Thursday, October 4, 2007

Crochet and Knit

It's amazing that crocheting and knitting both come from the same set of basic movements. Everying in both crafts is some combination of Insert, Yarnover, and Pull Through. But from there, the paths are really different.

Knitting is binary: There is only one stitch, and it is just a loop that is pulled through another loop. Looking at it one way is called a knit stitch. From the other side, it's called a purl stitch. Then, there is the yarnover, which is a loop.

Because it is all just loops, and binary, it is easy to mechanize knitting, so we have knitting machines. Knitting makes a fabric that is lightweight and elastic, for the most part.

Crocheting is not binary at all, not in any way. Using the basic units of yarnover, pull through, and insert, crochet has five basic stitches -- and none of them is just the backside of another one. All that complexity at the basic level means that it doesn't make sense to try to make a crochet machine -- there are too many choices about where and how to insert the hook, how many yarnovers to do, and how to pull through the loops. It also means that crochet makes a fabric that is sturdy and textured.

For years, people who are used to knitting thought that crochet makes a fabric that is thick and heavy (as if that were a bad thing!). But those same people sometimes worked really hard to knit a fabric that would be sturdy and textured! They could have done it quickly and easily in simple crochet stitches instead.

Understanding the basic nature of the two fabrics helps me choose the right yarn and stitch for whatever I want to make. If I want to crochet a sweater, I choose a yarn that is thinner than I would use to knit the same type of sweater. I would also check the sizing and drape of the fabric to make sure it will fit.

Sometimes it is fun to follow a pattern or just play with the yarn and see where it takes you. But lots of times, understanding how the structure of the fabric works can free up your creativity to soar in new directions.

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