The Spirit of the Law

My name is Stephanie and I can’t do as I’m told.
Well, that’s not entirely true. It is simply that I am far more interested in The Spirit of the Law, rather than the Letter of the Law.
This concept (one of which I have been fond for some time) is well illustrated by the difference between a Saturday night in Toronto, and a Saturday night in a very small town. Let’s say that a guy is walking down Queen Street in Toronto. It’s a busy street, there’s tons of people, it’s a hot night and dude’s walking home from the beer store. Suddenly, he gets an idea, reaches into his bag and cracks himself a cold one. Buddy is walking down Queen Street, drinking a beer, completely sober, hurting nobody. I promise you, if a cop sees that beer open on Queen Street, our friend is going to the Don Jail til Monday morning. The law says no drinking alcohol in public spaces, and that’s what the cop is going to enforce. Toronto’s a big city. The cop doesn’t have time to work out that buddy is sober and harmless. The cop is enforcing the “Letter of the Law”.
Now, switch over to a small town. Same guy, same Saturday night, same beer. Dude’s walking down the street, drinking a beer in public…which is absolutely still against the law. Luckily, this is the only crime being committed in the small town this evening and when the cop sees him, he has time to figure out what’s going on. He talks to the dude for a bit and finds out that he is sober and harmless. Since the “no drinking in public law” is really there to keep harmful drunks off the street, and this guy isn’t a harmful drunk, the cop reminds our friend that he shouldn’t be drinking on the street and suggests he pour out the beer and get along home before he opens another. This is “The Spirit of the Law” in action.
Here’s today’s example as it applies to knitting. The Cherry Aran pieces are all knit and now all it needs is a neckband and button bands. Excellent. I glance at my pattern book and see that the sweater does indeed have a neckband, that it is knit in 1×1 rib and that you pick up and knit some stitches after joining both shoulder seams. There’s some other information there, like how many to pick up, what side they think I should pick them up from, and how many rows of 1×1 rib they think the neckband should have. Those instructions represent the “letter of the law”. The “Spirit of the law” is basically saying that you should end up with a neckband done in 1×1 rib, not that I should sit here for 17 hours tinking and picking up stitches along the neckline to get the exact number in the pattern making myself crazy until I’m mean to my husband and hate the stupid little sweater.
I didn’t even read how many they thought I should pick up.
It’s not that I don’t have any respect for what they are telling me. I understand the law. I understand that someone went to a lot of trouble to work that out for me, and darn it…I appreciate it. Considering though that I am familiar with the law and what it is intended to do, I don’t believe that they intended for me to throw my common sense out the window and give myself new wrinkles trying to pick up 46 instead of 44 stitches or disregarding the experience I have gained knitting neckbands in the past, or that they want for me not to think about what kind of neckband I would like. Therefore, I will pick up as many stitches as seems right, and if it looks right, I’m just going to follow the rest of the instructions which specified a 1×1 rib for …well, as far as I like it. I am absolutely confident that knitting is something where the spirit of the law matters more than the letter.
I’m not drinking a beer on Queen St. though. The Don Jail sucks.

26 thoughts on “The Spirit of the Law

  1. Oh, come on! Who reads how many stitches to pick up, especially in 1×1 rib? I only pay attention if it’s like 2×2 rib and then I make a mental note to pick up a number divisible by 4. I read somewhere a good rule of thumb was for every 5 “actual” stitches knit, you pick up into the first 4 and skip the 5th. My picked up stitches have never puckered since, and if my counting is off somehow I just M1 or decrease 1 somewhere unnoticeable.

  2. Hm, I think the inverse happens though when the city gets beyond big and gets crazy-enormous. I live in Manhattan, and frankly you could drink a beer sitting on your front stoop wearing only a thong and a smile if you wanted. A cop wandering by might tell you to take it inside, but he certainly wouldn’t arrest you. Much bigger fish to fry. Not sure how that applies to knitting, tho.

  3. Following the instructions for picking up neck stitches only works out if your binding-off tension is exactly the same as the pattern’s test knitter’s. I’m lucky if I can match my own tension on the other side of the neck. I almost never pick up the “right” amount.

  4. Oh no, are we back to the knitting rules again? After the don’t stop in the middle of the row post — I was in my LYS and heard the owner telling someone to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER …. Well, with a statement that emphatic I had to have her repeat it. It was never tie on yarn when starting a new skein in the middle of a row — now I don’t usually tie at all — but why not — what is the problem that tying will cause? Come to think of it the yarn I used for Salt Peanuts from IW was prone to unraveling and I may have tied — Have I angered the knitting gods — will my sweater self distruct? Should I even bother to block and seam — it has a new skein TIED on and in the middle of the knitting no less —
    What are the rules and where do I get a list before I comit them all and end up in the knitting slammer

  5. Lisa – there’s thongs and then there’s thongs. If it’s a 300 lb guy names Bubba sitting on his front stoop in a thong I think the reaction would be different. Even if he knit the thong himself.
    (My apologies in advance to any knitters out there named Bubba, or to anyone’s lunch I spoiled with a mental image they didn’t really need.)

  6. The more you learn the more you know how to break (or not even consider) the roolz. You’re a knitting goddess so it’s second nature. The rest of us need to learn and grow into doing things our way.

  7. Maybe they just need to add the word “about” before the number of sts, then it would work for everyone? I think any experienced knitter is going to just use it as a guideline, anyway. But there are some new knitters, or by-god-by-the-book knitters, that WANT THAT NUMBER. Also, wouldn’t it make sense when it is something like a 2×2 rib for a cardigan neck, if they put “about” before the number of sts, and added “at any rate, a multiple of 4, plus 2 sts” so people could get the big picture, i.e. you want to start with a K2 at one end and end with a K2 at the other end. And don’t even get me started on selvage sts…

  8. It’s all about consequences
    Drink a beer on Queen Street – risk going to Don *eek* Jail (v.v. bad): Drink a beer on small town street – risk getting lecture from cop (inconvenient)
    Pick up neckband according to superfluous directions – risk alienating DH & hating sweater (v.v. bad): Pick up neckband according to what feels natural – risk knitting neckband 2x (inconvenient)
    Unfortunately for many of us, we must learn the hard way and suffer…

  9. I hear you about the small town cops. Friends of mine were walking down the street, drinking a bottle of wine and singing. The cop, said, take it home fellas! unfortunately, they were too drunk to remember they had even seen a cop that night….wound up in the pokey for “walking under the influence” gotta love it, especially since one of them was the mayor.
    On the rules: My Mom told me, and I have done my best to spread the news: There are no Knitting Police. Break the rules. You will not go to jail, even for the night, and definitely not the Don Jail!
    Barb B.

  10. And sometimes it’s best to ignore the rules! A certain knitting designer (who shall not be named, but who was responsible for the “cable ’til you puke” sweater I made for my dad) very carefully set out the stitches for transitions for things like ribbed waistband to cabled middle to ribbed collars. The thing is, she had absolutely no finesse when it came to having them “flow” from one shape to another (e.g. if I’m going to go from a two-two rib to a three-three cable, I’m going to want to increase symmetrically on both sides of the rib, not on one side and in the middle, or all on one side — which is what the directions told the knitter to do!).
    So following the rules in this case = ugly transitions; breaking the rules = much much better!

  11. Mike, my idea of a Bubba sitting around in a thong is one he’s made himself out of leather and Bubba is a body builder.

  12. First putting your knitting down in the middle of a row and now this!? You really are, as some would have it, a Bad Ass Knitter! (By the way, I cannot remember the last time I picked up the number I was told. I was never very good at doing what I was told.)

  13. You’re the greatest, and I don’t knit a stitch. I love to see what you’re up to and how you’re filling your hours.
    I read all about Prince and your unfulfilled destiny. My heart goes out to you.
    Take care and I’ll be back!

  14. see, now, even a 500lb Bubba in a studded leather thong smoking a JOINT wouldn’t get hauled off to the pokey in my neighborhood. Sadly, my pokey’s too full of big ol criminals for your run of the mill aesthetic offender, as unfair as that may seem.

  15. Lisa, the New York State Supreme Court ruled a few years back that it was unlawful to demand women wear tops when men were allowed to, I think it was the case of the Rochester Seven. The police may ask you to put a shirt on, but they can’t insist you do so. Anyway we sunbathe topless on beaches in upstate New York often. However, the Bubba scenario hit a bit too close to reality of Georgia…..

  16. ‘course Lisa in a thong in NYC would more than likely get the cop to offer to buy her a beer.
    But Dr. Venckmann (rams)in a thong with a beer would certainly get hauled off to the Don jail.
    He’s dangerous in a fun way, I’m thinking.

  17. And Barbossa (Merrick)in a thong is an appalling notion — if his gums are that bad, the rest of his flesh is not to be considered. But I bet he’d tell Steph to pick up as many stitches as she wanted — as long as she wore the mango tank.

  18. thats Zisek in action for ya…but havent you heard that holdign the institution to the latter of the law is the est way to break down the system? 🙂

  19. That’s something I’ll miss about Taiwan: hot summer night, you’re out and about, and you can pop into a convenience store, buy a beer, and drink it in the park. It’s brilliant.

  20. I’m sure no cop (knitting police or TO city police) in his right mind would mess with you if you wore the mango top, a matching thong, had an open beer in one hand and was offering a sampling of a cherry dessert with the other! You go, woman! Break all the rules. We’ll provide bail!
    Also, has anyone noticed how many times the word thong has appeared since I suggested a thong for Prince instead of a gansey???

  21. Oy. (rams) How unsophisticated of me.
    But Venckmann’s line was similar, and he’s funny as well.
    Unless you’re one of those anti-Murray girls.

  22. Oy. (rams) How unsophisticated of me.
    But Venckmann’s line was similar, and he’s funny as well.
    Unless you’re one of those anti-Murray girls.

  23. I’m a spirit of the law knitter mostly, though I stick to the letter until I know better. Except that I never stop in the middle of the row.

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