Q for You: Are you a process knitter or product knitter?

Q for You: Are you a process knitter or a product knitter?

I’ve so far avoided making this a Q for You because I feel like it’s such a stock question, and also because my own answer is always changing! But I’ve been thinking a lot about it the last couple of weeks, both during and since knitting the Flex tee. So let’s talk about this notion of being a “process knitter” versus a “product knitter.”

To offer some semblance of a definition, I think a true, pure “process knitter” is someone who just loves to knit and wants to be knitting, and what they’re knitting isn’t of much concern. As long as they’re knitting, they’re happy. And a pure “product knitter” doesn’t necessarily love the act of knitting but the loves the end result, and will do what it takes to get that. As with most of these things, we really all fall somewhere along the continuum between the two.

For a long time I felt I was closer to the product knitter end of it. I love to knit, and do love it best when I’m loving the knitting itself (meaning the yarn and needles are giving me the happy feelings, and all that). But if I don’t desperately want the end product to exist in the world, I won’t pick up the knitting. What motivates me most is the outcome — I won’t knit just for the sake of knitting.

But it’s also true (maybe increasingly so) that I won’t knit just as a means to an end. If I’m not enjoying the yarn and the needles and the flow of a project, I’m equally at risk of letting it lie around unfinished, no matter how much I might want the end product. So it really has to be both for me, which I guess puts me at the dead center of the continuum?

Flex is a great example. I’ve loved the look of that little tee since the day the pattern first published. I have another sweater I knitted out of Kestrel, and I love the fabric, but it’s not the most pleasurable yarn to knit with, being aran-weight chainette linen. It’s a little like knitting with straw or something — not unpleasant, by any means, but not the sort of thing that gets your senses humming. Then there’s the knitting itself. The pattern is really unusual in its construction and completely brilliant. I can’t even understand how she worked out the details of the process (and graded it!), and I have so much admiration for the whole thing. But because of the way it’s built, it’s kind of an awkward, flappy thing to have on the needles. (This might be less true if done with a nice lofty wool/blend.) On top of which, it was missing my whole favorite part of the process. If I’m not inventing or reinventing anything — inserting myself into the creative process in some way — it just feels like manufacturing to me, and not nearly as gratifying. In this case, between the uniqueness of the construction and the fact that the schematic measurements don’t line up with the pattern numbers in any meaningful way, modifications weren’t really an option. All I could do is knit it as written. In short, it’s an amazing pattern and a darling sweater and fantastic finished fabric, but there was no particular thrill in the knitting of it for me, so it’s nothing short of a miracle that it got finished.

(Thus I don’t feel compelled to repeat it. That’s all I meant yesterday. I’m happy there are so many of you who loved every minute of knitting Flex!)

Once that was on the blocking board, I picked up my improvised cardigan in progress, and was instantly bathed in serotonin and delight. Having that fabric and yarn running through my hands felt like petting a baby kitten, and I was all like “OMIGOD I LOOOOOOVE KNITTING!” So that’s my Q for You today: Are you more of a process knitter or a product knitter?

New at Fringe Supply Co.

SHOP NEWS: As promised, additional copies of KnitWit magazine have arrived, for those of you who missed it, and we’re awaiting delivery of Carrie Hoge’s stunning new biannual magazine, Making, which is an absolute treasure trove. It’s in transit so I’ve gone ahead and made it available for preorder. And we also still have copies of the fabulous summer Pom Pom, so check out the magazine rack today, for sure. AND! We have the most awesome new addition to the matte black mini-scissors, the Owl scissors, which I am head over heels in love with — they’re the perfect size and they make me laugh — so check those out too. All that and more, of course, can be found at Fringe Supply Co.

Happy weekend!


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38 thoughts on “Q for You: Are you a process knitter or product knitter?

  1. Interesting question. I think I must be more of a process knitter, because I make sure I always have something on the needles, and with me. It does help if I love the pattern/yarn, but if I didn’t, I would still knit, just maybe not as diligently. There is something soothing about the motion and clicking of needles that soothes my soul. That being said, of course I have frogged a few things over the years because I didn’t like how they were coming out. And I often modify a pattern. I don’t think that being a knitter who loves the process rules out being a knitter who wants to be creative and make the end product perfect.

    Interesting to read about what you didn’t like about knitting flex. I am not in love with working with linen, but I do it occasionally. It does make a nice finished garment, and it makes me pay more attention to my knitting, to keep the tension consistent. But it is harder to work with, for sure. I haven’t tried kestrel yet, but think I might someday. Maybe not on a Flex, though. :-)

  2. As you said, I feel inbetween the two. Had not knitted socks in years. Ordered some yarn that I expected to love. The color is rather dull but am knitting anyway because will have to order again and wait. Know I will wear them in the fall but not very exciting to knit.

  3. I define the terms differently: I think that the process knitter loves the challenge of the process of knitting, or the challenge of a particular idea, but doesn’t really care if it produces a wearable/usable product. The product knitter has a wearable/usable goal in mind, and does whats needed to get there.

    By either definitition I am a product knitter: I always have a goal in mind, and it is always my own goal and not necessarily that of the pattern or designer. The pattern is just a jumping off point, and I only use them half of the time. Linen is a case in point: I don’t like knitting linen, and it hurts my hands to do so. No joy. But I love having a closet full of linen sweaters for summer, and because it seems that linen lasts forever, even knitting no more than one a year, I have 8 hand knit linen garments. They go in the washing machine, never wrinkle, can be worn spring through fall, and like an old linen dish towel, just get softer over time. But I hate the process; every single time I say its the last time…but the product: all the love is there.

    • I like your definitions- it’s the same for me.
      And your knitting with pure linen (which I haven’t tried yet) is how I feel about Hempathy. Every time is “the last time” but I like the way it looks so much….

    • Oh yes, I definitely agree with your definitions more! I don’t think a product knitter is someone who (as defined in the main post) may not even like knitting but just wants the finished product — such a person could just as well turn to RTW. I define myself as a product knitter, just like you do — I have a definite goal in mind, and will do whatever is needed to get there. So while I may put up with minor irritations during a project, I’m basically knitting in the first place because I love the craft.

      Identifying as a product knitter means I will not waste time knitting items I will never wear (things that are unflattering on my body, don’t fit into my lifestyle, etc). My very definite goal with knitting is to fill gaps in my wardrobe and get great, stylish, pieces that nobody else has. So even if I knit with neutral colours (because it fills an identified wardrobe gap) I’ll add something special: unique construction, stitch pattern or style.

      Someday, when I’ve made everything I need, I’ll do something wildly improbable and impractical — giant lace scarf?? — but until that someday comes, it makes me itchy to even consider spending so much time on anything that won’t get worn.

  4. I see knitting as having many benefits and the enjoyable process and the product at the end are just two of those benefits. I enjoy both immensely!

  5. You are an amazingly writer too! You’ve described my feelings about knitting exactly-and you inspire me daily! Many thanks.

  6. I, like most of us, fall somewhere in between. But PART of this equation is the endless search for patterns and fibers. Most of what I make is for other people, so I have to marry my own aesthetic with what I know of the other person’s taste, so the search for the pattern sometimes takes a long time. I have to love what I am knitting. Also, I often have a fiber that I have to search for the perfect pattern to use it for. When I need to knit, but none of my UFOs are speaking to me, I make hats and quick accessories. Either way, I NEVER spend ENOUGH time knitting!

  7. For me it’s a perpetual journey between both positions : because i’m a process knitter, enjoying each moment of the making, i can be patient and keep on knitting untill i reach the joyfull point of the finished garment, even if i’m only moving very slowly because of a serious lack of time / but it is also because i’m a product knitter really intending to develop my wardrobe that i can stay the distance of a project. Both are important to me, both are enjoyable and i think it’s the reason why i’m so stuck to knitting. To come back to your flex tee experience, i can be a process knitter, only if i have pleasure with the yarn and needles in my hands, that’s why i could not follow a first intention if i feel i’m struggling with the yarn or the gesture involved by some stitches. I have to gather the good conditions of knitting to stay a process knitter, in order to finally end with a product knitter fulfillment. As a conclusion, i would say both aspects are perfectly inextricable for me !

    • Exactly, searching for the yarn and pattern can sometimes be half the fun! I love all of it. Choosing , the final product and knitting it. I’ve come to the point that the final product must be something I will love in the end.

  8. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately. I love knitting, and always have to carry a project around, it’s what keeps me sane/have patience with people ;) and most of the time I knit on something because it’s a pattern or a yarn I really want to work with. I don’t want to wear it, I just want to make it, so I give it away to someone that might like it more (there’s always takers :) Other times I just really want a specific garment that may be of specific pattern/type/feel, require a specific yarn. I may not enjoy the process but often still just love the product. I think I enjoy this flexibility and going between process and project – never gets boring does it?

  9. When knitting I feel an urgency to see the finished piece. Sometimes I can not knit fast enough!

    Would you be able to recommend a few other yarns you might choose for Flex?

  10. I am definitely a process knitter. However, I don’t like the finishing process, just the knitting. Therefore, I always have projects lying around that only need seaming and blocking. Also, I have no desire to wear the things after I make them. I generally give them away.

  11. How funny this comes up now, I just blogged about this. I have always been a product knitter, and believe I’m developing a few more process tendencies, though maybe not under your definition – I think my definitions are more like Ellen’s definitions above. I don’t think I’ll ever really knit only for the joy of it, regardless of what’s on the needles; what I’m knitting always matters (and I’m pretty selfish about it – I owe a baby blanket but I don’t really enjoy the pattern I started and haven’t been able to bring myself to do much on it because I don’t enjoy the process and it’s not a product for me!). But recently I have started to want to knit items because I’m interested in the experience of creating that particular item – not necessarily to [b]have it at the end[/b], but to see how you [b]get[/b] there. (Which is actually one of the things I adore about Heidi Kirrmaier’s patterns – how do you get a sweater out of those directions??) Also I keep knitting with wool despite its lack of practicality for my life because it’s just so much fun to knit with. :) I only modify simple elements like sleeve length/body length/maybe omitting waist shaping, so I don’t need to be able to do that to find the process interesting – though maybe for me the process is more about learning/discovery than pure creation.

    • I’m a relatively new–1.5 years, now–knitter so a lot of what I love out of the process is also related to learning. Like Karen, I have a hard time justifying to myself the rote production of a pattern without any modifications and I’m less likely to enjoy the process in those instances, even though it doesn’t end up influencing the way I feel about the FO. I decide on projects based on what I hope the final product will be and I can force myself to finish even a terribly boring or cumbersome knit when I feel certain that the FO will come out the way I want it to, but I’m still so new at knitting that I struggle to read my kitting and my stitches are a little off and I’m really awkward at executing a lot of techniques. On top of which, I still sometimes fail at reading instructions on patterns properly (case in point:I’m working on a Pomme de Pin cardigan using black colored Linen Quill and I just couldn’t figure what the pattern wanted me to do for certain rows so I ended up starting over 10 times!). This commitment to the process of learning lets me stay focused on projects that otherwise are actually pretty frustrating and difficult for me. It also lets me give up and frog something without growing discouraged. If I were more of a product knitter, I think I’d have to give up by now because, frankly, a lot of my projects, especially the big ones, come out kind of wonky. I can’t help it. I wear them, anyway, of course.

      So, I guess I am process knitter, but not in the sense that I also enjoy the act of knitting for its own sake (sometimes I do). I enjoy the process of learning, or at least am willing to put up with a lot because I hope that as time goes on I’ll become a better knitter and then one day I’ll blossom into a product knitter!

  12. I do think it’s a little like hiking — you either prefer the trail or the waterfall at the end of it. I find that – for me – it depends on how complicated the trail is.

    • Yes, exactly. Well put. It might be one or the other, or, in terrific scenarios, both! Some of my most fun projects end up frogged and reknit. And some of my most mindless knitting, are my most worn FOs. I know now that I’m not perfect at predicting the outcome, but I am okay with that, because I am willing to frog and recycle the yarn. Or give the FO to someone for whom it works.

  13. I wonder what would happen if you gave that yarn a little soak before knitting it? I think I have a some linen left in my stash. Good little experiment for a rainy weekend. If you try it with the Kestrel let us know how it works.

  14. I am definitely a split personality – but on purpose. I choose some projects because I really, really want to finished product. I choose others because I want the challenge of learning something new, also hoping/believing that I will enjoy the result. (Happens most of the time…) Some projects are chosen purely so I can be knitting – on a long car trip, for example, or at a pretty chatty knitting session with friends, or at a lecture. These projects are pretty straightforward and often functional (hats, dishcloths, scarves) and the patterns allow me to abruptly start and stop, recover from oopses pretty easily, and take of on whimsies if I feel the urge. I call this “social knitting” and always have a bag-o-stuff to grab just for those situations. But the best knitting of all is a project that you are longing to wear (or gift), creatively manipulated/adjusted to reflect personal preferences and knit with yarn that is scrumptious to hold.

  15. i am definitely a process knitter more than product. i love trying new things though sometimes i just want a finished piece. i rarely follow a pattern to the letter. i much prefer adjusting it and changing it to fit my needs. that being said i usually just knit what i want and use a picture as inspiration for the finished piece. :)

  16. Some of both. I won’t take on a project even if I think it is lovely if I don’t think I will enjoy the process and I won’t make something even if I think I would enjoy working with the yarn if for some reason I don’t really like it.

  17. This question has been driving my knitting for the last 1-2 years. I used to be a product knitter, although I quickly found that I had to enjoy the knitting itself. But now that I’ve knit a gazillion shawls, sweaters, socks, etc. etc…I find I am more interested in the process of challenging myself (new construction techniques, color work, and whatnot) and I don’t really enjoy the finished object as much as I did while making it. This particularly sucks because I cannot gift away 90% of my knits due to wool allergies and size choices.
    A big part of that is that it took me years to figure out a balance between fun-to-knit and the right style. It’s something I’m still working on and trying to really think through every project and not just cast on willy nilly.
    So, I am both, like pretty much everyone, but I would like to elevate my crossover by choosing projects based on both technique and outcome- ever the challenge to balance.

  18. Like you, I have to want the product AND enjoy the process, or the project languishes, to be picked up only because I don’t want it lying around forever.

  19. I’m clearly a process knitter. And now that I’m spinning – oh my! – process spinner. It’s the FEEL of it all that lights me up. Delightful fibers running through my fingers, colors satisfying my color senses. I don’t knit sweaters because wearing wool in the Pacific NW, even in winter, is just too hot for me. So I make hats and scarves just for the fun of knitting them. Crocheted bowls just for the fun of small crocheted pieces. I certainly want them to look good, be well made, etc., but I’m really creating them because I love to knit. I don’t have to bother with swatching because size is not important – they’ll fit someone’s head! The fact that I can move these bowls and hats along because I have a small gallery just means I can “indulge” myself in this process of playing with fiber.

  20. I have to have a project on my needles. I will make what someone requests up to a point. My qualifiers are no trendy stuff and I have to love the yarn. Natural fibers 98% of the time. But I have to knit.

  21. Process knitter. As my WIP’s and FO’s have grown in number and people have asked me what I will do with them, I have consistently answered: “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me. I just like to knit.” At first my answer embarrassed me a little but generally made people laugh. (I also have amassed a lot of yarn in a fairly short time and don’t necessarily have patterns picked out. I like yarn.) A process knitter. Definitely.

  22. Considering that I can leave projects in the finishing purgatory for a while, and I’m not rushing to wear them after, I must be a process knitter. I’m currently knitting toys with a heavy, uncomfortbale cotton and I don’t even mind. So, yes, process. I subscribed to Making, can’t wait to receive my first copy.

  23. I lean towards product knitter. That said, I love knitting. I love the process of seeing a pattern and then making all the decisions that will produce a beautiful finished object. I frog projects completely when I don’t like them and then I try to find a project more suited to the yarn. There are yarns I have found challenging to work with but if I love the project, I will keep knitting. I have a multitude of WIPs, mostly because I want to knit. Easy to memorize patterns for watching TV or when I am tired. More challenging patterns and new techniques to push myself and increase my skill set, when I can dedicate the time.

  24. In the beginning I was a product knitter, motivated purely by sweater lust. But that was over 50 years ago. Now I must be more of a process knitter, because once a project is done, it’s done, and my favorite project is always the next one.

  25. I too am a mix of process and product knitter. On a given project, I can go back and forth. When the end is in sight, I can get impatient with details or difficulties. I have to remind myself that by doing the project carefully, maybe doing some extra reading, I will learn and end up with a better product.

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