Product vs. Process

Through the years, I’ve found a recurring question within the fiber arts community: are you a product knitter or a process knitter? I’ve typically been quick to respond product– historically I tend to work on a project from start to finish with few breaks, and feel a sense of accomplishment with completing it.

Lately, though, I’ve been digging into designs through sketching on paper and sketching with yarn. It’s not quite like swatching, at least not in my own definition, as I’m purely experimenting with material, trying to understand its possibilities. Among other things, I’ve created a few projects start to finish – new designs – that I haven’t shared with anyone else. They’ve been simultaneously agonizing and meditative exercises of sorts, my own exploration with concept and material, each version building on the last.

My husband referred to these projects as the equivalent of a chef working in a test kitchen, and I like this analogy. Making for the love of making, for the love of exploring my own creative ideas without the need to solidify a final product… so does that make me a process knitter?

Oh another thing: I’m a bit of a saver. I keep notes, photos, books and trinkets that hold special meaning for me. Holding a keepsake in my hand immediately brings me back to a different time and place. Happy or sad, inspirational or depressing, these tangible pieces intrinsically link me to physical memories.

I’ve also been looking at my own knit wardrobe of garments and accessories, and my fiber collection, which consists of yarn, tools, bags and books. I waffle between inspiration and overload sifting through the items I’ve acquired through years of involvement in the craft.

I’ve shared the thought with friends – and maybe you’ve thought it too with your own crafts – that there is quite honestly not enough time to ever knit through all of the yarn I’ve acquired. And while this thought is overwhelming and deep, it’s also ok for me. Part of the memory of the yarn is the memory of collecting it. Was I on vacation and purchased a souvenir skein? Did I catch a special update? Is the yarn a gift? The memory of the physical thing holds value and meaning to me, just as some of my earlier knit pieces hold memories of the knitter I used to be. If and when I have a bad memory associated with something, be it a knit piece, or a book, or anything else in my life, I’m not afraid to get rid of it. At the same time, there’s value for me in keeping things that remind me of my former self, if that makes sense.

My identity is complex and steeped in memory. My physical surroundings are simultaneously organized and cluttered, and represent ME. I can be a product AND a process maker at the same time. There’s no need to have to choose exclusively one or the other.

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