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Knit . Crochet . Weave

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What’s the difference between knitting, crocheting and weaving?

I take my projects with me everywhere. And I get asked all the time, “what are you knitting?”

When I first started crocheting, I felt the need to correct people. Not sure why, but I was always worried that a real knitter would overhear and be offended that I let people believe I was knitting. Now, I realize most people are actually just trying to make conversation, and don’t need or want a detailed explanation of the difference between knitting and crocheting. They see me playing with yarn, and their curiosity is piqued—about the intended product, not necessarily the means of creating it.

But since you’re here, and while I have you, let me bend your ear on three beautiful ways to make fabric that often get confused for one another. I know there are other fabric-making art forms, but these are the most common.

Here’s the simple breakdown: it all comes down to the tools you’re using.

Knitting is done with two pointed sticks, used to make interlocking loops.

Crocheting is done with a hook, also used to make interlocking loops.

Weaving—well, weaving is a far more complicated ball of yarn to unravel. Fundamentally, it’s the crosshatching of threads to create a cloth. That can happen on many different kinds of looms, and uses a variety of tools. Since it’s fundamentally different, using crosshatching rather than loops, it produces a very different type of fabric, and you’re not likely to see someone weaving while they wait for the bus.

Funny story; I took to crochet like a fish to water. I picked up a how-to book at my local Walmart, and after a quick tutorial from a coworker on chaining and half-double crochet stitch, I was on my way. It made perfect sense to me, and I learned new techniques from Youtube videos and free online blogs. Even the fact that the tutorials and diagrams were for right-handed use and I crochet left-handed didn’t deter me.

Knitting, however, was not so easy. I bought the knitting how-to book on the same shelf at Walmart, but it was as if it had been written in another language. I had expected to breeze into it, given the fact that knitting uses both hands, and that I already knew the basics of working with yarn. It was a slow, painstaking process, and to this day, I’m a better crocheter than a knitter.

I’ve heard it’s often the case that a person will prefer one over the other, even if they can do both. And not everyone can or wants to learn both. Sometimes one or the other just makes sense to their brain, and they can create amazing works of art using that technique, but no other. Weavers are an even rarer breed. Maybe it’s because the equipment makes it less portable, or because it requires more spatial reasoning; I don’t know.

Part of the reason I don’t know why weaving isn’t as popular is that I’ve not done much of it. Last summer, my father-in-law and I made a simple loom using scrap wood and finishing nails. I wind my warp thread between the finishing nails, and then use a tapestry needle to weave the weft yarn to make decorative wall hangings. It’s super fun, and often feels like painting, because the point in making a wall hanging is simply to use colour and texture creatively, just for the joy of making something beautiful to look at.

However, I have a goal to learn weaving “for reals” by taking classes at my local weaver’s guild. Wish me luck, my friends! Weaving is a different way of thinking, but I’m ready for the challenge. I have a goal of making myself a coat out of fabric I’ve handwoven. This means, of course, I’ll also need to learn to sew a heck of a lot better than I do now. This should be fun!

The Beginning of the Journey

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My fascination with slow fashion isn’t only a profession of high ideals. It’s an intersection of two innate parts of my personality: the thinker and the creative. I’ve always been fascinated and delighted with the tiny details. From the time I was a child, I would listen to the same piece of music over and over again, reveling in the tone, tempo, cadence. I studied botany and philosophy in school, because I loved to think about the deep things in life, and to dissect the beautiful.

Study New York defines slow fashion as “the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity.” There’s currently a trend in New York and around the world to re-examine the fashion industry through this lens. This speaks to the philosophical side of me on so many levels. I know that even small, gradual changes over a broad swath of people will have a profound effect on future generations and their ideology. That’s how the world is changed. That’s the way to start—and win—a revolution.

That’s also how a life is changed. At least, that’s how my life has changed. I’ve learned a lot over time, and the changes have been gradual, both in my thinking, and in my practice of clothing my family. When I first learned about the detriments of fast fashion, my first response was one of self-preservation: “well, that’s really unfortunate, but I don’t have unlimited funds, so I need to continue to shop at the cheapest places.”

I knew it was a lame excuse. I kept reading. It started to be uncomfortable to walk into fast fashion shops, knowing the price paid by others and the environment so that I could “save a little money.”

Then I started making and selling crocheted accessories on Etsy. I figured I was doing my part to offset my poor purchasing choices, by giving others the option to make good ones by buying my natural-fibre, high-quality pieces. Again, I knew it was a lame justification. Self-awareness is often a gradual process.

Pushing myself to produce items as quickly as possible en masse, while living outside of my own values took a toll on my hands and my psyche. I knew prosperity would never come if I was working in an unsustainable physical and mental framework.

At the beginning of this year, in the dead of winter, I took a step back, spiritually, mentally and physically. I reread One Face, written by my BFF Sarah McDugal. I went to yoga classes, added more nourishing foods into my diet, and all but stopped making things.

It was in the cocoon of this winter quiet that I realized I needed to stop making excuses for doing things that weren’t working in my life. I wanted to be the active ingredient; to do things intentionally, and to enjoy doing them. I wanted to stop hiding behind the mask of never having enough. I wanted to find my voice to say what I need to say, whether anyone is listening or not. I wanted to keep seeking to satiate my curiosity, unbounded by expectations of settling in to the role of “maker of knitwear.”

We shall see where this goes.