Current mantra

HpEgAt1441948117I promise not to turn this into a blog that posts heartfelt soliloquies on inspirational sayings artfully presented in pretty fonts. But right now I have a lot of things going on at work such that I need to be reminded of the above: the best way out is always through.

The funny thing is that when I think about it, I don’t really believe that in all situations. Whitewater rafting, sure. But if you have reached some kind of impasse with a knitting project, and you’ve realized that you hate the yarn/stitch pattern/design/whatever, the best way out isn’t through – it’s frogging the whole thing and starting over. If you’re in a terrible relationship, or job, there is no virtue in pushing through – it makes much more sense to get out of there at the first opportunity. Sometimes bailing on something is exactly what you should do.

But the above is a mantra I need when I’m facing things that scare me – in particular, things that I don’t know how to do and am afraid that I will fail at. I need to remind myself that I can’t simply avoid things that I’m afraid I will do badly or do wrong, because they won’t magically go away, and the only way to learn to do them correctly is to push through.

It also reminds me that that pushing through is the best way to get out, get past whatever’s worrying you, so that your anxiety about what you don’t know or might do wrong doesn’t take over your headspace and crowd out everything else.

James Herriot, who was a country vet in Yorkshire for many years, has a lovely story about being called to look at a horse, when his confidence about treating horses was not very high (and horses, he claims, know when you’re not a horse person: “It is quite different with cows; they don’t care either way; if a cow feels like kicking you she will kick you; she doesn’t give a damn whether you are an expert or not. But horses know.”). The horse turned out to be especially difficult, large, strong, and hostile, and also needed surgery to remove a tumor from his stomach (given that this was rural Yorkshire in the 1930s, such a surgery involved hard labor and some risk of injury). He was able to put off the procedure for some time, for various reasons, but it didn’t help:

I found it wonderfully easy to forget about the stallion over the days and weeks that followed; except when my defences were down. At least once a night it thundered through my dreams with gaping nostrils and flying mane and I developed an uncomfortable habit of coming bolt awake at five o’clock in the morning and starting immediately to operate on the horse. On an average, I took that tumour off twenty times before breakfast each morning.

The day of reckoning finally came, and he returned to the farm, where the farm hands brought his patient to him:

The noise was coming nearer; then the stable doors flew open and the great horse catapulted out into the yard, dragging two big fellows along on the end of the halter shank. The cobbles struck sparks from the men’s boots as they slithered about but they were unable to stop the stallion backing and plunging. I imagined I could feel the ground shudder under my feet as the hooves crashed down.

He approached the horse to administer a local anesthetic:

Walking up to the horse was like watching an action from a film. It wasn’t really me doing this—the whole thing was unreal. The near-side eye flickered dangerously at me as I raised my left hand and passed it over the muscles of the neck, down the smooth, quivering flank and along the abdomen till I was able to grasp the tumour. I had the thing in my hand now, the lobulations firm and lumpy under my fingers. I pulled gently downwards, stretching the brown skin joining the growth to the body. I would put the local in there—a few good weals. It wasn’t going to be so bad. The stallion laid back his ears and gave a warning whicker.

I took a long, careful breath, brought up the syringe with my right hand, placed the needle against the skin then thrust it in.

The result was exactly what he’d been dreading:

The kick was so explosively quick that at first I felt only surprise that such a huge animal could move so swiftly. It was a lightning outward slash that I never even saw and the hoof struck the inside of my right thigh, spinning me round helplessly. When I hit the ground I lay still, feeling only a curious numbness. Then I tried to move and a stab of pain went through my leg.

But there was another result as well:

When I opened my eyes Mr. Wilkinson was bending over me. “Are you all right, Mr. Herriot?” The voice was anxious.

“I don’t think so.” I was astonished at the matter-of-fact sound of my own words; but stranger still was the feeling of being at peace with myself for the first time for weeks. I was calm and completely in charge of the situation….

My leg wasn’t broken but it developed a massive haematoma at the point of impact and then the whole limb blossomed into an unbelievable range of colours from delicate orange to deepest black. I was still hobbling like a Crimean veteran when, a fortnight later, Siegfried and I with a small army of helpers went back and roped the stallion, chloroformed him and removed that little growth.

I have a cavity in the muscle of my thigh to remind me of that day, but some good came out of the incident. I found that the fear is worse than the reality and horse work has never worried me as much since then.

The fear is worse than the reality.

The best way out is through.

Robert Frost and James Herriot help me remember these things.

Quotes from James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small, Open Road Integrated Media e-edition; originally published 1972.

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Getting to know bloggers

Awwwww – I was nominated for an award!

liebster-award

Thank you so much, nerdknitter!

Apparently the way this works is:

  1. Make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you.
    Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too.
  2. Nominate 5 -10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award. Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. You can also nominate the person who nominated you.
  3. Ensure all of these bloggers have less than 200 followers.
  4. Answer the eleven questions asked to you by the person who nominated you, and make eleven questions of your own for your nominees or you may use the same questions.
  5. Lastly, COPY these rules in your post.

* * * * * *

First, I nominate the following bloggers:

Yards of Happiness

jenknittingaround

Life During Wartime

Knit Me for a Loop

I’m sorry it’s not more, but I’m still discovering knitting/craft blogs, and most of the ones I read are followed by many, many people already.

* * * * * *

Here are the questions I was asked, and my answers:

  1. What got you into blogging?
    That’s kind of a long story… but the short version is that I blogged elsewhere about different things for quite a long time (10 years-ish?). That space no longer worked for me, but I found myself wanting to ramble about knitting and crafting . . . but I don’t know anyone in real life who knits/crafts (enough to want to talk about it, at least). So blogging seemed like a good solution; even if no one ends up reading, I can work out my various craft obsessions.
  2. What does your perfect day look like?
    I wish I were one of those people whose perfect day begins with getting up early, yoga in the early sun or maybe a quick run, then herbal tea with granola parfait before a day of creating beautiful things in a serene, beautiful space. But really, my perfect day is sleeping late, getting up slowly, throwing on jeans and a cosy hoodie, then heading to brunch with fried potatoes in whatever form, bacon, fruit, and fresh-squeezed OJ (maybe with a little champagne in it). After that, sitting in a lovely coffee shop, or on a deck overlooking the water, sipping an iced latte and nibbling cookies or cake, knitting and reading; then a movie, or a walk in the beautiful outdoors, or shopping in fun and funky shops filled with pretty things I don’t need but that are fun to look at. It would be fall, the leaves changing color and the sky brilliant blue, and the right temperature to sit in the sun with a sweatshirt on. I’d end the day with dinner with friends, at someone’s house, with the chance to sit around a fire, either on a lake or at the beach. Toasted marshmallows would not be optional.
  3. What’s your favorite item to knit? Shawls, sweaters, socks or something else entirely?
    Sweaters, by far. After that probably shawls/scarves, and hats.
  4. Are you result-driven knitter or is it more about the journey?
    The results are what get me going; I knit to have the garments I want, the way I want them. The irony is that once I’ve finished a project, I think the pleasure of having finished, and the journey, is just as satisfying as having the garment, so if it turns out not what I’d imagined, I’m still pretty happy.
  5. What’s your favorite TV-show, movie or book?
    This is so hard to answer. I think my favorite books are Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, for its merciless and yet compassionate of childhood cruelty and rivalries, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia, which I picked up on vacation once and read because I thought it was something I should read, and was surprised to love. For TV, right now I’m enjoying working through all the episodes of Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown.
  6. What’s your favorite yarn / fibre?
    Also super hard to answer. I love the look and texture and weight of wool, but often find it uncomfortable to wear (I get itchy and it’s too hot here). I love silk and cotton fabrics, but don’t always enjoy knitting with those yarns – not so much because of the non-elasticity, but more because there are a lot of nubby/rustic varieties, and I like smooth yarns. At the same time, very smooth cotton/silk tends to stretch out and droop. My favorite wool is probably Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light – I feel like I could knit that for the rest of my life and be fairly content. Favorite cotton is Cascade Ultra Pima Fine. For something very different and non-wool, I also love Classic Elite’s Firefly. (My favorite yarn I’ve never actually knit with is Quince and Co Sparrow – I love linen and think Quince is wonderful, but haven’t bit the bullet yet.)
  7. Do you have a favorite go-to pattern? If so which is it?
    I don’t, actually – despite being more results-oriented, I don’t think I’ve ever knit the same thing twice. I’ve considered reknitting Hannah Fettig’s Featherweight cardigan, and Cecily MacDonald’s Dalyla pullover, both of which I adore (I don’t know why more people haven’t knit Dalyla). But new projects always win out.
  8. What’s your favorite podcast or vlog?
    knit.fm got me into listening to podcasts, and I miss it. I also enjoy Woolful and Knit British.
  9. What’s your favorite Etsy shop?
    Hmmm. It changes over time as my interests change, but I do really like the stitch markers by Lady Danio at Exchanging Fire.
  10. Do you have any children or pets? Names, age, pics and all the details.
    No kids. Pets! We have 2 1/2 cats. The first, Harvey, is a blind Japanese bobtail – I think he’s about 11 now. The second, Alice Mary, is a three-legged dilute torti of indeterminate age, but who is probably a cranky old lady. (She was rescued by a vet tech after getting hit by a car, which led to her losing a leg; the vets’ office called her Granny because she was so granny-ish, and we named her Alice Mary after my granny and the husband’s granny.) The half a cat is Stripey, a local feral who lives outside but comes inside for air conditioning and good food.

    IMG_1152Harvey listening to the world.

    IMG_1068
    Stripey being a goof

    I am a bad cat mommy – I don’t have any decent pictures of Alice Mary at the moment; she usually utterly ignores my existence in favor of my husband, whom she adores.

  11. What’s your favorite food?
    Chocolate chip cookies! (Crispy, not soft, which horrifies the husband.)

And I am going to ask the questions that were given me, because I’m bad at coming up with questions, but also because I’d be very interested in the answers!

Monday? Tomorrow? WHAT.

So… it’s Sunday night already? How did that happen?

The weekend was a bit of a wash because I had a big work thing on Friday that simply wore. me. out., and I mostly spent the weekend recovering. It’s depressing that something super mentally taxing, where you’re constantly “on,” focusing intently, ends up making you feel like you’ve been run over by a semi truck, when you don’t actually burn any more calories than normal or gain any fitness, because you haven’t actually been doing anything physical.

(Though, embarrassingly, when I woke up Saturday my legs were a wee bit sore from standing much of Friday – embarrassing because it brought home exactly how much I normally sit each day. I would really love to get a standing desk contraption, but I’m fairly picky about how my computer is set up, and I can’t find one that would meet my requirements without spending ~$600. I’m sick of sitting all day, but not yet that sick of sitting all day.)

In any case, we went out to dinner on Friday night, where this lovely beacon of G&T finally awaited me (sorry for the repeat from Instagram):

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And then I slept and slept and slept.

Saturday I exercised, and got a manicure/pedicure, and listened to the thunder and torrential rains that descended while I was in the salon. Then I picked up tamales for our dinner, and took a quick picture of the monsoon running through our arroyo before heading in to devour tamale deliciousness:

IMG_0851When I was approaching our parking lot, Don Julio, one of the three local feral cats we feed, saw me from the side of the road, and followed me home. He and Daisy, another of the ferals, practically chased me to the front of our apartment, where their food sat in its dish, soaked and turned to mush. Don Julio’s head and chest were wet, but the rest of him was dry; Daisy looked pretty much completely dry, so they weathered the monsoon. (It is entirely characteristic that Daisy seems to have done so more effectively than Don Julio.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen them come so close to me before, but the rain must have driven all the lizards and mice into their hidey-holes, and they clearly really wanted dinner.

(The third feral, Stripey, is friendly, and was sitting in our apartment in absolute comfort throughout the whole storm.)

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Different day, but pretty much what Stripey usually looks like when he’s inside.

I did experience one crafting triumph this weekend, though, because after ripping back yet more rows of my Talavera sweater, I finally figured out how to read the lace! So while I still make mistakes – usually skipping a yarnover, or failing to knit into it on the next row – I can now go back and put in the yarnover after the fact, and get back on track, rather than having to tink back for yonks. (I can’t remember if I’ve said that I’m holding laceweight double for this sweater, but I am, and so tinking is just that little bit more annoying.)

And excitingly, I have just about reached the point in the pattern where I divide for the underarms, which will feel like real progress. I think, though, that I’m going to add a couple more repeats to make it a little bit longer (it’s going to stretch with blocking, I realize, but inevitably when knitting gets longer, it also gets narrower, which for me will be Entirely Unnecessary and Counterproductive, so I hope to avoid that. And while the styling in the magazine is lovely, I don’t wear fit-and-flare dresses like the model in the photo shoot, so will be looking for it to hit a bit lower on the torso).

We won’t talk about the baby blanket… (I need to wind another skein and just haven’t felt like it!).

It was a relaxing weekend. I could really use another one.

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I cannot get enough of the red-orange-yellow gradients you get in the flowers here.

Cabin fever 

Is that what you call it when it’s too hot to go outside?

I associate it with stories of frontier families snowed in for winter, where, when spring comes, neighbors wander by the cabin to find the family went mad from forced proximity and bludgeoned each other to death. (Or ate each other. I’m not so good on frontier history. I grew up in the land of the pilgrims and the Revolutionary War, after which, we were informed, some other things apparently happened in other, less important parts of the country).

But it seems a pretty good term for what happens when stepping outside feels like walking into an oven, where the heat feels like something alive but not sentient, simply a force to be endured. It’s the time of year when you walk out of the house at night and think, well, that feels better, then realize that it’s still 96 degrees.

It’s also the time of year when the creepy crawlies outside start to get fed up with the heat, too. We apparently have some kind of haven for spiders above our bathroom ceiling; last year around this time, we’d walk in and turn on the light and find a dozen baby spiders on the bathroom ceiling; this year, we discovered that was very much seasonal. Baby spiders here aren’t all that small, so all I can say is thank god the husband is willing to do spider duty.

But the spiders aren’t so bad. Mostly I miss being out in the sunshine and fresh air, going for walks and looking at the plants and animals in the arroyo. (It might be cool enough to walk at 5:30-6:00 in the morning, but let’s not get crazy here.)

In the meantime, have a picture of some oleanders, taken between my door and mailbox as the sun went down.

Relativity

My husband is from Canada, and one of the suprisingly many cultural differences between us that we discovered early in our marriage is how we evaluate skating skills.

I grew up in the northeast, and we had a pond in my backyard that froze every winter, so I grew up skating a number of times each year. I don’t think I ever took lessons, but I could get where I wanted on skates, and be confident that I wouldn’t fall over or crash into anything, so I figured I was a fairly decent skater.

My husband, on the other hand, considered himself a poor skater because he couldn’t do back crossovers.

I sometimes think knitters and non-knitters are like this about evaluating knitting skills: non-knitters are amazed that knitters can produce fabric out of string, while knitters aver that they’re not really that advanced because they struggle with purling five stitches together.

When I started knitting with purpose (rather than putzing around as I did when I was a kid), my first project was a hand puppet from a kit. My second project was also a kit – because I didn’t know how to choose my own yarn, needles, and pattern; a kit was so much simpler – and it was a beginner’s sock kit. Hey, I was a beginner – perfect.

This was back before Ravelry and easy access to patterns, and the instructions came in a little stapled xeroxed booklet. They were also excellent (I wish I still had them) and I followed them carefully, and created a perfectly good sock. I had no concept of gauge, so it was more like a really big house slipper, and I never made the second, because I think I knew I’d never wear these really big house slippers, but it was an honest to god sock.

At some point after this I went to the yarn shop where I bought the yarn for this scarf. The very nice lady there asked if she could help me, and I explained that I was looking for a beginner project. She asked what else I’d done, and I told her I’d knitted a sock.

She looked at me kind of funny. A sock? An actual sock?

Yes.

Continued side-eye (in the nicest possible way).

So maybe that wasn’t a typical beginning project?

The thing is, I absolutely was a beginner – I had no idea what I was doing. I could read and follow instructions, and I did, but I didn’t know why I was supposed to do anything the pattern said, and I didn’t have actual skills.

That was almost eight years ago now, yet I’m still not sure how to evaluate my knitting skills. On the one hand, sweaters require quite a few different knitting techniques, so I’ve learned some more techniques. On the other, a lot of sweaters just aren’t really that hard (especially the ones that I make, which tend to involve miles of stockinette). Lace – now, lace is hard. I knit lace at a pace of knit one, frog back two. I negative knit lace. (We won’t even talk about color work.) Yet I’ve seen people online who knit the most beautiful, complicated lace say they’re “not ready” to knit a sweater.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how good or bad I am at any of this – I enjoy it and that’s what’s important. But when I see patterns labeled things like “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced,” I have to admit I’m never really sure whether they’re Americans talking about skating or Canadians talking about skating.

IMG_0213Okay, this lace wasn’t very hard. But it’s a big yarn, in a swatch, where I didn’t have to worry about shaping anything at the same time or even keeping track for very long. It’s the turtle tracks lace found in Veronique Avery’s pattern Helene for Quince and Co.

Yarn clubs, updates, and fear of missing out

I own a lot of yarn.

I mean, there are plenty of people who own more (not even just people who make a living from knitting), but I have plenty. More than I can use in, say, at least a year? A couple of years? Eh, I’m totally guessing, because even the prospect of using up all my yarn makes me hyperventilate.

And I love my yarn. I have plans and goals and backup plans and goals for almost all of it. Sure, I have a few remnants of very early purchases that don’t work for me any more (Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride, I’m looking at you… you’re a lovely economical yarn and I made a hat for charity out of you, but a bulky wool/mohair mix isn’t really where I’m at right now), as well as orphaned leftovers from finished projects. Neither of those categories are going to get used up soon, but if I were put on house arrest and all my assets were seized and I absolutely could not, in any way, ever buy more yarn, they’d keep me going a bit longer.

This is all to say: I do. not. need. more. yarn.

But did that stop me from ordering this a few weeks ago?*

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excuse the overexposure; this seemed to show the color best. I’m still terrible at photographing yarn

 This is Delilah Lace, from Posh Yarn, in the “Every Neighborhood Should Have a Great Lady” colorway (I love Dee’s color names, even though – because? – they rarely have anything to do with a specific color; if you scroll down at the link you get her picture, too). I can’t really tell you anything about it as a yarn yet, because I haven’t wound it or knit with it – all I’ve done is stroke it and ooh and aah over the softness and the gentle sheen and the spectacular color.

I didn’t need any yarn, but it’s 1) purple 2) silk 3) lace – my nemesis. I was powerless. Really.

And, crucially, Posh Yarn operates on a limited-time basis. Once a week the shop opens with a new batch of yarn. There are a number of bases, but they don’t all appear every week (one week may be a lace week, the next a sock week, and so on). The colors are all one-offs, unique and unrepeated. There’s no going back to buy anything later; if you like a color and base, you need to buy it when the update opens up (or perhaps scour Ravelry later in the hopes that someone will sell it to you, but that’s not very reliable).

These kinds of updates are such a great way to suck in knitters like me. I bought the yarn above at the tail end of a Posh update, fueled by that pleasurably frantic feeling of “This yarn is perfect and if I don’t buy it now I will NEVER see it again!!!”

Similarly, yesterday evening I stumbled into the middle of a Plucky Knitter update over on Etsy. If you follow that link you won’t see anything now, because those updates sell out FAST. Those yarns are gorgeous, but I don’t need any yarn (duh), and I can’t really afford to buy a sweater’s worth of yarn from them right now. Nonetheless, I still found myself putting random single worsted skeins in my cart because OMG IT’S A PLUCKY KNITTER UPDATE I ALWAYS MISS THEIR UPDATES PRETTY PRETTY SHINY.

I hesitated long enough that the skeins got bought out from under me, which is good, because I don’t really have any realistic uses for a couple hundred yards of worsted yarn right now, and they would have sat in my stash to be admired but not used, which would be sad. It was a relief to miss out, really.

But it still also felt like missing out.

So then I was scrolling through my e-mail and saw a notice I’d saved for Madelinetosh’s Magnolia Society Yarn Club (you sign up to get three shipments of different yarn bases, for which you choose the general color family, but the specific color within that family will be a surprise, and exclusive to the members of the club). I’d been thinking about signing up, but I hadn’t yet, because (once again) I don’t need more yarn and wasn’t sure exactly what I’d use it for. But when I saw the e-mail tonight I thought, “I know! I’ll buy Madelinetosh yarn instead! That’s a great idea, because I know I love Madelinetosh and I totally deserve to sign up for the yarn club, because I missed out on the Plucky Knitter update!” And I clicked over to the MadTosh page… to find that the signups had closed.

And there was much disappointment.

So here I was, practically lousy with yarn, having convinced myself that I had missed out by not managing to get something I didn’t need (even though I would very much like it. And a trip to Europe. And a pony).

Marketing is an amazing thing. I could take the cost of the Madelinetosh yarn club and buy myself some amazing stuff – including regular issue Madelinetosh that’s available in plenty of online stores, which I would love just as much, and for which I would choose the exact color and amount I want – but that doesn’t hold any appeal at all. Well, buying yarn is always appealing, but there’s no urgency. There is pretty much always going to be some color of MadTosh yarn that I like available somewhere on the internet, and there’s no reason I have to buy any right now, because (say it with me) I don’t need any yarn, and I don’t have the money to just start keep buying more willy nilly.

Call it a “yarn club” or an “update,” though, and make it limited edition of some kind? And I’m all over it – even when all that’s needed for entree to this exclusive group is the cost of admission and being at the keyboard at the right time.

Clearly this works on many more people than just me, or yarn producers wouldn’t do it. Nor is it exactly an obscure or complicated principle that scarcity/exclusivity make something more attractive. But it amuses me how well it works, and how easy it is for sellers to manipulate one’s FOMI (fear of missing out). While FOMI’s usually understood to result from viewing others’ carefully curated/sanitized lives on social media like Facebook, somehow in the consumer context (because it’s not limited to yarn) it endows a physical object with emotional, social significance. It makes me feel not only as if I need and deserve this yarn – despite the fact that it is entirely a frivolous, if beloved, luxury – but also as if purchasing that yarn will make me part of some kind of in-group (for lack of a better term).

Because these kinds of updates are very social experiences. There are Ravelry groups devoted to each of these yarns, to discussing the updates, and to sharing pictures of the yarn, plans for future projects, and photos of finished objects. If you join the Magnolia Club, before each shipment you get to vote on what color it will be, by choosing from a selection of inspiration photos. Even though voting on a very general color family is really not a significant part of the creative process, it makes the members feel involved with that process – much more so than simply plunking down a credit card at a store or online.

To be clear – I’m not criticizing these limited edition updates/yarn clubs. I love them. I love being part of a group of people geeking out over the same pretty, shiny, fuzzy, colorful hanks of string. I love that yarn producers/dyers make the effort to involve their buyers, and are responsive, and have an emotional connection to what they do. The apogee of this is probably Clara Parkes’ Clara Yarn, which is perhaps the most intentional, mindful example of creating a community around the production of a good, about which the producer is incredibly and genuinely passionate, and including consumers in the process in a way that’s thoughtful, educational, and exciting.

I’m also not knocking these practices for being centered around luxuries. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying things you love and will use, if you can afford them. Really, there’s nothing wrong with accumulating great piles of yarn if you love it and can afford it and have space to store it, even if you may not really knit with it for, well, a long time, if ever. People love and collect a lot of different things simply for the sake of having them, and yarn is no worse or better than most collections. (My mom has a beautiful collection of eggcups.)

And “manipulate” isn’t a great word to use here because it implies some kind of sinister purpose, which isn’t what I mean at all. It’s just that it’s the nature of a market economy that people who create things for others to buy must find ways to convince said others that those particular things are worth buying, or go under. This doesn’t preclude producers from also being warm, kind, generous people who are genuinely interested in and supportive of the communities who use their products. In the context of yarn, that has certainly been my experience so far. But they must be businesspeople and marketers, too.

Well. This post has taken a much more philosophical turn than I intended when I started writing, when my intent was really only to say, “Look at my new pretty yarn!” But I continue to be fascinated by the dual nature of crafting communities on the internet – at once commercial and creative, artistic and business-savvy. And it seems to me (as very much the amateur/hobbyist) that there must be quite a bit of pressure on designers/producers of yarn and knitting patterns and other craft items. How to be at once the warm, friendly, maternal/grandmaternal/crafting buddy stand-in that consumers want, to enhance their experience of crafting as something social, that builds community and addresses emotional needs; and at the same time, the businessperson who has to be responsible to a bottom line? Maybe that’s not really a tension for most people in the industry; maybe it would just be a tension for me, and I’m reading too much into things. But it does seem to me that people who buy yarn and yarn patterns have different expectations than people buying, say, glue, or flour, or some other kind of staple.

In any case, I’m still super glad I caught that Posh update.

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The Love Your Blog Challenge: Beginnings

A Playful Day

Here’s my second contribution to A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge, on “Beginnings.” Random philosophizing ahead.

So, this is kinda cheesy (and dates me), but I was living in the Twin Cities for grad school when Semisonic, a local band, had what I think is still its biggest hit, “Closing Time.” It begins:

Closing time
Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Closing time
Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here

For some reason I’ve always really liked how the song turns that “last call” anthem into a metaphor for moving forward – or back – or at least, for the idea that life keeps moving and we can’t stay in one place, however much we’d like to. We have to keep starting anew.

I need to hear this every so often because, honestly, beginnings can be kind of exhausting. They’re exciting, but can be fraught – full of the unknown, often presenting a steep learning curve. That doesn’t always sound very appealing, so it’s good to be reminded that the alternative to beginnings is just staying in place, treading water.

To stay in theme, I think this is all true of knitting as well. Unless you’re Penelope undoing your weaving each night to keep your suitors at bay, you can’t really stay in one place in knitting. Sure, sometimes you go in circles (cast on… rip back… cast on… rip back… we all know how that goes), and sometimes you decide where you thought you were going isn’t where you want to go after all (I have exactly as many frogged projects in my Ravelry queue as FOs and WIPs). But to stay in one place really isn’t to knit at all. Even if you like to knit the same things over and over again, with the same yarn, you keep learning and getting better, and you keep creating new things.

Me, I’m still new enough to knitting that much of the time, new projects require figuring out new techniques, getting used to how different designers writes their patterns, and learning the qualities of new yarns and/or needles. That’s not so unnerving as, say, starting a new relationship, or a new job, but it can still be pretty frustrating when you first try a new stitch pattern, or method of construction, and find yourself near midnight staring at a pattern you’re convinced is written in Greek. But if I want to move forward, I can’t stay here.

The other thing about beginnings, though, is balancing them with endings. It’s no good to be scared of beginnings, but it’s probably also no good to be enamored of them to the extent you never get to endings.

Knitters know this. Knitters are often a little embarrassed to admit how many projects they have on the needles at any one time; some put limits on how many they allow themselves to start before finishing something; and some truly disciplined souls only work on one project at a time (a lot of knitters seem to regard these folks with a little bit of awe or disbelief, though). I’m definitely not here to put a number on any of this – some people get anxious with more than one unfinished project, while others are happy to strew WIPs all over their living space, always having something different to turn to depending on their mood. There’s no right way to balance all the things you want and need to do. But I think knitters do think about start-itis, and what they can reasonably begin, in a way that’s a reasonable metaphor for the rest of life, too.

“Closing Time” also has the line,

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Wikipedia tells me that this line actually comes from Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger – and I get that it’s not exactly an original thought – but Semisonic is where I first encountered it. I like this line, too, because it helps explain why there can be some sadness in some new beginnings. Moving to a new city is exciting, but it means you’re leaving another city behind. Starting a new job is exciting, but it means you leave an old job and coworkers behind. Even if I hated the old city or former job, I do feel a little bit of sadness at the closing of a chapter, the recognition of change. But you can’t let that sadness stop you from making the new start.

(I don’t know if that’s so much the case for knitting, though. Finishing a project is usually pretty satisfying… except when it doesn’t work? Do others feel any kind of sadness at the closure of a big project?)

 My most recent knitting beginning and ending:
a quick project I worked up to play with some yarn. Longer post to come.

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