Saturday, August 6, 2016

low-tech hobby

NOTE: I have re-written this post--because of a thoughtful comment that made me return to the incident for clarification.

I have a friend--an excellent knitter and designer--who was in Kinkos . . . waiting . . . and so pulled out her knitting. One of the guys there thought it was interesting to see someone in a high-tech environment using what he called a low-tech hobby.

She laughed . . . and then said that it could get really technical. It was a cute exchange, but that was the end of it.

As someone in the comments mentioned, knitting is "low tech"--if you see it as sticks and string. But I think of "tech" as more than just equipment: I think of it as not so much tools as a set of skills? Perhaps I am over-thinking it, but I do believe it would be interesting to have a conversation with the technical folk, to see if they can appreciate how a low tech hobby can develop highly technical skills. I want to believe that they would be interested in the following.

So here is what I might have said.

Okay, so there was this guy--brilliant guy, actually--Rudolph Steiner. He lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he was a philosopher, and he was an educator. You might have heard of the Waldorf Schools? He established them. And he insisted that every 6-yr-old in his system learn how to knit.

I remember speaking at a men's event and chatting beforehand to a gentleman, over dinner, about my talk (creativity) and what I did for a living (knit). I remember him being a little startled at the latter, so I thought I would lend the conversation some credibility by telling him about Steiner's stipulation. And he said Oh God, imagine spending all that money for your kid to go to a private school . . . to learn how to KNIT?!?!?!

He was rude, he was dismissive, and he was not then prepared to absorb anything I had to say. But had he listened . . . he would have heard that Herr Steiner called knitting the perfect human activity because it teaches the following, essential, important skills.
  • hand-eye coordination
  • the ability to focus
  • math skills
  • spatial relationships
I have seen young Waldorf students knit incredible stuff: the flags of the world, free-standing structures, a giraffe.

I would add that it teaches persistence through challenges and the ability to re-examine and persist through what we think of a failures. And I think of this full list as the skills we need to develop and handle high tech stuff.

And, yes, to develop these skills, the Waldorf students do not use patterns. And so when we do not use patterns, we develop these skills--skills that are great for the brain and contribute to all sorts of intelligence, let alone longevity.

Of course, when someone from Kinkos sees you knitting, he (I will assume a he) does not know if you are using a pattern. I would assume he might not even know what a pattern is, and it might be interesting to find a parallel in his world?

So then, no matter how low tech our activity appears to be, there would never be an assumption that we are doing something really simple, without much of a skill set, and without the same kind of challenges that relate to his world.

All of this might be the reason I have knitter / friends who have worked in the following professions--while also juggling mother- and/or grandmother-hood.
  • data analyst
  • engineer
  • neurologist
  • English professor
  • psychiatric nurse
  • math teacher
  • regional customer service manager for a telecommunications giant
  • accountant
  • dressage trainer
  • policy advisor for the Justice Department
So after I give him this list, I might tell him about Rudolph Steiner.

And then I might ask if he wanted to learn to knit!


  1. You've made some assumptions yourself and didnt' define what you see as high-tech and low-tech skills.

    I would agree with the Kinko's guy that knitting is a low-tech skill. The parts involved are as simple as sticks and string. To me, a high-tech skill is a skill that makes use of high-technology tools.

    Calling something low-tech is not the same as saying it has low skill requirements. Or low value. That is the differentiation we need to educate others about.

    1. I am not sure if my original reply reached you? But I appreciate your comments. As I say at the top, it caused me to go back to ask more about the original incident and then re-examine my assumptions. The post has been altered, with your help.
      Thanks so much!

  2. Interesting! Guess I would have handed him my needles and said "you try"! HA Nice post, Sally! Good food for thought!

  3. Just re-read your post. I agree with your clarifications. I'm a technical writer, so I can't help but consider the terms. :)

    For me, skills are not the same as technology. The most high tech thing you can do in knitting is still going to be relatively low tech compared to what a rocket scientist is up to.

    I do agree that knitting skills are highly transferable.

  4. Wonderful post - I can't imagine why I've never seen the Steiner description of knitting as the perfect activity. Thanks.

  5. One thing I've noticed over the years is that many of the knitters I've met are math oriented--engineers for example. (I'm a retired software engineer.)Maybe it's because, in the computer world, we think binary so do knitters. Anyway, my father-in-law was taught to knit in grammar school as part of the normal curriculum this was probably in the late teens.

  6. What about Rudolf Steiner??????? Was he knitting too??????

    As for the low-tech/high-tech... well... everybody is a techy in his own domain. Maybe you can't program a computer but he can't knit a pair of socks. I am a long time writer and knitter (crochet and tatting also) and people realize they can't do what I do but they are proficient in their domain. It is not ok to just lift your nose on somebody else talent/profession/abilites... it shows their narrow midness.

    But... I really would like to know ... what about Rudolf Steiner??????? :)

    Have a worderful day.

    1. The answer is yes, he did.

  7. All the blog works are dazzling. The more I read, the more fall under the spell of them.
    best cell phone number lookup reviews