Friday, June 15, 2007

Competitive Knitting

I started knitting as a way to relax: it was supposed to be something to do with my hands when I got anxious about life. And, for a while, knitting was just relaxing and easy. I loved feeling the yarn between my fingers. I loved how clearheaded I felt when I was knitting. I loved feeling like I was just BEING rather than DOING something.

But, being a classic type-a personality, that feeling didn't last for long.

In recent times, I've looked at knitting as yet another thing at which I could fail. I kept challenging myself...more complex patterns, exotic yarns, color changes. I refused to knit something unless I thought it was going to be difficult. Because I felt like I failed at marriage, I used knitting to prove to someone, anyone, that I was good at something difficult.

I realized how bad it was when I was knitting my lacy wrap sweater from Fitted Knits. It wasn't enough that the pattern was moderately challenging. No, I made it more difficult by selecting the thinnest, scratchiest yarn available, and knit it on big needles to boot. It was like knitting with thread. While I was still happy because I was knitting, I was not enjoying what I was knitting. Instead, I looked at that project as another something I had to do, rather than something I wanted to do.

Adding insult to injury, my wrap sweater was knitting up much too small (lest you chide me for not knitting a gauge swatch, I did). For some reason, the yarn was not cooperating. My mother was the first person who told me that the sweater looked really tiny. I insisted that she was wrong, that she just wasn't seeing it the way I saw it. Unfortunately, most people who saw my project tended to agree with my mom: they liked the yarn and thought it was beautiful, but they also told me that the sweater looked really small (when nearly everyone looks at your project and asks if it is for your 22 month old daughter, there's a problem).

Despite the majority's doubts, I stayed with the yarn for a while, doggedly insisting that it was fine and that everything was going according to plan. But, in my head, I was really worried: I was almost at the end of the pattern, yet the sweater was only reaching the middle of my back (and it was not a shrug).

Then, something weird happened. When my LYS was closed the other day, I visited another knitting store called Unwind. It was so different from my LYS: different neighborhood, different people, different yarn. There I realized that even though I had tried really hard, my wrap sweater was simply was not going to work with that yarn. The yarn wasn't meant for the pattern. And, I decided that while I liked the pattern, I didn't like the outrageously-expensive-itchy-yarn in which I was making it.

The fix was simple: start the sweater over again with different yarn. But, as easy as that sounds, there's a lot of emotion attached to abandoning a project midway. I had spent a lot of time knitting this thing and it was in vain. But it just wasn't meant to be. So, I swallowed hard, and selected new yarn and started over again.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

I couldn't help but notice how this particular knitting experience paralleled my life at this moment. I am in the middle of a divorce. I really tried to make my marriage work, and because of this, probably stayed in it longer than I should have. Nearly everyone likes my soon-to-be-ex, but nearly everyone thought that we just didn't match each other. And, as hard as I worked at my marriage, as much as I wanted it to work, it just wasn't meant to be. While this really sucks, it is what it is, and I just have to start over again.

Luckily, I'm not starting my life completely from scratch. I do have two children who are beautiful, intelligent, and funny. So, while I won't be married anymore, I still got something really special out of the relationship. And, if this divorce is the price I have to pay for my beautiful babies, then that's ok.

So, even though I'm starting over (with my sweater and my life), I feel pretty good. I LOVE the new yarn I'm using: it feels good, it's in my favorite color, and the sweater is knitting up beautifully. I'm confident that this will be a really pretty sweater when I'm finished.

Here's hoping my life continues to parallel my knitting experience.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Problem With Perfectionism

Hey all - it's been a minute since I wrote. Let me update you...

I finished the dress from hell. I received a number of compliments on it, but me being me received them while thinking, "They don't mean this. It's hideous, but they can't say that." My mom (who I lovingly refer to as "Knittingmaster") even liked it. She made a point: that we are always most critical of our own work. I wonder why that is: I can see someone else's project and find all of the beauty and magic therein, but can only see the crap in mine (i.e., "what was I thinking when I let that woman talk me into this color?," "there's that mistake - should have ripped it out," and "why is this dress so shapeless anyway???"

Little Momma (my darling daughter) LOVES the dress. She hugs it and calls it her knitting or her lovey, interchangeably. And while that makes me feel good, I still think, "Eh, she's 20 months old...what the hell does she know?"

But maybe, just maybe, that's the point. Yes, we should all use our own voices as guidelines for what is right and wrong for us. But if that inner voice is too critical, too demanding, or just plain mean, maybe we should rely on the advice and counsel of others. I'm not talking about relying upon the guy who spray paints himself silver and performs at Venice Beach. No, I'm talking about turning to people who we know and respect...people who we love. I mean, if I made the dress for my daughter and she loves it, then shouldn't that be enough? now I am starting on a new dress for my daughter from a vintage pattern book. The dress is very Kennedy children attire at JFK funeral: it's regal, it's classic, it's elegant.

It is going to be a royal pain in the butt: teeny tiny needles with fingering weight yarn. I don't plan to give this to her until Christmas. I am a glutton for punishment.

I'm also working on the wrap sweater from Fitted Knits. I'll have pix soon, but my digital camera and I are fighting. Seems that it thinks that it doesn't have to take clear pix of my projects, while I maintain that it is an important part of its job description and I can fire it at any time.

I am also going to start a Log Cabin Blanket for my friend Gloria and her fiancee Smith. My friend Mary started hers on Saturday, and I loved the blanket from the moment I saw it. I wanted to give them an interesting shower gift.

And then there are the various and sundry incomplete projects that I may finish one day: the instarsia poncho for my daughter, the alpaca sweater for me (which I am thinking of ripping out to make a Rowena Cardigan), the cable sweater from Vogue Knitting, and the sweater on the cover of Interweave Knits summer edition.

I am doing all this to keep me busy/sane in the midst of my divorce, unemployment, and rearing of my 3 year old and 20 month old. More on that in another post.