Transdisciplinary Design

Stretching in the in-between

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on December 17, 2018

I am not what I am, I am what I make with my hands…” Louise Bourgeois

Knitting is a process of taking 1-dimensional yarn and constructing a 2-dimensional fabric. It begins with a single loop, that builds on that loop, and continuously so forth. These loops are considered active. They are tied to the loop that came before it, and the one that comes after it. These series of loops become secure only at the end of the desired form being made, with a single knot.

Previously in my thinking and writing of this, I was considering ‘knitting’ and ‘knotting’ to be different, and dissimilar in its “looping” qualities. I was holding the active – static as a dynamic as difference, rather than the sameness.

knitting (n.)

late 14c., “a fastening with a rope or thread;” mid-15c., “a joining or binding together,” verbal noun from knit (v.). In Middle English also “unity; a bond, unifying force; interconnection; a relationship,” but these are lost. Meaning “act of weaving a continuous thread by loops or knots” is from 1711. Meaning “knitted work, work done by a knitter” is from 1848. Knitting-needle is from 1590s.

knot (n.)

  1. a. “Knot – noun: an interlacing, twining, looping, etc., of a cord, rope, or the like, drawn tight into a knob or lump, for fastening, binding, or connecting two cords together or a cord to something else.” 

Old English cnotta “intertwining of ropes, cords, etc.,” from Proto-Germanic *knuttan- (source also of Low German knütte, Old Frisian knotta “knot,” Dutch knot, Old High German knoto, German Knoten, perhaps also Old Norse knutr “knot, knob”). For pronunciation, see kn-.

Figurative sense of “difficult problem, a perplexity” was in Old English (compare Gordian knot). Symbolic of the bond of wedlock from early 13c. As an ornament of dress, first attested c. 1400. Meaning “thickened part or protuberance on tissue of a plant” is from late 14c. As “small group or cluster of persons” late 14c.

Once we get past the decision to, or not to, we can begin to be-with. In this way, knitting becomes a process of “sympoeisis [which] means ‘making-with’” [1]. I am making-with and thinking-with the wholeness and inter-connectedness of the classroom when I loop the wooly yarn around the bamboo needles. The ing-with is the systemic web of multiple relations we have and hold in our daily human experience.

In this way, I’ve simplified the [act of] knitting or set the constraints, so that my mind isn’t engaged with learning or figuring out how I am making what I am making. I am simply making. Four movements, with an occasional fifth to pull the slack of on-coming yarn. If I were to say, be knitting a pair of socks or a sweater, I would need to pay more attention to what exactly I was doing. But because the parameters have been set and are simple, I am adaptable in my capacity to give attention simultaneously. The edge that I’m working while I’m knitting is my ability to listen actively. However, there is some joy in allowing the fluidity of the experience to happen. I may miss the details of every word, but I may hear the broader expression or message. This fuels how I think. I think less critically, but more connected. Less about exacting points, and more relationally.

Collective agreement:

The conditions are such that there is a collective agreement to how we will use the space we inhabit together. Through this, a constancy and consistency is achieved – a format/formula, from which, there’s a supportive [equilibrium/balance] to further my engagement/activity in class. If it were chaotic with shouting voices, radically opposing views how the space was functioning, I would not be able to knit. In the classroom setting, the knitting connects the movement of my hand to my brain. .The knitting and making are connected. Similarly, in Staying with the Trouble Donna Harraway describes “string figures are thinking as well as making practices, pedagogical practices and cosmological performances.”

When in the mind-space of thinking and learning – there’s a tendency to lean forward, as if to be elsewhere, or strategically in the future. Sitting in an academic graduate class can be intimidating. I am amongst some of the brightest minds listening to the teachings from achieved professors. I strive to be great too; to think at the top of my intellect. But the high reaching, can lead to a sense of ‘peering’ into the future, to know or to be further than I am. This ‘forecasting’ is high regarded in society. Too much anticipating what is coming next, hedging bets and living in the future, leads to disconnection in the present moment. Building capacity for anticipating what’s coming and being with what-is.

Our hands are tools to think with.