Category Archives: knitting

Mind Matters and Knitting and Hats

Voltaire says:

Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.

I will respect  that not everybody needs to be perfect. Sometime just knitting is enough.

See Knitting Meditations

_Female_Magician

Also Erma Bombeck says:

I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and gives me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a funeral or something…

So there are 5 reasons to knit a hat:

  1. They are a small project;
  2. A great deal of body heat is lost through the head;
  3. A great hat makes up for a bad hair day;
  4. They knit up very quickly;
  5. Even timid dressers will wear a hat.

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There’s a technicality to designing and wearing hats. A hat is balancing the proportions of your face; it’s like architecture or mathematics.

I have different hats; I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m a human being, I’m an artist and hopefully I’m an advocate. All of those plates are things I spin all the time.

Cognitive Psychology and Knitting: Pattern matching and selective attention

There is a very interesting book called Things I learnt from Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

In her introduction/foreword she discusses the idea that Knitting is a very strong example of certain Cognitive Psychology concepts. Namely those of Attention;  Pattern recognition; Object Identification; and Time Sensations.

In Cognitive Psychology they are interested in how people choose what to focus on, the way patterns are recognised even though they may be very different in apparent appearance, and how time is perceived.

Filtering and attention relate to how we use our mental energy. How we decide on what we should pay attention to and what we should ignore, what we will store in our neuron and pathways and what we will discard or not pay sufficient attention to for it to register in our brain.

Thinking about pattern recognition, the theory states that pattern recognition describes a cognitive process that matches information from a stimulus with information retrieved from memory.

So consider the letter a. As a child we are taught how to read and write, but each book we read uses a different font or paper size and thus font size and so on, and yet after a while we recognise all the letter ‘A’s we come across. I realised this fact just recently as I was being read to by my grand-daughter. we had written each of us, our own books on small folded pieces of paper – concertina books –  and I had written in cursive script – clearly I thought but… It was a different cursive from the one she was used to and thus some letters she had difficulty in recognising eg I use the continental way of writing a cursive ‘z’ and my ‘s’  was different and so on. Yet once explained she knew them and recognised the letters when they came up again. Reading is her joy at the moment but she is still learning how the combinations of letters make words and how they can be pronounced differently in different contexts eg ‘bow’.  English is very tricksy!

In a crowded train carriage my husband dons his noise cancelling headphones. I get out my reading and knitting. Which of us hears less of the noise made by the loud chatterers? Which of us knows where we are in terms of stations? Not me, that’s for sure. I am immersed in what I am doing and all the other sensory information within the train carriage passes me by. I am not paying attention to it. I am focussed on my tasks.

Sensory information comes in four formats:  visual; auditory; tactile; and olfactory. It is more than just simple registering of sensory information… it involves some sort of interpretation of that information. We can ignore that part of the sensory information that surrounds us if we are focussed on our tasks. We filter and pay attention only to that which interest us.

Broadbent (1958) argued that information from all of the stimuli presented at any given time enters a sensory buffer.  One of the inputs is then selected on the basis of its physical characteristics for further processing by being allowed to pass through a filter.  Because we have only a limited capacity to process information, this filter is designed to prevent the information-processing system from becoming overloaded.  The inputs not initially selected by the filter remain briefly in the sensory buffer, and if they are not processed they decay rapidly. We therefore lose them and do not remember them.

Alternatively Treisman’s (1964) model retains this early filter (Broadbent’s) which works on physical features of the message only. The crucial difference is that Treisman’s filter ATTENUATES rather than eliminates the unattended material.  Attenuation is like turning down the volume so that if you have 4 sources of sound in one room (TV, radio, people talking, baby crying) you can turn down or attenuate 3 in order to attend to the fourth.

It is my experience that we can do both – we can choose which model to follow – or at least I can. Sometimes I am completely immersed and nothing will come in from the external world, sometimes I am not so focussed – I am not paying enough attention because what I am doing does not require me to – perhaps it is very familiar – eg knitting plain and purl stitches – I can do this without looking at the needles and the wool as I very familiar with the feel and pattern my hands need to make to complete the physical task.

Yet when we knit we can focus on our counting, our pattern changes and the rows we need before we change colour etc to such an extent that the external world fades away and the world is concentrated in the movement of our hands.

Many different patterns can all be recognised as examples of the same concept. We use pattern recognition all the time we understand a stitch or the regularity of a decrease on a sleeve so that we do them automatically. We know when something has gone wrong – when what we are knitting does not look right.

We also use object recognition to know what a stitch or a pattern looks like on different items – a hat Vs a coat or a scarf, and in different colours; and when we know and understand that one sleeve is different from the other in the sweater we are knitting.

cable patternfairisle

What the author claims is that by virtue of knitting we change the way our brains work in terms of those cognitive functions. We train our brains to work in different ways from those people who do not knit.

 

Emily knows a thing or two

That it will never come again

Is what makes life so sweet.

As written by Emily Dickinson.

I do so agree with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee when she says that she will resist hoarding that very special wool for that very special project – until they are just right and the project is ‘worthy’. She comments that if she knits the wool, she doesn’t have it any more and thus cannot look at it and think about it and the potential it holds within the ball.  Once knitted all that potential has gone, it is just a garment now. Whilst un-knitted it has all the possibilities of the future. I am like that sometimes myself. I have some lovely wool my daughter gave me and it sits in the yarn stash drawers and every now and then I look at it and feel it but never knit it. Perhaps as the new year starts I will gain the courage to knit it up.

And then there is Bo Derek:

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping

or as Stephanie says about her yarn stash (and it applies to our wardrobes too) ‘Just why did I buy that?!’ So Bo Derek is wrong?

The colour isn’t right. The texture is wrong. For that weight you will need more wool than you have for that project. The wool is old (I rescued it from my mother-in-law’s drawers) and falls apart and you really don’t want a garment that is all knots. And yes that wool was really too much of a bargain, the colour runs or it is rough on your fingers to knit and even rougher to wear!

No matter the discount,  not everything is a bargain.