Monday, June 27, 2011

High Tech Handwarmers

Okay, so these handwarmers don't actually look all that high-tech. In fact, they look like pretty basic little mitts, the kind I made six years ago when I was just getting into knitting. But, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Depending on how much of a hardcore knitter you are, this secret might potentially make you lose respect for me, but here goes.....

These handwarmers were knit on a MACHINE.

That's right. My knitting has gone robot style these days. I've been taking a Machine Knitting class over at Portland Sewing and, I have to say, these machines have surprised me. I thought using one would feel all factory-ish and industrial and totally separate and alienated from the cozy feeling you get from something handmade. But really, using one feels kind of like using a sewing machine. Sure, there's a big crazy machine helping you out, but it's still ultimately all about craft - about your hands, your materials and your desire to make something. Just like a sewing machine, the knitting machines can't knit all on their own, and even if there are big, fancy ones out there that can, they still need someone to tell them what to knit.

Still, what really amazes me is just how big and complicated these basic machines are. There are all these elaborate tools and needles and carriages just for some plain old stockinette. When I sit down to knit, I hardly ever think about what my hands are doing. It's like breathing. They just lift and lower and follow the rhythm. Spending time with these machines has made me appreciate just how brilliant and amazing my hands are. When I'm struggling with all the strange tools you need to use - needle pushers and transfer tools and claw weights - my hands get all annoyed and haughty. They sigh and say, "I could do this soooo much better....." And they're probably right. I'm biased, but I do still think knitting by hand is better. It is certainly SIMPLER. However, machine knitting is easier and FASTER, two things which, unfortunately, are the most valued in these modern times.

These handwarmers are what came off the machine. Basic stockinette, seamed up with a hole for the thumb. They were INSANELY fast to make. And they are functional. They work. But still, there was something missing, some kind of specialness.  So I let my hands take over. I gave them some yarn, a crochet hook, a sewing needle and thread, and stood back in awe watching them do what they do best. They are HANDwarmers after all.....

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