I recently ran across an interesting talk by Alain de Botton called, Why you will marry the wrong person. The title is intended to be click bait, and I bit. I watched the whole thing and even shared it with my grown children, who are either married or considering such. It might seem like a heartless and callous approach to an important topic, but it makes sense. And, as with everything I read, it is applicable to knitting. So here goes.
In his lovely British accent, Botton makes the point that marriage is a challenge. Ask anyone who’s been married a long time, and they will back this up. When the honeymoon is over, it’s tempting to look at our partner as he or she actually is, see the imperfections, and decide we’ve made a terrible mistake. But Button points out that we are all unusual in our own way. Our individual tendencies and peculiarities make each of us quite difficult to live with. None of it is bad,we just have to learn what it is to be married, and what we and our partner need from each other and from the relationship. We have to work through it.
Knitting is a challenge too. Every combination of yarn, pattern, needle, and knitter is unique and fraught with pitfalls, misunderstandings, and difficulties at every step. We cast on so full of anticipation and optimism, but every project has the potential to present us with challenges and frustrations -- even if it’s just boredom. Casting on a new project doesn’t eliminate the problem--it only kicks it down the road. Whatever it is, we have to work through it.
Another of Botton’s messages is that we choose partners that offer us familiarity. The dynamic and behaviors that we associated with love in our childhood are the dynamics and behaviors we look for in a partner. Without that familiarity, we’re uncomfortable, and we will find a reason why the relationship won’t work.
I see this all the time with knitting. The first pattern we knit forms a model in our mind about how patterns should be. We learn what this designer is saying, and it makes sense. Even if we struggled to get through it, we come to understand this designer and his or her ways. Working from a different designer's pattern, even if it’s wonderfully clear and well written, can be uncomfortable, and we don’t like it. The new pattern isn’t wrong, it’s just unfamiliar.
Button says that in loving relationships we believe we shouldn’t have to tell the other person what we’re thinking or feeling. We imagine that if he or she truly loved us, they would just know. And when they don’t know, we often withdraw and pout. The truth is that no one can know what we’re thinking or feeling unless we tell them, especially early in a relationship, and it’s unfair to expect otherwise. We have to keep the lines of communication open, be clear about our confusion, and reach out when we need help understanding or being understood.
Knitting can be similarly frustrating. Whether it’s yarn or gauge or patterns, we don’t always understand instantly what will work. We cast on with what seems to be a light weight yarn only to find out that it’s very unhappy at that gauge. What the heck? The ball band said it should work on this needle, but it doesn’t. The yarn is behaving very badly. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the yarn could look up and say, “Sweetie, I want to be a scarf for you, but this needle is too small, and it’s strangling me.” Instead, it stays silent all wadded up and gives the yarn equivalent of “I’m fine.”
Maybe neither you nor the yarn know how to articulate what’s wrong. In the shop, we’re yarn therapists - that objective third party that helps untangle the situation and get you and your yarn talking again.
We all crave warm loving relationships with our knitting. It’s not that we’ve picked the wrong pattern, yarn, or project, but rather that there is much to understand and work through to get what each of us wants and needs from our project.