What does plowing a field have to do with knitting, one may ask. The answer: As knitters know, when knitting an intarsia pattern one reads the pattern from right to left, and in the following row from left to right. This type of writing/notation is known as boustrophedon.
The word originates from the Greek: as the ox plows, down one row in a field and up the next. If you have ever mowed a lawn, unless you went freestyle, you would follow a boustrophedonic method of getting it done. I have both mowed lawns and knitted pictures or patterns in this way. Although we normally read from left to right, knitters don’t think twice about “reading” a pattern the other way as well.
Some of the earliest knitted patterned objects date back to ancient Egypt. Not incidentally, hieroglyphs can be read in both directions. This is an example of a Coptic sock. It’s amazing what people can create with a pair of sticks and some cotton yarn.
So, is knitting a brain puzzle? I say it is. A puzzle, a math problem, and a test of your patience. It has the effect of engaging both brain and hands and in the end someone gets a pair of socks or a sweater or a nice scarf. With a piece of graph paper and some creative thought, you can make up a pattern to knit, as I did here.
Not to brag, but I did create the universe for this ungrateful child who only wore the sweater once because he thought it was “itchy.” I am happy to report that one of my grandsons is delighted to be wearing it now. Since you start knitting from the bottom and work your way up, I began Earth at Tiera del Fuego and went north from there. This pattern is not to scale. Obviously.
If I’m not knitting, I like to do word puzzles. My daily pandemic SIP routine now includes the daily Jumble and a crossword puzzle (the easy kind). I’m also currently playing online Letterpress with my son. It’s a make-words-from-letters game, more cutthroat than Scrabble. I taught my kids how to play Scrabble and Boggle, but now I’m too much of a pushover for them to play with me. Plus, they have young kids and no time for board games at a distance. My older son is a puzzle fanatic and turned me on to a BBC Two quiz show called “Only Connect.” It will blow your mind.
But back to knitting. For me, it’s a craft and a challenge: I look at it both ways.
One more example:
This was a difficult pattern to keep track of. Thank goodness it was only a small baby blanket. It reminded me of seashells and waves and once I got the hang of the complicated pattern, I loved the way it turned out. But paying attention to the stitch count was essential with this one.
One for the little granddaughter because I loved the hearts and flowers. They don’t always come out perfect, but I have learned that I’m only a perfectionist up to a point.
When the sheltering in place began, I started a blanket for myself–just a small blanket to throw over my legs as I sat on the couch binge-watching whatever. I figured that the blanket, knitted in a circle with a squared-off border, was a big enough project to last me through what I thought would be a rather short period of being confined to the house. I greatly underestimated how long SIP would last. I could’ve made a much bigger blanket had I known I’d still be hanging around here for six months and counting. (Another neat trick of knitting: by dividing the stitches between three or four needles, forming a square or a triangle, one can actually knit a circle, which is how I made my blanket.)
Confusing? Maybe just a little.
So for me, knitting is a puzzle, a math problem, a challenge, and the occasional geometric anomaly. Which is what makes it a good brain exercise.