documentation specialist for an engineering firm. I wrote down instructions for myself on how to use NASA's materials database, a very user-unfriendly system. When the engineers with whom I worked found out about it, they asked for copies and I was on my way.

That's how you do it. Save copies of what you've written (be careful of this if you've signed a non-disclosure agreement with your company--ask permission to add your work to your portfolio) and then tailor your resume to reflect your business writing skills.

Technical writers work in all businesses, from financial to IT to pharmaceutical/medical to you name it. Hey, somebody's gotta write that manual that came with your Crockpot, no? The one you never read.

Gansey Sock Pics
Thanks to Audrey for her suggestion about putting the socks on blockers. I think that might help and I will try it. As far as sizing the socks for men, you've got it. I will do so, although it will take me longer to get the pattern up on the Knitting Vault. It's nice to know that guys might like the socks too. I've been thinking about a specific sock design just for men, which I may start working up shortly.

Lately, I've been having more fun doing my own thing than following someone else's pattern. The Arwen hoodie lies unworked. I'll get back to it eventually but right now I need to get this manic creative burst out of my system.

Because bursts are rare and handy and quite consuming.

Note to Sissy: Upon further reflection, please stick to scrapbooking. There are sufficient KnitDweebs in this world. You don't need to add to their numbers. If you decide to knit, lose my phone number.

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