Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Journeyman piece

Well, you guys voted, so here they are: all the ends I have woven in and cut off of Venezia. I haven't done anything yet with the ends that will be in the steeks, as I plan to take care of those after the armholes are seamed.

I forgot to put anything in the picture for scale, but each of the squares on that mat are 1/2" square. Those ends fill a space about 6.5" by 7".

Yall, that is like 300 bits of yarn.

So, I've been thinking about Venezia, and I've been thinking about what it means for me as a knitter to have knit something like this. Six months ago, when people said that I was a really good knitter or an advanced knitter, I didn't think it was true. I'd never knit a sweater, I'd never done a real lace project, and there were a million other things I'd never mastered either. I had a long way to go, and I knew it.

Now I'm nearly done with my third sweater, and this third one really isn't just any sweater. It's a completely patterned fair isle on size 2 needles, with cap sleeves and steeks and shaping, and it's taken me over four months. I seem to have gotten a big head about my knitting. I don't protest as much when people call me an advanced knitter. I mean, maybe I am. I'm no Yarn Harlot and I'm no Eunny, but among us mortals I'm probably somewhere above average.

And then, because I'm a history dork, I started thinking about guilds. Not your local knitting guild where you meet up to talk about finished objects and lace and what charity needs what item. Medieval craft guilds. Mastercraftsmen formed the membership of these guilds, and they had an exclusive monopoly to practice their craft in their city. Some of these guilds were incredibly powerful. The wool guild in Florence basically funded the construction of the famous cathedral, and then they got this street named after them (via of the art of wool).

Families who wanted their sons to learn a craft sent them to work for masters at a fairly young age, and the boys spent several years learning the basics and then the finer points of the craft. When the master deemed them ready, they were promoted to journeyman after completing a piece that demonstrated that they had mastered all the necessary skills.

Journeymen are called that both because they traveled around, learning new tricks and skills from other masters, and because they were essentially day laborers (day=journée). When they had learned as much as they could, and the local guild decided they were ready, the journeyman would complete a new piece, the master piece. Upon its completion he became, not just a master of his craft and a full member of the guild, but legally an adult. He could finally marry and own property.

(Of course, by the time I start studying European history them this last bit, promotion to master, wasn't working so well as masters tried to protect their economic positions. Journeymen got really bitter, and they make up most of the mobs in any major revolution of the 18th and early 19th centuries.)

But back to me. Venezia is not my masterpiece. There are mistakes in it. I still have a lot to learn before I might feel like I've mastered this craft. Entrelac. Intarsia. Provisional cast-ons. Purling in continental style. How to shape a cap sleeve, without a pattern. How to write a really good pattern. How to weave in an end on a scarf so it never shows up again.

But for all the skills I'm lacking, there is a lot that I know now that I didn't know a year ago. And really, I have gotten pretty good at a few things. I have started thinking of Venezia as my journeyman piece. It's a symbol that even though I still have a long ways to go, I do have a grasp of most of the important knitting skills. I have completed my apprenticeship.



At 4/17/2007 9:39 AM , Blogger Heather said...

What a great post! I'm looking forward to seeing the finished piece.

At 4/17/2007 11:51 AM , Blogger AuntieAnn said...

Some knitting, some history, some philosophy -- very nice!

I like your clear-headed thinking about what you know, what skills you have and what you have yet to learn, but without apology, false modesty or braggadocio (I had to look up how to spell that). Good for you on your progress.

At 4/17/2007 2:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, very interesting. Yes, you have definitely completed your apprenticeship!!

At 4/17/2007 6:27 PM , Blogger sherriknits said...

Liz..this is my favorite post I have read of yours yet. I loved your history lesson and I, too, have really taken hold of how this is all a journey...so much more to learn, but full of accomplishment the whole way. (I think I might still be an apprentice, but I know I have come a long way and learned a lot!) I am so thankful for the day I found your blog, it's really been a blessing.

I can't wait to see your sweater, but I will really consider what you have said here in the meantime.

At 4/17/2007 7:58 PM , Anonymous kelp! said...

I would have voted for the ends, too. You'll have to show an inside-out photo for all the diehards.

It's interesting that you consider Venezia a journeyman effort. I've knit more than you, but I would think of a shapely, fair-isle sweater as a great accomplishment (and something that I definitely don't have mastery of).

At 4/18/2007 6:28 AM , Blogger cheryl said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post. It seems that knitting has the amazing ability to expand. There are new techniques to learn, colors to play with, fibers to try and that's not even touching upon any sort of clothing design. I've been surprised that I have yet to be bored with knitting. Frustrated maybe sometimes, but definitely not bored. I think attempting and finishing Venezia is a great accomplishment and I can't wait to see what you knit next - thanks so much for including us readers on your journey.

At 4/18/2007 9:01 AM , Blogger Amy said...

ditto on Kelp's comment.

I've knit alot in my 13 years of knitting and yet when I did the Anemoi mittens, I really felt like I'd learned a new challenge. Even though I'd not by any means mastered it, I felt like it was a great accomplishment. But I'd never stopped to think about it in terms of the history behind the craft and how they ran things.

On one hand, this makes me want to protest more when someone tells me that I must be a very advanced knitter or when my mom refers to me as a master knitter, because really, even with as long as I've been doing this, I'm nowhere close. On the other hand when my Dr. looks at my current sock in progress and remarks that I must be very advanced and patient and that they'd never be able to do that (we'll talk later about how I then question to myself their decision to be a Dr.) I feel quite flattered and the vain knitter in me remarks to myself that if a Dr. is telling me this, then I *must* be quite advanced.

So now to find an even keel between the two and decide what my journeyman piece will be.

At 4/18/2007 5:12 PM , Blogger Alliesw said...

Much more than a mere knitting mortal, for sure! What a great post. It is cool to get knitting and history (two of my favorite things, in one place!)

At 4/18/2007 11:50 PM , Anonymous Erin said...

What a great way of looking at it. I feel the same way. Just think though, of all the potential you have if this is only your 3rd sweater. Where are you going to be in 5 years?

At 4/19/2007 5:47 AM , Blogger Amelia said...

I really appreciate your musings on the process, and I'm glad to hear you say that this isn't your "masterpiece" - that there's always more to strive for. I think you're a great knitter, and have a great outlook on what that means, and what it should mean.

Way to go! I look forward to seeing the finished sweater.

At 4/19/2007 9:48 AM , Blogger Amanda said...

What a beautiful post! Your analysis definitely resonates with the way that I've been looking at my knitting this last little while.

Every time I finish something, I step back and consider what it means about my development as a knitter and where I want my next project to take me.

Thanks again for the Venezia update. Your amazing progess on this sweater has definitely been an inspiration (and what initially led me to your site). Hopefully I'll soon get up the courage to start working the pile of Shetland Spindrift that has been burning a hole in my stash for the last 6 months.

At 5/03/2007 5:01 AM , Blogger Queen Frogger said...

Oh gosh, I can't wait to see your venezia. I am thinking about starting Venezia and you give me hope that i can do it!


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