Saturday, August 26, 2006

Some thoughts on swaps

I gushed enthusiastically yesterday about the Knit Sock Kit I received from Teri because she did a wonderful job with it, her craftsmanship was excellent, and she certainly deserved the accolades. A few people indicated in the comments to that post a concern that they couldn't compete with a wonderful kit like that, so I would like to address a few comments in that regard.

My instant reaction was the simplistic,"But it's not a competition." And truly, it isn't. However, it is a bit daunting to put together something for another knitter, who likely has very definite preferences and tastes, knowing that it will most likely be compared with what other people did.

I thought long and hard before I joined that swap, because that I didn't sew and my "skills" are mostly limited to knitting round and round and round. I knew that some people would put together things much more fantastic than I could even imagine, much less produce. But I joined anyway. Why?

To my mind, it's about participating . I participated because I wanted to have a more tangible connection with the inter-knit world out there. Knitting, for me anyway, is basically a solitary activity, and so is blogging, although I am lucky enough to have some wonderful commenters and I try to interact and comment back as much as I can. I think just the act of participating with others was something that I needed to do.

However, it was also about expanding. I felt the need to push myself a bit. And push I did. I had never made a bag before. A bag? Simple enough, probably, but there is a vast array of patterns and styles out there. Even considering the components of a simple bag -- handles, zippers, buttons, pockets, etc. -- pushed me a bit.

I also pushed myself technically. I started with a base pattern, but I adjusted it to what I wanted to make. I've adjusted lots of sock patterns, but bags presented a different set of considerations. I learned that just because something folds a certain way when it's one size doesn't mean that it will fold the same way when it's bigger.

I did embroidery, which is something I had never done before. I even "made up" the pattern because I wanted to individualize and personalize my bag.

I did I-cord, which I had never done before. The I-cord had loops and a tassle wrap on the end, which I had never done before. Not complicated techniques, but there were different from anything I had done previously.

I did a Russian join, which I had never done before. I didn't want to have woven ends showing on the inside of the bag, so I tried to join invisibily. I wasn't entirely happy with the way it ended up, because I still could not completely hide it, but I tried to make it the way I wanted it .

I even did crochet, which I had never done before. I looked up how to hold the hook and which way to wrap the yarn and where to stick the hook and how to pull through a loop.

Each step of the way I had to dig out a book and look up how to do it. These are simple techniques that I would not normally have had the chance to explore, and although my execution of these simple techniques could be improved, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to try them.

In the end, I know that my partner gave better than she got. I also know from reading people's reactions upon receiving their packages that not one of them has been negative. Every single participant has seemed to truly appreciate the thought and effort that went into making a kit for them. Yes, some may be "nicer" or "better" than others, but that is, in the end, irrelevant. I certainly hope my partner will be happy with what I did, because a part of the bag is the growth that I made as I put it together. And for giving me the chance to make that growth, I thank her.

I found watching the creativity that went into putting together the various kits to be inspiring. I read about and learned a lot of new techniques. I really do feel that the part of me that was worked the hardest was my imagination. I participated, and I expanded, and that to me is worth more than any of the material things associated with the swap. If you're considering not participating in a swap because you think it's a competition, please reconsider. It really is something much bigger and better than a competition; it's a chance to push your boundaries a bit and to be creative and to grow.

I didn't mean to get preachy, and if I came across that way, I apologize and you can kick my the butt next time you see me. And because I like to have something to look at besides a bunch of black letters on a white page, let me show you something I found this week:



You've probably all seen "knitting stands" like this in craft stores, etc. I found this one in my local dollar store when I was looking for squirrel eyes :-) What I particularly like about it is the size.



It's perfect for sitting on the floor beside my desk, holding my current sock-in progress.



And the price?



See? It isn't always necessary to be bigger and better. It's what you make of things that counts.

38 people had something to say:

earthchick said...

I like the way you think, Dave.

And that's a way cool little knitting holder thingy.

Pink said...

You summed that up beautifully - just like the things you knit. BTW, I made a garterlac cloth and sent it someone who is now inspired to try the pattern herself...another successful swap, imho. Thank you :)

Teri said...

I agree with you on almost everything Dave, but not that your partner gave better than she got. I sew, and to me it's no big deal... I've always known how and have sewn literally miles and miles of seams.

I love the kit you sent. I love that it's tailored with me in mind; that you stretched yourself and spent so much time making the beautiful bag just for me. And the yarn. the yarn!! I'm planning on doing some nekkid-rolling on it before winding it into balls. Or maybe not - it's just an idea.

There's no competition, no better or more. What there is is new friendship and a connection that wasn't there before. Swapping is good.

trek said...

Hey great find!

Bitterknitter said...

Dave-

You've almost worked me out of my fear of swaps...almost.

BTW-I'm making garterlac dishcloths for holiday gifts for my friends this year! Thanks for a great pattern!

-Lisa

Paula said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I recently joined my first exchange for exactly the reasons you described so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

I like your thinking and that you've expressed it. I haven't decided to participate in anything mainly because I tend to have very long to-do lists and I don't want to add to them. Maybe later.
Gillian

Monika said...

Well said!

Mama Urchin said...

I love getting swap packages knowing that the sender sent whatever they included for me, because they thought I'd like it, because they know I like green, or that I have two kids, or I'm scared to knit lace. That's what's special about swaps - knowing that someone is doing their best or you and that you're doing your best for them.

Mama -E said...

good for you dave.... I join a swap because I want the surprise..

Kathy said...

This frugal hungarian/irish knitter wholeheartedly agrees.

Great color. Great sock colorway.

Kathy said...

This frugal hungarian/irish knitter wholeheartedly agrees.

Great color. Great sock colorway.

Karen said...

Very very well said. :)

limedragon :-: Harriet said...

Well said! : ) And these magazine stands? They are great, I've been using a couple, but mine are canvas, I love your green!

Leanne said...

You make some great points, Dave. I've learned so much from reading blogs - I think I've learned more new techniques in the past year than in all the rest of my 30-some years of knitting. I've been a bit nervous about participating in any exchanges, but I recently (even before your post!) signed up for ISE 3. I figured that would be a good way to get my feet wet!

turtlegirl76 said...

Huzzah! Well said. It's not about who has a better swap partner than the next, or what money goes into the package, it's the thought and consideration.

Renee said...

Thanks for the encouragement Dave. I SIsgned up for ISE3 after seeing it on your blog. I was worried about creating a gift which was good enough. You have gotten rid of all my fears. And I love the garterlac dishcloth pattern. I'm on #4 or 5 or 6.

Meg said...

I've always shied away from swaps but you're made me give it some more consideration. Love your little knitting stand. Great find!

kt said...

I agree with you and the chorus. The swaps I've been in have been fun BECAUSE I try not to look at them as a competition.

It's fun to try to match up goodies with the person you're gifting. Even if you know that they can knit WAAY better socks than you, it doesn't mean that they won't love the hand-dyed ribbon yarn you choose for them!

And I love to try to make a little tchotchke for each swap/gift, too. It personalizes everything.

Global knitters/crafters, UNITE!

Lori said...

You said it, Dave! The main reason I join a swap is to meet other knitters. I am pretty much the only knitter I know in real life, so the chance to connect with others who are as obsessed as I is priceless to me.

Laura said...

another voice in the chorus ... a very thoughtful post. i was a little afraid to join sockapaloooza for exactly the reasons you describe. i sort of feared that i would be knitting for the world champion sock knitter and that this person would see my socks and go UGH. but i summoned up a little confidence and did it anyway and everything worked out fine. it was a good experience knitting socks for someone else. and i am really looking forward to the next one!

Cindy said...

Gee, Dave, I really had to agree with Meg. I had always avoided swaps because I don't really feel my knitting is up to par. Other bloggers seem to have prettier, more intricate, lovelier, better, finer, (insert adjective here). Now, you're making me reconsider. I hate that. You're making me move out of my comfort zone. OK. I'll sign up for one after I make my apron for the Apron-A-Long.

MissyJoon said...

What a wonderful post!

Teyani said...

score! Your little sock yarn bag is fabulous.
and I think it's great that you joined a swap - despite not being a pro at that particular thing. It's the spirit of getting to know others that matters the most. I'm betting that your swap pal loved their gift :-)

Ramona said...

I agree, swaps can be a great learning experience. I learned from KSKS that I probably need to take a sewing class! Love the knitting stand.

Lavendersheep said...

I really like what you had to say, but I would also like to add that participating in a swap is also a way for your skills to be appreciated. Rarely do knitters get the chance to make something for another knitter and a swap is a great way to do that. I really have enjoyed being a part of the swaps that I have joined so far and look forward to being a part of many more to come.

sgeddes said...

Your little knitting stand is a great find! I'll have to keep my eyes out for one.

Thanks for your post. I really liked your anaylsis of swaps. It describes why I join and blog too. It's nice to share a solitary thing sometimes.

Kirsten said...

Well said!
BTW, I love the squirrel!

Gina said...

I took part in the KSKS because it sounded like a different idea, and because I know from swapping experience how much fun it is to give to someone unknown. Some people that I have swapped socks with remain my blog friends, and I am grateful to know them. Others went on their way, and that's just fine too. In this swap I was one who received a kit that went above and beyond the guidelines. I was very pleased with the kit I sent and I am sure the recipient will be happy as well. Next swap I plan to pay it forward and make sure I spoil that pal. Must keep the positive Karma flowing.

Gina said...

As a separate comment, I wanted to point people interested in swapping to a new one just starting for spindlers - both virgin and experienced. Visit www.spiningrovingswap.blogspot.com for details.

Sharon said...

Swaps are fun and you mentioned that all along, it just so happens that you had a very talented person spoiling you (lucky you I say) and of course you wrote about her beautiful work and I am sure that she was just as thrilled with what she received.

HPNY Knits said...

here here Dave! and I also agree with lori
"The main reason I join a swap/KAL is to meet other knitters"
ya'!
I love the global knitters world, and it has given me a chance to see and try new stuff. its very inspiring!!
that little project holder is so adorable!

Imbrium said...

I have yet to participate in a swap, but that's mostly because I can be a bit of a flake, and I don't want to inflict my flakiness on any more people than absolutely necessary. I'm sure I'll join one of them someday, but the timing has to be right.

That knitting stand is adorable - just the right size!

Tygher Knits said...

That little yarn holder is so cute! And perfect indeed .. I wonder if my stores near here might have something like it .. that's perfect for keeping working yarn safe from an all-too-inquisitive feline who has to be near me at all times, especially when I'm knitting.

Carrie K said...

What a lovely defense of swaps. I love the way you make it seem positively educational.

Swaps are fun and I've done a couple but I try to not do too many since I am a huge flake. Better, but it's hard.

My birthday swap girl got a hand knit entrelac dishcloth from me. Yay, Dave!

That denim bag is fabulous. Not to mention those beads!

insaknitty said...

that little stand thing is so great! how come my dollar store doesn't have them? also, what is up with your dollar store charging $2.50 for something? my math skills aren't great, but I think that's actually two and a half dollars... :) first time visiting! great blog. :)

beverly said...

Lovely post, Dave. I came up with the KSKS idea just because I wanted a reason to "grow" my skills a little...not out of any competitive urge, but out of an urge to be creative and to improve my ability to express my creativity.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to thank you for the Garterlac Dishcloth, what fun that has been.