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Representations of Personal Data:
My Knitting Habits

Taking my knitting progress over the past year and organizing it into a pattern that other people could potentially knit and I can add to as the year goes on and I continue knitting.

Data Collection

For this project, I wanted to collect and represent data that I felt was important to who I am and what I do. One of the first things that came to mind was my knitting hobby, as I generally knit at least a few rows every day and there are many different pieces of data about my knitting I could track. Over the course of a week, I watched what I knitted and recorded data about how many inches of knitting I produced each day, what yarn weights, colors, and needle size I used, what clothing item(s) I was working on, and what type of pattern I was knitting (i.e. was I working on plain knitting, combining different yarn colors to make fancy patterns, crossing stitches over to make cable patterns, etc.).

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Initial Sketches

I began thinking about how to represent my data before I'd even collected the data, debating between collecting data about what I read over the course of a week and what I was knitting over the course of a week. I eventually settled on representing my knitting data and started thinking I might represent it by knitting an actual piece using the colors and yarns I was knitting with during the week I recorded my data.

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Mid-Point Sketches

I found that I wouldn't have the time or materials to create an actual knitted piece before this project was due so I started playing around with hand-drawn visualizations, thinking about how to represent what I knit in a week compared to the whole article of clothing I would eventually finish, and how to visually show the patterns and colors I was knitting with during the week as well as how much I worked on each different project. I tried representing this in a sweater but since I wasn't actually knitting a sweater I decided to change to showing individual project.

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Incorporating "Show Your Work"

After reading Chapter 8 of the book Data Feminism called "Show Your Work" I wanted to incorporate this lesson into my representation. This led me to think about the disparity in price between handmade objects and machine-made objects. When iterating on the designs I'd drawn previously I decided to add store and handmade tags to show how much the item would cost if I made it by hand and paid myself minimum wage (tracking how long it took me to knit a certain amount as part of my data collecting) and how much that item generally cost in stores when mass-produced by a company.

Critique, Iteration, and the Final Product

I was chosen as one of the people to present my progress on my project during class on the final Wednesday before the project was due. I grabbed my sketches and presented my current work to the professor, TA's and the class, asking them where they thought I should go from what I had, how I could incorporate more of the data I collected into my representation, and if there was anything they wanted to see more of in my final product. I got lots of helpful answers, ideas and critiques from this experience. Some of the feedback I received included:

  • Think about how you can incorporate past knit projects, how you felt about them, who you gave them as gifts to- some or all of this information could be used in your final representation.

  • The wage/work commentary is really cool - can you expand on this and include more information things about yarn price, tool price, complexity, etc.?

  • Think about what you knit each project for - skill improvement, relaxation, distraction, stress relief, etc. Could the purpose of each project be incorporated into the representation somehow?

  • Instead of fitting each project you worked on over the week into a sweater, maybe use a scarf to show progress on each pattern over a period of time. 

  • Instead of a hand-drawn visualization, you could possibly write up an actual knitting pattern 

I considered creating a knitting pattern while thinking of possible representations early in the project, but left the idea behind once I changed ideas from knitting a representation to drawing a representation. After the critiques I returned to the idea and decided to incorporate the scarf suggestion and the pattern suggestion to write up a pattern that would show a knitter how to knit a scarf that showed my knitting habits/data for the week I recorded data and instruct them on how to knit a scarf that showed their own knitting habits by revealing the rules that governed how mine appears. The result was the Knit My Data Scarf Pattern, shown below.

I chose not to actually knit an example for the pattern due to time and materials constraints (I didn't have time to get the yarn I needed and knit the example scarf before the project was due, plus it would cost money). I instead drew an example of what the knitted scarf would look like and used that as the header/example image for the pattern.

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