LAST OF THE HOLIDAY KNITTING; GENETICS

One last scarf to go. Since (at this point) I’m brain dead and desperate for something quick and easy, it’s a great thing that Knitty’s latest came with a fast-knitting piece that offers great bang for the time unit investment. Add me to the legion of folks doing up a Wavy Scarf.

I’m using that same sport-weight alpaca I used for the Kombu I finished last week. Because it’s of finer gauge than the standard-issue worsted written up in the pattern, I’ve added an additional six-stitch pattern repeat to make up the width. Mine is done on 48 stitches instead of 42. I’m also visually lazy, so I graphed out the pattern so I don’t have to rely on the prose write-up. Note that if you want to use a different weight yarn, modifying the thing is quick and easy – either add or remove multiples of six stitches.

In other knitting-related news, most of my knit presents are winging their way cross country right now, or are about to be distributed to those nearby. Once this scarf is done I’ll be done, done, done. (Huzzah!)

Cookie Liberation Front

Today’s cookie was an experiment – a coconut/oatmeal drop, based on a standard brown sugar drop cookie recipe, with toasted oatmeal and unsweetened coconut tossed in. Since I had some whole blanched almonds left over, each was topped with a nut. Younger Daughter said the rough-shaped cookies with almonds atop them looked like birds nests, so that is now their name.

Tomorrow’s cookies – Chocolate rounds stuffed with marzipan. I haven’t decided to do them flat or folded in half like little chocolate/almond gyoza yet. Also another experiment, but this one will be a shortcut cheat. I’ll be taking a sheet of frozen puff pastry, painting it with a beaten egg, then spreading it with sugar, cinnamon, and chopped pecans, folding it a bit and cutting it into elephant ears. Pix for sure, as this is something impressive looking even the Cookie Challenged could do.

Genetic Component of Crafting?

Marilyn the Knitting Curmudgeon posted an interesting thought the other day (one of many for her, I might add). She mused about whether or not the urge to do something like knit or make other crafts might have a genetic component to it. That got me thinking…

I’d guess that there would be a large inborn aspect to the desire to do these things. But I think there’s more than one influence at work here. To simplify, I’d guess that there are at least two:

  • Some set of things governing the process that generates original ideas
  • Some set of things that governs the "gotta-do-it" urge

I know people who have a strong concept-generation bent. They fairly sweat ideas, finding new viewpoints or perspectives, synthesizing disparate influences, or distilling previous exposures in innovative ways. The most affected of them sometimes have a hard time sticking to one idea long enough to bring it to full fruition, and may not have even mastered all of the skills necessary for optimal completion, but neither limitation strikes them as a problem. A person like that is off and running, captive to the next idea before the earlier one is completed.

I also know people who have the "gotta-do-it" urge, but the idea generation set in them is less strongly manifested. They are in constant motion, producing endless streams of items verbatim from directions or patterns. They often have extremely accomplished sets of technical skills, but can be stymied by roadblock problems. I have a friend who would seize upon an idea and explore it in hundreds of minute variations. She’d make wonderful little toys or identical baby sweaters by the dozens (in the case of toys – by the hundreds). All were beautifully crafted, yet it often seemed that once she started, "retooling" to make something else was difficult for her. She’d hum along happy to make even more of the item under current exploration rather than switching to a new thing. For her I think that fulfilling the "gotta-do-it" urge to keep busy was the true reward.

And then there are the folks who have both influences working on them in various proportions. Some feel particularly pressured or depressed because they have an inexhaustible source of new ideas and the urge to see each through to completion, but rarely have the time available to accomplish them all. Others are at constant war with themselves, reining in their urge to start something new before the item at hand is completed, and (sometimes) growing to hate the almost-finished item for blocking the beginning of the next.

Why do I think this might be genetic? Because I’ve seen these urges run through families. Not every person in the family need have the exact same hobby, but the mindsets do replicate through the generations. I know my father was a very compulsive "gotta-do-it" guy. Detail oriented in the extreme, he was a classic definition engineer. He never just sat still, he was always reading something, tinkering with something, or meticulously graphing something (he would have adored PCs and spreadsheets but died before they were sold). I know families where the parents or grandparents are method makers or idea shedders. Their households are sometimes chaotic places, but their kids also scatter innovation behind them and flit from project to project.

Why do I think these things are inborn rather than learned? Because in some cases I see these traits skipping generations; manifested in a household where the older influence was physically absent while the younger example was growing; or emerging later in life. Plus I know from experience it’s very hard to teach either creativity or perseverance. These are bents that people are born with. You can encourage these characteristics, but you can’t transplant them into someone who doesn’t lean that way to begin with.

I’ve got a very strong "gotta-do-it" bent. Perhaps it’s related to the milder forms of ADD, but I find HAVE to be making something, and I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. Even as a little kid I had all sorts projects underway (and heaven help the adult who put them away before I was done). I even fell into needlework at a very early age, and completed my first clumsy cross-stitch sampler before Kindergarten.

Just sitting has always been extremely difficult for me. Even just sitting and listening/watching something is hard. My hands have to be occupied. When my fingers are distracted, my mind is free and I concentrate better. Conversely, if my fingers are free, my mind is bound by the minutiae around me and zeroing in on some one thing in specific is harder. That fly buzzing around the lecturer’s podium; the interesting detail on the curtains behind her; the texture of the cracked wood at the edge of my seat; the air currents around my ankles; an amusing joke the guy sitting across the room told me last week; where I might be meeting with friends after the lecture; the faint sound of sirens outside the lecture hall; what color combo would be best for the thing I’m planning to make the day after tomorrow – all of these at once descend upon me and compete with the content being delivered in the lecture itself. Mindless autopilot knitting has always been my best defense against them.

I have to believe that I was born this way because I certainly didn’t learn this behavior from anyone. I can’t help this, it’s just the way I am and I’m glad to have found the coping mechanism of knitting. So I guess I agree with KC’s basic thought. There’s an enormous genetic component to many people’s affinity for crafts of all types. Why fight it?

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