"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Posts tagged ‘Yarn’

Not Perfect

I’m attempting to knit a lacy shawl, my first really big lacework piece. I’m relieved because…

The Problem

Not Perfect

Not Perfect © Just Having Fun
(The green yarn simply holds a stitch)

Something’s not right. I can’t see it, but I can tell. It’s not symmetrical, I can’t see the pattern emerge. Nine rows into the piece, before I start the next section of the pattern, I have the certain recognition that I need to start all over. Again. What is this, the 20th time maybe? There are supposed to be a certain number of stitches on the needle at this point and I keep ending up with one less than what’s needed. Grrr!

Persistence and perfectionism, perfectionism and persistence: these two perverse sisters taunt me. On the one hand the project lacks the clear definition of stitches that I would expect to see. On the other hand I feel like I am learning something, mastering this thin, woolen yarn and these slippery circular needles. My drive for persistence reinforces my yearning for perfection. And on and on. But doing the same thing over and over, no matter how patient I am, does not get me the results I need. Something’s not right. 

I Could

I should do something different. I could get a different set of needles, ones less slick. Plastic or bamboo? Ugh, not pleasing. I could watch some tutorials on YouTube and try to get a handle on what I’m doing wrong. I could go to a LYS (local yarn shop) and ask a human being to observe me while knitting and dropping stitches. I could try the pattern with different yarn—a thicker one, maybe acrylic—to see if this lovely wool is confounding me. There are a lot of things I could do… but don’t. I should do something different.

What I Did

Baby Blanket In Progress

Baby Blanket In Progress © Just Having Fun

I’m relieved I didn’t torture myself any longer. I put the lacework away for several months. In the interim I picked up something easier, a baby blanket made with leftover acrylic yarn that I don’t want to use for anything else anyhow. Despite my eyeballs burning from the red red Red yarn, the rhythm soothes my jangling nerves and lets me be less perfect, less precise. This project doesn’t laugh at me in the face and make me knit the same mistakes over and over again.

Sometimes I just have to get over myself and stop trying to be so perfect all of the time. I enjoy the process of knitting more than having a finished item. So it’s OK to have a simple piece to work. This is just a modified basket stitch in some random colors I have in storage. The baby won’t mind, whoever he/she is. The repetition provides the relief; the soft clicking of the needles and the shuttle-like motion of my finger wrapping yarn around them provide a focused mindlessness. From here I can soar, race, crawl, or rest. I don’t have to be perfect.

I shouldn’t think it over too much. I may destroy the magic.

Knitting Competition

Time to tink (i.e. rip out the stitches and start again).

Time to Tink (i.e. rip out the stitches and start again).

Knitting is not a competition. We don’t have to declare we are only crocheters or only knitters. We love creating and the magic synthesis that happens with a few clever, small repetitive motions of our hands and a bit of colored string. Never mind that the string, also part of our obsession, can be lusciously dyed wool or friendly, serviceable acrylic.

Mikey from The Crochet Crowd recently sat knitting in an airport. He’s a novice knitter and remarked upon the comments he received. He also mused upon the differences between knitting and crochet and, while he’s quite skilled at crochet, it doesn’t flow naturally into knitting. He needs to practice.

Knitting disciplines me and allows me to focus in on details that get me into a flow state. I’ve started this lacy shawl project with a lightweight yarn on slippery metal needles. Never having done lace nor shawls, I jumped right in. The pattern uses a starting technique called a garter-stitch tab… for which I became an “instant expert” by watching YouTube videos. Yeah, right. Stitches slid and loops grew at a frantic rate. I started the first row at least 5 times, then read the pattern again. I made novice mistakes, but I finally got one row on the needles.

Oh what a tangled mess we weave... er, knit.

Oh what a tangled mess we weave… er, knit.

I did this in public—well, in a circle of a few knitters—on a dark Sunday night. The others steadily added length to their projects as I diddled and “tinked” (i.e. ripped out stitches, “knit” backwards). But I persevered. After finally getting the base row done, I read on and started Row 1.

I think I figured it out and finally had a small swatch of about 5 rows. But why wasn’t it clear what the pattern was supposed to be? Why couldn’t I “read” the stitches? I still had two stupid stitch markers dangling because I didn’t read the pattern right. I handily did the repeat before the ever important k1 center stitch (highlighted in yellow) because I knew better – you always do the repeat between *s first. I didn’t process the instructions the first, second, or third time. Like walking into a room looking for your glasses when they are on your head, I couldn’t process the evidence until I did it over and again.

shawl-1-instructions

Parsing the Instructions.

The process became my own personal competition, not against myself, but for myself so I could improve my skills. Someone who can read music simply doesn’t just sit down at the piano to play Chopin. There’s practice involved, familiarity with the piece. The work needs to sound melodic and not a mess of clashing dissonant chords.

Sometimes my knitting doesn’t flow naturally. That’s OK; it’s a process. The trip is the fun part. I know what I need to do: start over. Armed with my color-coded instructions which I painfully parsed, I shall restart this shawl. I’m anticipating the magic synthesis that happens when wool comes together with time. And eventually I’ll have a lovely shawl to wear or gift with love.

Sitting in Starbucks

Knitting in Public - aqua afghan

Knitting in Public – aqua afghan at Starbucks, March 20, 2015

At a Starbucks in New Jersey this time, taking refuge from traffic as we travel to our Shabbos destination. An impossibly heavy snow started falling shortly before our departure. Snow obscures my vision on the road. We left early and I drive slowly. We’re early and stop to savor time and a cup of warmth. We’ll leave in an hour, closer to the time we’re expected at our hosts. My nostrils twitch in anticipatory pleasure, a nice cappuccino to soon pass my lips. We settle on the leather armchairs near the front window and wait for our order to be called. I wait; he goes and fetches the cups.

The lady in the corner knits. I see her following the instructions with her finger. Bright orange highlighter marks the lines. I ask what it is, outing myself as knitter. It’s an afghan, she says. A most captivating color of aqua green spills over her lap.

I guess her age to be in the 70s. Seeing I am wearing a headscarf and long skirt, she tells me that her mother was from Poland, the youngest of 8 children. This is a form of Jewish geography, the unconscious attaching we do to connect ourselves in time and space. Her grandmother was very religious, she continued, praying copiously. The grandfather died at 39 leaving a widow to cope with all those children. How they made it to the USA was not disclosed. Despite the religious grandmother, l can tell that she is not, but she’s Jewish, too. She wears youthful blue jeans and a trendy hairstyle. She peers over her bifocals at me, one finger on the page, the other hand gripping the knitting needles. 

When I came in she had been talking with the man with a very strong New York accent. They compare their respective histories in the vast country of Brooklyn, discovering they had walked the same streets. Although he traveled all over the world, he never shed his Brooklyn voice. In New Jersey, however, it doesn’t hinder him. He tried to learn Spanish to no avail although his wife is Colombian and the children are bilingual. She lived in Vermont, Texas, Florida, North Dakota, California, and five other states, and lost most of her Brooklyn voice. She can camouflage herself almost anywhere while his New Yorkese blared as loudly as a foghorn. Together they walked through their remembered neighborhood. How they came together on this snowy afternoon is happenstance, coincidence, fate.

A second man joins Mr. Brooklyn. He speaks with a strong Spanish accent but he looks foreign to me, not like local Spanish. Maybe it’s his clothing or sibilant S’s that strike me as different. They launch into a discussion of pipes and fittings, fire sprinklers and city codes. Soon-to-be business partners I surmise. I don’t pay attention to their conversation. I let the business details patter around my hearing, so many wet snowflakes melting as they touch down.

They smile, plan, gesticulate. Ms. Aqua knits. I sip. Hubby reads. Snow falls. The hour inches closer to Shabbos and the time we will continue our trip.

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