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Who isn't excited by a big new project

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Who isn't excited by a big new project

Who hasn’t been excited by the prospect of a huge new knitting project?  For Christmas in 1985, about 2 years after I started knitting, my mother gave me a copy of Kaffe Fassett’s first book, Glorious Knits.  She happened upon the book when the Washington Post ran a tiny article about the book, and the Textile Museum exhibit featuring his garments.  I had knit plenty of sweaters at that point, but never done stranded knitting or worked from a chart.  Color had always been just too scary.  But Kaffe’s concept was so intriguing, and his manner so encouraging, that I decided to try combining colors and yarns.  I knit a few messy bits and then dove right into a big and complicated project following his cheery advice of “…take the patterns in this book and play around with them…and…when in doubt, add twenty more colors!” 

Eschewing the simple geometrics at the beginning of the book, I chose the Damask flower motif.  I loved the colors and working the chart was kind of fun, but pretty soon, I got overwhelmed.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  Much harder. So many stitches. Too much chart. Such attention to detail.  My forward progress was barely discernible, and suddenly, it just wasn’t fun anymore. I was discouraged.  Hopeless. I  wondered why I’d started the stupid thing in the first place. I saw my knitting, and by extension, myself, as a failure.  It hadn’t seemed that hard at the start.

The day after Labor Day is traditionally back to school.  It has always been  a fresh start –new backpacks overflowing with clean composition notebooks and yellow pencils sharpened to points. This year doesn’t feel like a fresh start though.  It’s our living space that’s overflowing and our emotions that that are sharpened to points.  It’s all so hard.  Back in March, I optimistically, if unrealistically, thought that Covid 19 would be over by now. Clearly I was wrong. 

At the beginning I kind of enjoyed the novelty of working from home.  Live videos and more focus on e-commerce. It was new and different.  Having my son, Colton, home the last bit of his senior year of high school was really nice for me, since he is my last and would soon be off to college..  Knitters on social media joked about finally having endless hours to do what we do.   But as with my giant demanding project, the novelty quickly wore off.  It just wasn’t fun anymore.  The hardest part, I think is feeling out of control.  I can’t fix this. We can wear our masks, we can stay home, and we can social distance.  This we can do, but it’s hard.  That’s not how humans are wired. It’s certainly not how knitters are wired.  We don’t stay home to knit.  We come to the shop to knit with others. We don’t socially distance, we crowd around the table.  We touch each other’s work.  We get in each other’s personal space to give or receive guidance.  It’s very hands on, and doesn’t lend itself to social distancing.  Like many of you, I am suffering from the loss of contact with my knitting community.

On Ravelry, you can give  projects a status.  The most frequently used are queued, which means you have it in your list to start later, in process, which means you’re actively working on it, or completed. There are two more, that you see sometimes: hibernating, which means you have it on needles, but you’re not actively working on it, and frogged, which means you ripped it out.  Where should we put 2020? I would like to see it frogged.  I would like to rip back to before March, gather up the kinked days, and block them out straight to be re knit them into something I like better.  As I reknit those days, I would not take for granted the little things like teaching a crowded class at the shop, eating in a restaurant, and offering my friends a caring hug.

Sadly, time as we know it, moves only in one direction.  We can’t put 2020 into a bag in the closet and mark it hibernating on Ravelry.  We have lives and people depending on us.  And we are not actually out of control.  We can knit this huge and challenging project one tiny bit at a time. Knitters understand, better than most,  how to work through the hard parts a bit at a time.  If that’s just one stitch, one moment, one hour, one row, whatever. We can do it.  We’re dedicated, and we’re resilient, and we will get through it.  This project called life is not fun right now, but I believe it’s still worth living.

While we slog through this hard part, I am finding it tremendously helpful to knit small, manageable things that bring me joy. A little top for the last of summer.  A slew of super bulky neon scarves. A multicolored hat with a happy little pompom. Start. Finish.  Find satisfaction. It helps. 

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and at a safe social distance around the table.  If you don't feel comfortable doing that, I understand, and I look forward to seeing you on one of the upcoming Live events.  In person, or in spirit, you are always welcome here.

~Ellen

Back to 8 September 2020 Newsletter

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