Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Why it is good to keep learning

I am trying to learn to knit. I knitted briefly as a child, and I still have the teddy bear's scarf to prove it! Earlier this year, partly as another fruit of The Artist's Way, I began knitting. It comes in fits and starts, so I have only managed to knit three scarves, all the same pattern. It was little more complicated than a plain scarf as it had a hole in it, on purpose, to thread the end of the scarf through to wrap around the wearer's neck. I made one for myself, one for my mother for Mother's Day and one for my friend's birthday, a couple of weeks ago.

So I felt ready to graduate to to something harder and I visited Jane, the lovely lady who runs my local wool shop, for advice. I came home with some cotton and a pattern for a hat for my son: the new skill I am to learn is decreasing stitches. I have not got off to a good start. The pattern has 104 stitches and after 4 rows on 3.25 mm needles, I have to swap to 4mm needles. My first mistake was to buy short needles, so the 104 stitches barely fitted and I gave myself a terrible headache casting them all on. They my eldest son had to be enlisted to help me count them to make sure I'd done enough. Although I started with 104, by the time I had knitted my first row I had 105! Then I discovered I was knitting with one 3.25mm needle and one 4mm! The other thin one was returned to me the next day, bent after a sword fight! Reluctantly I accepted the need to buy longer needles and return to the beginning. I have cast on all my stitches again and have knitted two rows. The tension is uneven, there are loose threads of cotton and I keep finding odd stitches that don't quite look right. I will be very proud if my son ever wears this hat although I don't think it will withstand scrutiny.

I really want to knit leaves like the ones I saw at Handmade Homeschool. I even found a pattern, but it is beyond me - I don't even understand the abbreviations although I'm sure Jane would interpret if I asked. I think I will make this a goal for next Autumn!

Experiencing the frustration of knowing what I want to be able to do but not being able to do it, of being able to see how well others can do something but not being able to do it myself, of making slow progress, messing up and having to start over - I have cried real tears over this hat, and I've only done two rows - helps me to empathise with my children as they learn. I believe it is important to keep myself in a place of learning new skills and to experience on a regular basis how hard it can be. Even when I want to learn, I don't always feel like it; even when I'm trying my hardest it doesn't always look like it; even when I'm trying to concentrate my mind sometimes wanders. Perhaps, when it is done, I will ask my son to wear the hat when I am trying to explain a difficult concept to him or teach him a tricky skill, hopefully it will remind me to go easy on him!


Anonymous said...

I bet you don't have to go it alone. Is there a local group of knitters that meets to knit, chat and drink coffee or something? Or even just a friend? The other thing we need to remember about learning is that sometimes we just need someone to sit there next to us while we work it out. Good luck.

Gaynor said...

You are so right. In fact, Jane at the Wool Shop does have a group that meet at the shop on a Thursday night so I will try to get down there. She also says she keeps Tuesdays aside for people to drop in and ask for help. I thought I might get my daughter going with some French knitting, my eldest with a book and then my middle son and I could take our knitting along one morning.