Thank you, my Fine Fibrous Friends, for your kind words after my last post. I’m doing OK, but part of the boob surgery wound just won’t heal, which is irritating ten weeks down the line because it’s preventing me from running. Given that my physical and mental health and menopause-resilience are closely correlated with running mileage, this is a problem. I was due to run the Oxford Half Marathon on 16th October, but common sense and a medical note said DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, LOSER. Colour me gutted, because the Oxford Half is the most fun race ever.
But you’re here for the yarn not the boobs, right? I hope? Yes?
Yet again, the words of this post take a different path from the pictures. The pictures are mostly about food-growing, because that’s been the most obviously colourful part of my life, lately.
On the plus side, I have learned a word that quite perfectly captures something I’d observed but had struggled to describe, and because it’s relevant to knitting, I wanted to discuss it here. Bisociation. I’d been thinking about creativity, whether in the form of comedy or visual media such as knitting. And I’d noticed that the best examples of such creativity often involve combining two startlingly unrelated concepts.
Take comedy, for example. I’ve had plenty of cause to think about the nuts and bolts of humour, since my now-80-year-old father-in-law decided to re-train as a stand-up comedian a few years ago, and we occasionally had to assist him with his coursework. I often flick through the Stoic Spouse’s copy of Private Eye, a British satirical magazine that ensures that no bad deed goes un-mocked. If you look at its content, especially the cartoons, the best of the jokes slam two unrelated concepts together. Exhibit A:-
So I had this vaguely-formed theory in the wine-soaked fluff that has latterly replaced my brain. And then I began reading James Geary’s book about humour, Wit’s End, which discusses this exact phenomenon, and it has a name! Bisociation. And it’s an important aspect of all sorts of creativity. Feeling vindicated, I scurried off to wittily combine random stuff, secure in the knowledge that this would be hilarious or geniusly creative or preferably both.
Another example: many years ago on an Arvon writing course, we were given an exercise that involved writing a short piece in response to three prompt words, chosen at random from a bucket of ideas. I still remember the words that I pulled out of that bucket: regretful, carpenter, gazebo. (I guess that counts as trisociation.) You have no idea how much playful fun I had with my poor lost carpenter and his woefully remorseful travails in the gazebo. It was the startlingly unexpected combination of concepts that supercharged my imagination. There is something inspiring about examining the intermediate space between two or more unrelated phenomena. If the prompt had been merely, “Write a short piece about a carpenter,” my response would’ve probably been way too bland.
But let’s bring this back to the yarn. Bisociation is – now that I can put a name to it – a phenomenon that I love to use when designing knitted (or crocheted) items. I’m not saying that I do it well; I’m just saying that I do it, so please don’t assume that there’s any arrogance here. Some folk like to follow traditions – Fair Isle, the gansey, Latvian colourwork, and so on. That’s good and important because it would be a tragedy to lose such knitted heritage: I mean that from the bottom of my heart. And I’ve learned many such traditions because it’s always important to understand the rules before you break them. But. BUT. At heart, I have never been a follower. I just can’t do it. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, I can’t help taking a trope and smashing it into another trope in order to explore what happens in the space between the two. That space is endlessly fascinating, in my arrogant opinion. That’s where the magic happens.
Examples? OK, here goes. But remember that I’m only claiming to do this thing, not to do it well. I wanted to recreate covid in yarn, and decided to combine it with Fair Isle.
I wanted to express my feelings about the corruption of our freshwater habitats, via the medium of stranded knitting.
You get the idea, I’m sure. And you doubtless do it far more wittily than I do. But at least we can both understand the phenomenon. Bisociation is actually rather wonderful, yes?