Category Archives: knitting

Process versus Product

I woke up this morning thinking about process versus product. Sometimes I’m a “process person”–doing something because I enjoy the process of doing it–and sometimes I’m a “product person”–doing something because I want the product.

Let me expand on this: I knit hats because I enjoy the process of knitting. I used to think I knit hats because I wanted knitted hats, but really, you can buy a perfectly good hat for $4.99 at Target, and instead I use a $50 skein of cashmere-silk blend and I knit it with a small needle, and I enjoy the texture of the yarn between my fingers as I knit, and sometimes I give the hat away when I’m done–so it really is about the process, because it can take me hours and hours of knitting, which basically means if I wanted a hat, I could have ten or twenty of them for less money and less time than that one hat cost me. So knitting is all about the process of knitting, and not really about the product. (I mean, these days the yarn to knit someone a sweater pretty much always costs more than a ready-made sweater costs. Handknitting is a costly process.)

You want another example? Dog training. I love dog training, and one reason I enjoy agility is because there’s always something you can train. There are so many aspects of agility. It’s a challenge every time to my brain, to the dog’s brain. There are new places, new ways to train. I’m so old I remember when 2x2s were the hottest training method out there and I had to work out my own method from a four-page description in a book because there were no videos yet. It’s a never-ending process. There’s no point at which you can look at your agility dog and say “there, I’m done.” That’s a process activity, definitely.

Now, what’s a product activity? Cake baking comes to mind. The goal in cake baking is to have a cake and then eat the cake. You can enjoy the process of making the cake–there are all sorts of little pleasures in baking, including licking the bowl and that moment when you slice a tiny corner off the bottokm to taste the cake before you frost it–but really, it’s all about the product–the cake–and not about the process of mixing the eggs and the butter and the flour. (Although I’ll digress a moment to say that the chemistry of baking is pretty amazing, and is definitely worthy of respect.)

Sometimes one person’s product is another person’s process. My sister makes beautiful pottery bowls and she gives them to me and I love them. To me, it’s a product–but I’m pretty sure my sister loves the process, too, because I’ve watched her make a bowl and she’s clearly enjoying herself. (I know she likes the knitted hats I occasionally send her, too.)

There are things that are both process and product and switch back and forth. Running and racing comes readily to mind. Races are the product punctuation in the process of training. You have to enjoy the process of running if you want to have the product of good races, of personal records. (I do think running races well is part of the “what gets rewarded gets repeated” cycle in running, at least for me. I like seeing concrete results. I like it a lot.)

This morning I was, as usual, obsessing about my efforts to lose weight. I have twelve pounds to go and I’m currently losing at a bit less than a pound a month and so I was doing the math (obsessively) and coming up with “oh my god, this process is going to take me at least another year before I have finally lost all the weight” and then it dawned on me that this is not a product, it is a process. I am never going to hit a point where I have a product I can hold up and say “look what I made.” I will hit a point where I can say “okay, I can eat a little bit more” but I won’t be able to eat everything I want, not no how, no way, not ever. In fact, that’s never been true (if it were, I would not have gotten to where I needed to lose 64 pounds). Health is a process by which your tiny decisions lead to a momentary product: today I’m healthy.

This morning I switched from thinking about weight loss as a product–a goal I can reach and then I can stop–to thinking about weight loss as part of a process. I need to eat carefully because health is a process. Running is a process. Training Rush is a process. Gardening is a process (although I enjoy the tomatoes and roses that are a product). I can enjoy the process of taking care of my health. I can stop worrying about how long it takes, because it’s like knitting a hat. There’s no deadline, so I might as well relax and enjoy the process.

A new hat

I knit another hat. This one is for me. I wanted warm, cozy, colorful.

swirly cashmere hat

Knitting it was so annoying and so finicky that I’m not going to write a pattern. If you’re not an experienced knitter–who could figure out how to knit the hat just by looking at it–you really don’t want to knit this hat. Go knit something that won’t make you crazy. All those different colors? Each of them had its own little bobbin of yarn, and all the bobbins (I used seven different colors) kept getting tangled. I had to untangle them every single bleeping round.

However, it is warm, cozy, and it does make me smile. So that’s good.

Hat for Debbie

Debbie asked me to make her a hat. However, she’s not a habitual hat wearer or a knitter, and didn’t know exactly what she wanted. It took me about three months to narrow it down. I had her try on hats I made for other people. I made a few hats that were dead ends and gave them to other people. Finally, I sent an email with questions for her to answer: how snug? what colors? one layer or two at the ears? wool itch? likely environment for wearing?

That set of questions led to a plan. When she said she liked brown/black/cream/white, I realized she was describing the colors of her dog, and I went on a search for yarn in “border collie colors” in a silk/merino blend, so it would have a bit of a sheen, like that of a healthy border collie. She wanted snug over the ears and warm, but only a single layer.

This is the hat I made for her:

Silk-merino hat in border collie colors

Pattern as follows:

Yarn: Juniper Farms Marlowe.I used a single skein and had about twenty yards left over.

On a size 6 20″ circular needle, cast on 80 stitches using a knitted cast on. Join ends (being careful not to twist).

Knit one round; purl the next round to create garter stitch until you have completed 24 rounds of alternating knit/purl rounds. You can do more if you want a double layer over the years.

Now start knitting every round to create stockinette stitch.

When the hat is 7 inches long, start reducing to close the top. You can switch to double-pointed needles or use a second circular. Every ten stitches, knit two stitches together; the next round, knit two stitches together every 9 stitches (at the same spot). Continue reducing until you have eight stitches, then pull the tail through the remaining stitches, tie tightly in a knot, and weave in the sends.

Warm snug hat from leftovers….

I’m still knitting hats. This is another one for me, since the weather has been cold and annoying.

Knitted striped cap with garter stitch band

Assemble about 126 yards of leftover bits of worsted weight yarn.
Do a gauge swatch from one of your leftover yarns (in plain garter stitch).
Measure your head and subtract two inches. Yes, two inches. This hat is supposed to be snug.

Using a circular needle, cast on the correct number of stitches for your gauge and head measurement. Cast on loosely so the edge will be stretchy. Join, without twisting.

Knit a round of knit stitch, then a round of purl, to create garter stitch. Do that for 2 1/4 inches. Join in new yarn as desired to create stripes; you will want to join the yarn at the same point every time, to create a consistent change point. At 2 1/4 inches, start simply knitting round and round and round until you have another 3 1/2 inches, then start reducing.

To reduce, knit two stitches together every 9 stitches for one round. Knit a non-reducing round. Next round, reduce by knitting two stitches together at the same point every eight stitches. Continue to alternate rounds. Change to double-pointed needles or two circulars when you have to.

When you reach 8 stitches, pull the yarn through all eight stitches, then pull tight, and tie a nice tight knot. Weave in all the ends from your stripes and enjoy your hat.

Knitting (again) (simple cap, with instructions)

It’s winter and I’m knitting hats. This one I made for myself after I fell completely in love with this yarn:
Jeannette (Mountain Colors)

Simple knitted cap

It’s a cashmere-silk blend, of all things. Incredibly soft, lovely to knit. The description said 4-5 stitches/inch but I knit it at 5 stitches to the inch on number 6’s (circular) and it’s pretty loose (8 rows to the inch vertically, in stockinette).

Cast on 108 stitches onto circular needles. Join, being careful not to twist. Knit 2, purl 2, for 2 1/4 inches, then knit, around and around and around, until it’s time to start reducing. For my head, that’s about 3 3/4 inches. I decided I didn’t want a foldover on this cap–I was going for very light and easy to wear.

To reduce, knit two together, then knit 7 more, then knit two together, for one round. Knit a round without reducing. Repeat these two rounds (you’ll need to switch to double-pointed needles at some point, or a pair of circulars, whichever you prefer) until you have eight stitches left, then thread the yarn through the eight stitches, pull tight, and tie off.

Now that summer’s here: new hat

A few months back I swapped one of my cashmere hats for a few hours of practice time in a hard-to-get-in facility. It was a great deal for me, because I was bored of that hat anyway and needed an excuse to knit myself a new hat.

I wanted something that would be ridiculously warm in the dead of winter.

I had fun with green and purple-blue cashmere; I made a zig-zag rib; I made stripes; I finished the hat and then cast on a new bottom band to make it nice and snug around the ears; finally, I felted it within an inch of its life by washing it and putting it in the dryer for half an hour. It’s soft and dense and fits nice and snugly.

Green and purple knitted watchcap

The hat project, part 2…

I made hats before I went to New York to see my sister (and my daughter) (and my sister’s son and daughter) (and my sister’s two grandchildren). I took photos of some of the hats. Herewith, some more photos:

Cooper Lake, New York

Nephew-in-law and his hat

Niece and her daughter: hats and scarves (blue scarf by my niece and my sister) (I just wove in the ends)

The Hat Project

When I’m not doing agility, I like to sit on the couch with my husband on one side and the poodles on the other side (big couch) and knit while I watch TV. Since it’s dark, I’m limited to things I can knit in the dark. I mostly make blankets and hats. Right now, I’m planning a visit to my sister in the Catskills in New York (who has two children and two grandchildren and a boyfriend) so I’ve been knitting hats to take with me as presents.

Here’s the collection as it currently stands. I’m trying to finish a few more in the next week or so.

The Hat Project


I sent some knitting to my niece a while back and completely forgot to take photos before I sent it. She was kind enough to send photos along.

This yellow scarf is from a lovely soft yarn. It’s 2×2 rib with a garter stitch end just to make it more interesting…

Yellow Scarf

And these hats were knit as a not-quite-pair for my great niece Julie and her new sister Ivy. The ruffles around Ivy’s hat were done by casting on 3x the number of stitches I needed and doing a few rounds (just ordinary all-knit-stitch hat knitting) and then knitting three together all the way around to reduce the number of stitches. Julie’s hat is lots of 2×2 rib for extra warmth, then all purl for the blue stripe for texture, then regular all-knit for the white. I also made a matching blue hat for my sister (their grandmother) so that everyone kind of coordinated. The picture of that one is here: blue-and-white hat. I know the blues don’t look the same in the photos but oh well.

Sisters in Hats