Thursday, April 26, 2007

Right Brain Knitting

Have you ever heard of a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain? Although I never followed through all the exercises, I did read the theory information at the beginning and it shaped my thinking about how I approach knitting.

The author, Betty Edwards, defined two types of thinking, left brained and right brained. Left-brained thinking involves language, logic, and symbols. Right brain thinking is visual and hence its tie to drawing. It's also perceptual and wholistic and therefore more closely tied with creative leaps of thinking.

Knitting is a task that integrates both sides of the brain. It is creative, yet mathematical. We read the task, but must translate it through our hands. I seem to admire knitters who channel the left brain, like Grumperina or Eunny. But I'm starting to open myself up more to the right brain knitters, such as Cara.

It's funny, but I feel slightly shy, or is it ashamed, of my right brain knitting. It seems somehow less legitimate than knitting that is mathematically precise. In the interests of facing up to my pre-conceptions, I present to you my right-brained socks:

I had two small balls of Lorna's Laces left from these mittens, so I started a pair of toe up socks and then just made it all up as I went along. I let my right brain decide what to do when I got there, no forethought in them at all. I did knit these in turns, so I wouldn't have to write it down in order to duplicate my first try.

Here's some of the details of which I'm not proud:
  • Increased one stitch just after the toe to make the Sailor's Rib pattern fit.
  • Decreased unevenly after the short row heel to make the pattern fit, yet again.
  • Modified the tubular sewn bind of in a less than graceful manner, again, to make the pattern fit.

I don't care, because they're just socks. But, I also don't think anyone should admire or emulate them. Honestly though, I'd do it again. Why not?

Okay, I am proud of those heels. I added a 5 stitch gusset before and after the short row heel to give it more depth for my big feet. I learned this little trick from Criminy Jickets. Only next time, I think I'll only increase four stitches. These heels have pockets. And I'm pleased with the stitch pattern. It's stretchy, and the purl bumps soften out the striping in the yarn. And I'm pleased with the way I used up my yarn.

No waste here!

So what kind of knitting do you do? What kind do you admire? Have you ever tried just letting the knitting tell you what to do?


  1. Nicole9:21 pm

    I'm totally into the right brain left brain thing - that's why I love knitting so much - because it balances the thinking I do. I also have this theory about being most happy when your left brain and right brain are in balance - when I'm not crafty, I get really stressed and without realizing it, I'll find myself drawn to creative endeavors. But I totally get what you're saying here!

  2. I love your socks - they look great on you. As for what kind of brain am I? I'm left-handed, so I think that means my whole brain is a bit wonky :-)


  3. They look great, and I like the whole "go with the flow" routine. I'm definitely right-brained, at least when it comes to knitting. I get bored, or distracted too easily. The right side is the part of the brain that "forgets" how long it takes to do big projects, but keeps starting them anyway, right? :-)

  4. Oh how I am jealous of right brained knitters!! Not having to follow patterns...using intuition - I am striving to go against all my genetic history and be a little more right's scary!

  5. I would say that I use both sides of my brain. I design most of my patterns which is very left brain. But design takes a healthy dose of right brain too. For me, it is about listening to the yarn and feeling the design. And, then charting the pattern for the visual side to follow.

  6. Just do the right-side up/upside-down Picasso drawing exercise from that book--it's really amazing!

  7. I never thought about or tried to figure out what side of my brain that I do my knitting on. M-m-m-m-m, I just started needle felting this January and I did make it up as I went along. That's how I designed the tea cozy. I pictured it in my mind and then just translated it into the piece as I worked. Is that right-brained? I follow patterns when I knit, but do make changes when I feel like they're needed. So maybe I don't understand the difference between the right or left brain ... or my brain is mixed up. ;-)

  8. My problem is I am a right brained knitter without the skills. And with big, weird shaped feet. I've never met the pattern that would fit my foot as written, so I'm always fudging. I have to knit two socks at once because I can never remember the changes I'm making. And half the time, the socks still don't fit. Fine, two-thirds of the time.

    I've stared at the sock heel for a while and I'd love it if you'd give precise details on how you did the short row AND gussets.

    They look great!

  9. I don't know how to knit, and can barely crocheting. being dyslexic makes the crocheting difficult. and Ihear knitting is more so.....

    but I like the colorful socks..

  10. I am a left brained knitter. I like order and logic - a lot. :) But I use my right brain when I want to make something up. It creates the "big picture" and then the left brain fills in the details.

  11. Thanks for thinking I'm right brained! ;-)

    Your socks look great!

  12. I'm a very left brained knitter. Even when I make something up as I go along or make modifications to a pattern, I make copious notes so I'll know what to do the next time (or for the second sock, mitten, sleeve, whatever).