Author Archives: rachnz

Process or product

Reading Maura’s last lovely post about the joys of yarn potential got me thinking about product knitting vs process knitting. Is the joy in knitting having a beautiful finished object, that’s just as you envisaged it, and that you (or the recipient) will treasure ? Or is it in the act of creating; the meditative nature of knitting; the thrill of learning? Or is both?

So which are we? Product knitters? Or Process knitters? And which are YOU?

I’m a process knitter. I love learning new things and I love the physical act of knitting. It’s not that I don’t love having finished objects, but they’re not the sole motivation.  Here’s an example. I finished a lace shawl a couple of years ago. It was the most complicated thing I’d ever knitted, and I was ridiculously, crazily, unrepentantly proud of it.  Here it is:

Well, not that long after I’d finished it, my daughter, then aged about 5, was playing with it in the dining room.  She laid it out on the floor, and then she put a chair with thin metal legs on top of it.  And then she sat on the chair, and tried to pull the shawl up over her knees…  You can guess the rest!
I surprised myself by how NOT upset I was: I’d enjoyed knitting it, I’d learnt a lot, and I could live without the shawl.   So now I don’t fret too much about how many WIPs I have; I don’t despair if I have to frog something; and I don’t cry when the kids lose or destroy the things I make. I still love me a pretty FO but it’s not the be all and end all!


I’m still so new to knitting that I haven’t quite made up my mind about this, but I probably lean more towards the Product Knitter side. I feel like whether you’re a Process or Product knitter can better be described as which shade of grey are you? Where do you fit on the Process vs Product scale because to some extent we have to be a little bit of both right? (even 5% Product and 95% Process) if you’re as obsessed with knitting as we are, it would seem like that might be the only way you would stick with it for so long. Originally I was a 99% Product knitter. I took up knitting specifically to make myself a pair of gloves (seems innocent enough) but I have slowly transitioned to being about 60% Product and 40% Process. I really enjoy the process of knitting, obviously, and it has gotten a lot more fun as I have become more proficient at it. However, that being said, I LOVE finishing things. I never cast off an item and let it sit around for days  (let alone weeks or months) without the ends woven, and I HAVE to get it blocking as soon as the weather permits. Making things out of balls and strings and actually having them be loved and be useful is what it’s about for me. Being able to say I made that, Me! really makes it special.


I have to stick with the fact that I am pretty much in the process knitter group.  I remember being in college and my professor of Art, who was married to my professor of Drawing (a whole different story…), spoke frequently at great length about process versus product.  Are you creating Art for art’s sake or for Art for the audience?  Are you being true to the art and to yourself by making art to sell to someone who asks you to make something specific?  As you can imagine, I come to knitting (or quilting or home decor) as an art form.  I do it for myself – I am extremely selfish.  I only do that which brings me joy, that which feeds my soul.  Most of my finished objects are sent out to someone else and I usually don’t know who it will be until the item is finished.  Many times, I make something just as an experiment – to see how the pattern works, how a stitch works, how easily I can do it.  Then in the middle, the pattern and the yarn start telling me who needs to receive this object.  If the object has no home, it stays with me and I look at it with a sense of nostalgia – Wasn’t that fun to make?


Well, I guess my little evil, greedy comes out again.  I am so far down the product scale it is scary.

I. Want. The. Thing.

I choose patterns because I think they are pretty/comfy/fun/cute/wearable/useful/gorgeous/popular.  I can’t think of even once where I have chosen a pattern to learn a skill…  Oh, that is sad.  This should have been immediately apparent to anyone who knows me, and how hard it is to give FOs (finished objects) away.  Only the truly knitworthy…


I adore the process of knitting but I think ultimately I’m a product girl.  Sometimes it’s only knowing what is awaiting me at the end of all the hard work that really keeps me going when I’d rather just stash the item somewhere and forget its very existence.  Like Kelly, I don’t think I’ve ever chosen a pattern simply to learn a new skill, learning new skills is simply a result of having to have that particular item. Now.

What can I say, I’m a little bit of a material girl! (see what I did there? Ahem)


Breaking Black – Auckland, New Zealand

Over the same weekend, four of us, in four different places, experimented with breaking black food colouring to die yarn. Here’s how it worked out in New Zealand.

I began with 50g of Moda Vera Pure Wool 8 ply from Spotlight.   I wound it into three hanks and tied each one in three places with scraps of acrylic (acrylic won’t take up the colour).  I split it into three because I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it all in one hit. And also because I’m not great at making skeins or hanks!

I soaked the wool in 4 cups of water and 1/2 cup of white vinegar for three hours.

I then mixed 75 ml water, 50 ml white vinegar and 1 cap full (about 1/4 teaspoon) of Hansells Black Food Colouring.  I poured this into a large stock pot and heated it gently on the stove until it was just below boiling.

I draped the three hanks of wool over a wooden spoon and laid it across the top of the pot, so that one end of each hank was in the dye. (I moved the spoon around and gently turned the pot so that the wool was pretty covered).

After 15 minutes or so, the wool in the pot had turned purple, and the liquid was blue. So I slid the wool on the spoon so the other end of the hanks was in the dye.

After ten minutes or so, I removed the spoon and let all the wool fall into the pot.

I kept the heat on until the water was clear, and then I let it sit and cool for twenty minutes.

Then I rinsed the wool, several times, and hung it out to dry.

I love how this came out!

Breaking Black

So back on August 11, Carolyn, with no idea what she was starting, casually posted “I really want to try breaking black” on Ravelry.

Breaking Black, for the uninitiated, refers to the fact that black food colouring is made up of other colours, and because the take-up rate differs for each colour, when you dye yarn with black, you wind up with the colours separating.

Kelly replied, “I have always wanted to break Wilton’s black and I have just never been brave enough. Wanna do a comparison dye for the blog? We could each buy a skein of the same bare yarn so we started with the same thing and then dye it without telling the other what we were doing. Good comparison photos, I bet.”


Two weeks and well over 500 posts later, and having sucked Patty and Rachel into the vortex, we have all broken black. (Of course, being the Back of the Bus girls, we soon gave up the idea of starting with the same yarn. That would be too much like a rule.)

Keep watching, because over the next few days we will be presenting our different methods, and our crazily different results….

Tena koutou, ko Rachel tenei

I’m the other kiwi here at the back of the bus – kiwis can’t fly, but we do seem to turn up everywhere!

I learnt to knit when I was a teenager. First my mother taught me, then my grandmother had a go, then my mother tried again. At some point it stuck. I wasn’t super keen on knitting per se, but I loved the idea of doing something that my mother had learnt from her mother, who’d learnt from her mother, and so on. I saw it as a subversive act – and I still believe that in our age of instant gratification and mass production and consumption, knitting is incredibly subversive.

Having always been an innate back of the bus knitter I ignored the rule about starting with a hat or a scarf: my very first project was a sweater. And who needs a pattern right?  Having also always been an impatient knitter, I knitted a sweater before I’d learnt any increases or decreases. So my patternless sweater had a square neck and wide sleeves. And no neckband, waistband or cuffs. And I wore the damn thing because I was so inordinately proud of it.

The knitting slipped away for a long time. Every few years I would play around again but I don’t think I ever actually finished anything apart from some tiny toys.  And then, like so many other knitters, I had children and the knitting bug struck.

Luckily for me, the wave of internet knitting sites struck at the same time, and all of a sudden there were patterns, and tips, and blogs, and videos, and everything a beginner could want. And a few years later there was Ravelry. So I knitted and knitted and knitted; still mostly without patterns, but I started reading lots of patterns and my sweaters got better. At that point I mostly knitted with whatever was on special at the local K-Mart: my daughter’s rainbow boucle jersey with the red eyelash trim and my other daughter’s lime, hot pink and purple striped feather and fan jersey are still spoken of in tones of awe by other mothers. (I’m choosing to believe it’s awe and not horror…)

Last year I signed up for the 12 in 12 2012 group on Ravelry, hoping it would help me not just sit around swatching and accumulating unfinished projects. It did that, but it also introduced me to a group of crazy, funny, wise, wicked and wonderful women, who have become friends, despite the physical distances between most of us.  And what I want most from this joint blog, is for other people to share the incredible fun and sense of community that has sprung up.

As for me, I think this sign my daughter made and stuck on the front door pretty much sums it up: