Saturday, July 16, 2011

Geeks and Knitting

Somehow knitting is suddenly subversive and cool -- from yarnbombing to knitted zombies to sock wars it screams of a previously-uncool niche suddenly discovered and embraced. But there is something irredeemably nerdy about it. I chatted with one of our volunteers -- also a knitter -- about this and discovered a few odd parallels.

Yarnbombing outside JJ Bean on Commercial

So now that it's been declared cool, what's still nerdy about knitting? Where do I begin? It's practically Renaissance Faire chain-mail without the jockish metalworking aspects. Check out some of the best resources for math and eco-nerd knitters, or try searching or for something nerdy (e.g. Lord of the Rings or Sailor Moon), and you'll see what I mean.

But what originally got me onto the subject was the seemingly random pairing of knitting with technological nerdery. We have knitters at Free Geek, but they also pop up at Vancouver Hack Space, and recently leading up to the Vancouver Mini-Maker Faire. It seemed like a totally left-field pairing and I didn't understand it.

It all started to make sense as soon as I spotted the abbreviations for a knitting "recipe" for the first time:
(Cropped from
...and I thought: hey, this is assembly language! Compare:
Seriously, just look at it! Knitting:
...and assembly language:
OK, I rest my case.

But to draw the parallel one step closer, I got to wondering: what about computerized knitting machines? Surely there's a specialized programming language that you can use to tell one of these how to knit something. And there is, but sadly the manufacturers seem to be pretty tight-lipped about it.

At this point you're probably wondering: what the hell could this possibly be leading up to? Wait no longer! Behold, the nerdiest thing ever in the history of nerding. It's a triumph.


  1. No jokes about programming in Purl, please.

  2. This was pretty neat. I crochet and I had noticed the similarities of looping and the like. I also find it's very similar to how music is written at times.

  3. Hippy Ricky, you've completed a postcard-sized Godel Escher Bach -- programming, geometry, and now music. Somewhere, Douglas Hofstadter's nose is twitching.

  4. This is great! I had the wonderful experience recently of coming to understand some complex knitting instructions with the help of a person who was both a computer programmer and a knitter (of lace). She agreed that there is a distinct relationship between the two kinds of knowledge. Her insights were helpful.


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