In which I blather on about Learning

Dear Erin,

Little Mister has his bedtime snuggle friends as well, but like Munchkin, he’s happy to leave them behind during the day. Meow (Mr. Cow) and Puppy are great pals, but they get in the way of serious play sometimes. Especially right now, when the most popular toys in the house are the trains. You need both hands for those.

Speaking of both hands, mine have sat more or less idle, craft-wise, for the last couple of days. I had gotten about halfway through a little hat when I realized I had been insane while trying to work out the gauge, and I was both going to run out of yarn and also knitting a hat that would almost fit LM. And he has a big head for his age. I needed something more newborn-sized. So I ripped it out and haven’t restarted yet.

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But my ears haven’t been idle, and this week I’ve twice heard a similar conversation regarding knitting, so I figured – in case there are people reading this to whom it might apply – I would weigh in on this particular conversation, which I know knitters (and probably most people) have heard over and over again. It goes like this:

  • Person 1 is knitting (or taking photographs or cooking or, really, working on any skilled action whose product is easy to see) and/or is wearing / sharing the product of that skilled action.
  • Person 2: “Oh, do you knit?” (sew, bake, garden, refinish furniture, carve wood)
  • Person 1: “Well, yes…”
  • Person 2: “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that!”
  • Person 1: “Um, I can probably teach you if you’d like.”
  • Person 2: “No, I tried once but I couldn’t because of X.”
  • Person 1: “It’s actually pretty easy; it just takes practice.”
  • Person 2: “No, I’m sure I could never learn.”

Okay, so there are a couple of things going on here that I’d like to address. First off, I think we’re all a little of each of these people – we all have our interests and skills and love to share them with others who are interested, while at the same time, we’re all vaguely interested in things we don’t do but that look cool and fun.

Or maybe it’s just me; I’d love to be able to be expert at more things. But there’s only so much time, and if the interest isn’t there to really pursue something, there’s no use beating myself up that I’m not an expert at everything. So sometimes Person 2 kind of wants to learn something, but not really, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Do what you love and become an expert at those things.

But if Person 2 does want to learn something, she should recognize that she won’t be awesome at it right away. The first thing knitted will probably be an ugly mess; possibly the second, too; maybe the third. Who cares? (To be honest, I think some things knitted by people who know what they’re doing are still an ugly mess.)  If we’re too proud to fail (something I struggle with), we lose some of the pleasure of learning. I learned French a long time ago, and at times, I’ve gotten close to fluency, but because I’m too embarrassed to fail in conversation with fluent French speakers, I’ve never crossed that final hurdle for good. My loss, and something I still want to work on, but right now, I’m definitely a Person 2 in that area.

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That statement about “I couldn’t [learn] because of X” of course varies with the skill under discussion. So let me just get specific for a second, and talk about one of the reasons for not learning to knit that I heard this week and have experienced myself. In this instance, Person 2 was left-handed while Person 1 was right-handed. I’m left handed; the majority of the world is right handed. I can tell you here and now that in knitting, it makes absolutely no difference at all. You do the same motions regardless of whether you’re a leftie or a rightie. There you go – secret of the knitting world. Knitting “left-handed” refers to a different style of making stitches, not to personal handedness.

This is an area where a little research, a little using of available resources, can mean the difference between doing something new and thinking, “I can’t.” And that’s the last thing I wanted to blather about here. If we really do want to learn something new, we will find that there are so many resources out there to help us. And if we pick up one book and it doesn’t speak to us, it’s easy to try another. Can’t learn a series of actions by looking at still pictures or drawings? I find that hard, too. Thank goodness for YouTube, where you can watch people doing that series of actions as many times as you need to learn it.

So, basically, if you run into someone doing something that looks kind of cool (like scherenschnitte, or whatever), think about this before you say, “I’ve always wanted to be able to do that!” Do you really? It’s perfectly fine to admire someone’s work without feigning the desire to copy them. If you really do want to learn, then give yourself the time to learn, and if the first source of teaching doesn’t work for you, find something or someone else. The activities I’m talking about don’t really require talent; they require practice and therefore sustained interest and a temperament resonant with the activity.

These are things we do to spend the hours pleasurably. If it’s more pleasurable to do something else, then do something else. We don’t have to be experts in everything. As I keep telling myself, that’s impossible anyway.

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Little Linus

Dear Kristen,

I was going to work out this morning.  There’s a class at around 10:30 that’s pretty fun and I thought would be a nice way to ease back into exercising.  You know, since I haven’t been to the gym in…awhile.

More on that in a minute.

Now I want to talk about blankets.  Not the ones I make (at least, not specifically), but just blankets.  I love them.

While winter sticks around, blankets are the perfect accessory to a work day that includes sitting on the couch.  I’m not sure what that says about me, that I work while sitting on the couch (cough…COMPUTERS…cough, cough), but the blankets aren’t complaining!  They are more than eager to snuggle with me, paying close attention to my toes as they warm me up.  What great companions!

And I have ALWAYS liked blankets.  Growing up until, oh let’s say……I was old enough to not do this, I slept with a blanket.  And Love Bear.  And Winnie-the-Pooh.  The combination of those three items was a necessity for a good night’s sleep.  I was not SO addicted to them that I couldn’t leave home without them, but sleeping wasn’t as sound if they were missing.

I was not one of the kids who had only one blanket.  No.  I had a plethora.  So, when sleeping, it didn’t really matter WHICH one it was, just as long as ONE of them was there. (Although, admittedly there was a fair amount of extra love for the dinosaur blanket.) Almost all were made by Mommit (our great-grandmother) and all were extremely soft and snuggly.  Who wants to sleep without something snuggly and warm?  I submit to you – no one.  Maybe this love explains why I have continued to make blankets – so our children and friends’ children can enjoy blankets, too!

Munchkin is like me.  She has three favorite animals and also requires a blanket to sleep.  She, too, is not very picky about her blankets, just as long as one is there for sleeping.  Where her animals might venture down the stairs to watch a little Octonauts with her, the blankets rarely leave the bed.

But then there’s Little Man.

He’s definitely preferred his blankets to his animals since the get go, but recently…?

If our children were actually the Peanuts Gang, here is how it would go:

Gibbs, the dog: Maybe Charlie Brown, actually.  Lots of good intentions that don’t turn out as she plans…

Munchkin: Lucy.  Easily.  She’s a bossy oldest child.

Little Man: Linus.

In the past couple of weeks, the love he has for blankets has expanded.  Exponentially. Again, not real concerned which blanket it is, as long as its his.  And he knows which six are his.

  • I go to get him from the crib and before he even stands up, he hands me his blanket.
  • He’s eating breakfast or lunch, the blanket is in his lap or on the table.
  • He’s getting a new diaper; better have a blanket.
  • He’s playing with ______________ (fill in the blank), the blanket is there, too.
  • In the car?  Blanket.
  • In the store?  Blanket.
  • At the restaurant?  Blanket.

Its really very cute and amusing.  And he likes you to come and cuddle with him and his blanket, too!  It’s officially his “security” and I love it.

Except when he is snuggling so much that he falls asleep.

In Target. In the cart. Fifteen minutes before the class at the gym starts.  And you can’t wake him up, even by picking him up.  So you head home instead; lay him in his crib with his blanket (and Monty and his animals that hold second place in his heart), go downstairs to the couch, and snuggle with a blanket of your own.

The Yearly Indulgence

Dear Erin,

It seems to have become something of a tradition: February rolls around, I go to Stitches West, and then I post pictures of my new stuff here. (Knitting nonsense follows; consider yourself warned.)

Here’s last year.  And the year before.  Just to remind you, it’s a conference with a humongous knitting market attached. I’ve never gone to one of the classes (although I’m considering it sometime in the next few years if anything strikes my fancy; gotta keep leveling up the skill set), but this is the third year I’ve spent a couple hours in the marketplace.

It’s a little overwhelming: hundreds of vendors selling all kinds of tempting things, lots and lots of people – maybe like something out of a fairy tale or a novel, like the Goblin Market or the Faerie Market, or any one of a number of other examples. Now, I know you’re supposed to be careful in a place like that, so I go with a certain amount of cash and only allow myself to use that to buy.

And every year I see what other people have gotten, and my own range of purchases looks sad and small. But that is the existential problem of consumption, right? It’s never going to be enough. And aren’t I always talking about how I want to get rid of more stuff anyway, especially yarn? So before too long, I grow satisfied with my choices, and life is good again.

And it helps that my record of using what I’ve bought there has been pretty good so far:

The pink cowl

The three color shawl

The brown fingerless gloves

So for this year, here are my pretties.

Stitches West 2016

I took the pictures early this morning, and the light wasn’t great, although I’m happy to be using the good camera again. You want details, right? Thought so. Just briefly, then.

The first skein has sparkly bits in it, although you can’t really tell that from the picture. So whatever I make should sparkle.

The shawl pin was chosen because the stone (again, despite the shortcomings of the photo here) is almost the same color as the water of the Bay when you look at it from the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge – one of my favorite colors: a very dark, bluish, grayish green.

The second skein is already allocated (yay!), and I’ll get to it sometime this year, possibly even sooner than later.

The stitch markers because they’re so pretty. I’ve gotten markers each time I’ve gone to Stitches, but I think I’m well supplied now, so I won’t have to get any more any time soon.

The pattern is kind of funny. I had seen this online, and I thought, “Wow, that looks so warm and soft and awesome, like having your own personal blanket to wear on a cold morning. I must have that!” So one of my goals was to check out the actual product (it was there at the show) and see if it was as good as the pic made it out to be. Appeared so. So I bought the pattern. Then I went to get the yarn, and it calls for so much yarn that there was no way it was fitting in my budget, no matter what I tried to find for it. So that’s been put on hold for the time being.

The last was an impulse buy because it’s skin stuff and smells good and I have a hard time resisting that kind of thing – see underneath my bathroom sink… On the plus side, the climate out here is much more conducive to using lotion than it was back in Florida, so it will actually get used.

So, that was my treat this weekend; not too much added to the monster stash, happy with everything, got some plans and ideas for the future, wasn’t carried off by goblins. A well-spent afternoon, I’d say.

Long Days

Dear Erin,

So it had been chilly and rainy here for awhile, and we got prepared.

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New boots, which are too big for him, but which he loves to bits. Then suddenly last week, that all blew over and we’ve had warm, sunny days to enjoy. Little Mister and I have been taking advantage.

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At the zoo. There was a tortoise in there, but LM wasn’t super interested. He much preferred to be throwing rocks rather than looking at animals.

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At the madhouse church playtime. He was a lot more focused this week than he had been previously: he spent a good amount of time at the train station, and then took this shopping cart on a tour of the entire facility.

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What with all that, playgrounds, fun with friends, and no longer taking naps regularly (sigh), it’s enough to wear a kid out.

A Better Start than Expected

Dear Erin,

I enjoyed your alphabetical snapshot. Life sounds super busy for you right now; you clearly need those four three cups of coffee per day. Today is going to be one of those days for me, I suspect. I apparently labor under a delusion that I can do everything I need to do, plus everything people ask me to do, plus everything I want to do – and do it all well. Turns out, there’s only so much time in a day and only so much energy I have to expend. The former may stay constant, but right now the latter just drops alarmingly quickly.

So today it’s get done what I can, as best I can. (The depressing thing, of course, is that the number and type of things I need to get done would not really have been taxing at all a few years ago. But now I know it’s going to be a day held together with spit, polish, and reliance upon the strength of God. If I can just hit the most important marks, the day can probably be labeled a success.)

[ETA: Two of three appointments gotten to on time, child still alive and fed, almost all materials needed remembered. So far, so good.]

Despite the busyness of today, so far this year I must have had more time to get things done than I think. Last year, it turns out, I only completed five knitted projects. That’s it! Kind of blew my mind when I realized it. And in 2016, I’ve already turned out one (with another coming close on its heels). It helps that they’re small projects.

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And now that you’ve received them, I can share them here. The pattern is called Accelerating Stripes, and the yarn I used was Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock in “Smoke on the Water” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” gradient set.

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It’s good yarn, and I enjoy using it, but it doesn’t have any cashmere, like the last pair of gloves I made, so it doesn’t have that silky softness. The gloves should be pretty sturdy, though, and hopefully not scratchy.

I noticed, also, when I finished, that these are really more arm warmers than hand warmers. My fingers ended up almost entirely exposed, and I probably should have made the last few rounds longer. Oh well, live and learn. It was a good, easy pattern, and I’ll almost certainly make them again.

And you might – sometime in the future, when I’m not so busy hahahaha – see a certain matching cowl appear in your mailbox.

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