PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


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I have a philosophical question for the interwebz.  What is it about knitting (or fiber arts in general) that prompts people to become so obsessed with it?

If we define a casual knitter as someone who knows how to knit, but only owns one or two sets of needles, only buys yarn when they have a specific project in mind, and only makes a scarf or blanket every once in a while, when the mood strikes them, then I can count the number of casual knitters I know on one finger.

Every other knitter I know (which is a lot, if you define 'know' in the loosest, most online-inclusive sense of the word) is genuinely obsessed with the subject, process, history, and practice of knitting.  We laugh at knitters who call the two skeins of yarn they bought this weekend their "stash."  We spend hours agonizing over whether we ought to spend the extra money for the Addi click set, or if the Knitter's Pride set will serve our purpose.  We compulsively refresh the Manos del Uruguay page on Webs to see if any new stock has been added.  We blog, we podcast, we stitch and bitch, we chat in Ravelry's forums, all to share our great love of and obsession with two pointy sticks and some string which may or may not have come from an animal.


I think it can be assumed, even without scientific study, that knitting must stimulate dopamine output in our brains, giving our reward pathways a feedback loop of awesome.  But what is it about knitting that causes us to have that reaction?  The tactile nature of the fiber?  The math involved in patterning and shaping (I wouldn't think that would be particularly pleasing to my brain, at least)?  The sounds of clicking needles?  The colors?  The repetition?  Or is it all of the above?

What causes people who can be perfectly rational about all facets of their life to, within a few weeks of picking up knitting, crocheting, spinning, or any other fiber art, suddenly be dreaming in fiber and planning their career as a designer/yarn-dyer/shepherd/yarn store owner/etc?

I don't know.

But I sure am glad I'm not alone.