Saturday, October 18, 2008

Different is good

As if Fungus Opera weren't enough...

I got one of those silly wild hairs this week. Having just rejoiced over a certain relaxing of the schedule (a somewhat premature celebration, but that's another story), I found myself at a loss about how to fill the time. It's not like I don't have anything to do. It's just that all the things I had to do felt like more of the same. I just wasn't interested in any of it. I wanted ADVENTURE.

Last weekend the DM and I were in Kaleidoscope, the local toy store, hunting for the perfect birthday gift for his about-to-be-five-year-old niece. On the shelf I saw a knitting kit. "Ages 7+" it assured me. "Make this scarf in 2 hours!" it declared.

In college my roommate and I tried to teach ourselves to knit. We found a really simple sweater pattern, one that basically consisted of 4 squares of knitting sewn together. We bought yarn and needles and set to work.

I think Mary told me a couple of years later that she did eventually finish hers. I think I got one square done and gave up. I struggled to get consistent stitches, and was brought far too many times to a memory of a weaving failure in Grade Three. Nope, not for me.

So at the store I laughed about former knitting failures and we went home with a present for Lily.

Monday I was still thinking about that kit. ("Easy instructions!")
Tuesday I was still thinking about that kit. ("Make this hat, what are you waiting for?")
Wednesday my head was full of "Why not?" and I started fantasizing about yards of colorful scarves as gifts for friends.
Thursday morning I bought the kit.
Thursday afternoon I was obsessed.

Not obsessed with my success, mind you. Obsessed with the fact that a 7-year-old could ostensibly make a scarf in two hours and I had pulled out all my work four times and spent four hours already. The "easy instructions" told me how to pick up dropped stitches, but they didn't tell me what to do if I accidentally ADDED stitches. And the lovely chunky yarn and needles were slippery. And the dark parts of the variegated yarn were impossible for my 40-something eyes to sort out, if that was where the problem was. ARGH!

By yesterday afternoon I had invented my own system for trouble repair... one that only involved pulling out a row or two of stitches instead of my entire progress, and I finally found a working rhythm.

Of course, NOW I have to figure out how to cast off and finish the thing... which I think is going to involve buying plain, non-slippery yarn and smaller needles, and trying to figure it out on a different piece. Whew. I wonder precisely what space-time continuum was consulted for the 7-year-old, 2-hours calculation.

Last night at a little FAC gathering I confessed my adventure. My friend Mark looked incredulously at me and asked why on earth I thought I needed yet another project. I didn't have a good answer at the time (especially since my aggravation level had barely subsided), but this morning I think I know.

1) This is something completely unrelated to my usual work. It's like a brain vacation, except that the part of my brain that won't GO on vacation unless I'm going to accomplish something* is appeased.

*Yes, I realize that this is the antithesis of the whole vacation concept. It's just the way I am.

2) It's not easy for me. I ADORE textiles of all sorts, but I am not a natural knitter or weaver. Humility is good. And it makes me appreciate the work of my weaving/knitting/sewing friends that much more.

3) Different is good. Working my fingers and my brain in a different way feels like mental exercise. Stretching different mental muscles makes me feel engaged with the world in a "bigger" way. I like that. How does that saying go? "The longer the shoreline of knowledge, the wider the ocean of wonder." Or something like that.

So, tune in later to discover if I actually finish a knitting project, 25 years after the first one was abandoned. It's safe to say none of you will be getting anything so complicated as gloves or socks for Christmas. But you might get a nice drink coaster or hot pad. ;-)


  1. I completely understand this. I have the same impulse to try something different from time to time--and it always leads to a new long-term interest. In this way, I have become a birder, paddlemaker, woodworker, gardener, cook...

    Lately, I've been thinking about making my own cheese...

  2. Mmmmmm. Cheese. Can you believe I live in a house with someone who doesn't LIKE cheese? It's almost torture. Sounds like a great venture to me. Goats? Cows? Sheep?