Monday, May 09, 2011

Female Handicrafts

One of my New Year's non-resolutions was to do 52 creative things this year. I started off strong. Creating a very large photo album/scrapbook of the last ten years, yep, still need to finish that one. I made a few new necklaces and earrings with vintage pieces of costume jewelry and then I got distracted. Travel and finishing some course work and cooking and reading and book reviews, and that place where I spend an enormous amount of my week, work. So the creative stuff got pushed to the side. And then over the weekend, on a quick errand with the lovely Kristen, we stopped into the coolest little shop, Urban Arts and Crafts. I suddenly felt inspired again. This store is filled with beautiful, slightly pricey, unique little beads and scrapbook supplies, and yarn and yarn and yarn all along one big back wall. Typically I would have stayed sequestered in the front, far away from the yarn, but I didn't. I wandered back toward all the fluffy color. I picked up some soft fuzzy threads. I glanced through several pattern books and I actually bought this one. With a very modern mix of knitting and crochet and some open weave sweater and scarf patterns that I would actually want to wear. Everything was made with this beautiful origami yarn that I wasn't quite brave enough to buy yet, because slight stumbling block, I have no idea how to knit or crochet. But book in hand, I think I've found my new creative project.

I talked with my mother in law, Sherry later that afternoon and have secured a free knitting lesson spot this coming weekend while we are in Omaha. I ran to Michael's and bought a knitting beginner's kit and some basic yarn. And then when the instruction book that came with my kit only proceeded to confuse and dismay me, I searched YouTube for knitting videos and proceeded to watch the same video, okay, same 5 minutes of a 15 minute video about twelve times. God, it was irritating. I could see the hands in the video, let's assume a woman's hands, quickly assembling this long perfectly woven strand of yarn and I fumbled and cursed and knotted it inexplicably. I kept going. And I could finally cast on and knit a row or two after about thirty minutes. I'm just not a natural at this. My hands felt awkward. I frustrated easily. I hate the feeling of being an inexperienced beginner. But it's a good thing. It's a good uncomfortable learning feeling. It's a feeling I need to make myself experience more often. I need to listen better and take advice from teachers more easily instead of feeling embarrassed for being unskilled and all novice like. But I just kept at it. Later that evening, just repeating and repeating the same basic stitches until they finally felt less awkward and more familiar. I have a loooong way to go. But I have this beautiful book in front of me. I will make one of the scarves out of this book. It just might be a month or two before I'm ready to start there.

In the meantime, I thought, well, I'm learning to knit, why not learn to crochet too? They are pretty similar,right? Except for the yarn, yeah, not so much. My stepmother Kristy is a great crocheter, so I asked her to show me the basics on Sunday night. And if knitting felt awkward, crocheting was worse. The circular style, the using your hand almost as a second needle, in a totally different manner than knitting, and my inability to grasp the tension and looping skill needed. My brain was overloaded with trying to keep these very new and very different skills in my head at the same time. I was tired and sunburned from working outside gardening all day. It was just overload. Kristy could tell. Kristy wisely said, why don't you knit first and then come back to crocheting later. And because she's brilliant, she did something else. She inspired me. She pulled up a YouTube video from the TED conference and our family sat together for 20 minutes learning about hyperbolic geometry and math and crochet and global warming and coral reefs and women's handicraft and it was amazing. You should watch it.

Even if you have no interest in crochet or math, the speaker is compelling, the information is fascinating and the crocheted coral reef is colorful and fluid and awe inspiring. And the community effort involved in undertaking this project is exactly the reason I want to become a knitter. I want to join the club. I want to be a part of this historic and skilled clan of women artists. Like my mother in law, like my stepmother, like Bethany, like so many others. So I'm in. I'm going to learn how to do this. I'm going to make you a hideous uneven scarf. I'm committed and hopefully one day, in the not too distant future I'll actually make something I can wear with pride. Some oblong, slightly flawed, brightly colored creation that a six year old could have made. But I will have made it. I will have joined a long line of talented and crafty women and I'll look back at this awkward phase and laugh at how self conscious and rigid I can be, and long to be looser and freer and less self aware, but that's just not me. Not yet at least.


bethany actually said...

Wooohooooo! Yeah, I'm so excited you're learning to knit! Despite being a prolific crocheter, knitting does NOT come naturally to me so I feel your pain there. I've learned how and even knitted part of a scarf once. And when Lauren was visiting me in San Diego I somehow found myself buying this gorgeous sock yarn and knitting needles, and I *am* going to knit myself some socks one day.

If you need any help crocheting, you know where to find me! :-)

Madge said...

You can do it!!! I learned all my knitting and crocheting skills on youtube. If you need any knitting help, let me know.

Katrina said...

Awesome!! I love to crochet!! Don't consider myself an expert yet, but I love doing it. (Thanks to Bethany, my teacher!)

I tried to knit for awhile. I took quite a few lessons. Made a felted bag, numerous scarves and hats. All horrible and awkward. I felt like I gave it a good run and decided crocheting is more my thing than knitting. Its so awkward to me. :)

Good luck! I can't wait to see what you make!!

DanaCK said...

I have a group of sassy friends who knit together at least one time per week—lots of wine, discussion, and laughing. Maybe you should get a group together? They call themselves the Knitpistols. :)

I thought this might provide some inspiration for keeping up with the crocheting:

AmyK said...

How exciting for you. I've been crocheting for 20 (?!?!) years and still find it a pleasant challenge. I've tried knitting, but as you found, the two activities are very different. Thanks for sharing your experience.

And yes, yarn work can inspire creative cursing, even on the best days.

Nae said...

Leave it to you to not only make amazing jewelry but also soon to make crocheted goods. I'm so excited for you - looks like a blast!