Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Learned by crocheting

The last couple of weeks have been rather stressful at our house, due to one daughter having surgery and another working through some interpersonal problems surrounding boundaries and freedoms, trust and respect, and rights and responsibilities. We as parents have also learned - or perhaps relearned - some old lessons. 

To de-stress, I decided to try something my [temporarily] disabled daughter has been doing to pass the time: crocheting. A friend came over one night to show her how - and I watched. After she had made a few simple items, I decided to try my hand at it - and was (pardon the pun) hooked! 

After spending the last week crocheting, I have learned that my fingers do indeed have muscles (they told me so in no uncertain terms!) and that I can keep away from other, more fattening pursuits by keeping those fingers busy (and it doesn't hurt that I don't want to get crumbs, or grease, or gunk, on my creations!)

I already know how to knit a little bit, and even though I had learned some lessons the hard way in knitting, it surprised me that I had to learn them all over again in crocheting!  I mean, not just about the skills required, but about the whole process. 

"White Glove" courtesy of nuttakit at

As I learned - or relearned - how to work with yarn with respect to the art of crochet, I found myself humbled by the failures and having several of those "aha" moments along the way.

Here are some of the lessons I mean - and as I write, I find that I'm not just talking about crochet, but about life. Relationships. Setting boundaries. Letting go.

You will see what I mean:

Don't hold on too tightly
Hold the yarn, the makings of the masterpiece, lightly. If you hold on too tightly, the work will get all bunched up, lose its softness, become stiff and hard to do anything with. You'll lose your place, skip a stitch, and you'll work much harder than you need to work in order to make the next stitch. And the next. And every stitch after that. And to be honest, you'll end up hurting yourself by repeating motions over and over again while you are all tensed up. 

Let go. 

I forget this when it comes to people, especially people I care a lot about. I want so much for them to succeed that I tend to grab on to them too tightly... which only serves to reduce my ability to interact with them. Tensions build. The relationship becomes strained, stiff, unnatural. People can't breathe around that kind of clinginess, which is tantamount to controlling. 

Give yourself a break
Learning a new skill and seeing some progress with it is intoxicating at times. When I'm doing a project, I can't wait to see the finished product and sometimes I forget to take breaks. And then I wonder why my eyes can't focus on things across the room, or why I have pins and needles in my fingers from sitting in one position so long (especially when holding on too tightly) and thinking ever so quietly (and stubbornly) to myself, "Just one more row.

It doesn't work like that. When life is out of balance, other things suffer. Taking a break to rest - or to do other things - can really give enjoyment and perspective to a task (or a bunch of tasks) that sometimes - especially in relationships that are strained - be very draining. 

It doesn't need to be much. For example, last evening, my husband had somewhere to go and I had the choice of staying home and crocheting ... or going to a local department store for an hour. I opted for the store. I hadn't had an outing "just for me" in months. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I even stopped at a nearby McDonalds for a small soft drink, and on the way back I got a smoothie to take home to my oldest, who can't get out of the house just now. It made her evening! And mine too: I ran into a young fellow at the McDonalds whom I hadn't seen in years - we caught up on the latest news and he even hugged me ... in public! The pièce de résistance was seeing the delighted look on my daughter's face after a particularly trying day, as I presented her with her smoothie. ☺

It's okay to do a "do-over." 
Frustrating as it is to get half-way through a piece and realize you've been doing something wrong the whole time, it's better to unravel the entire thing and start over than it is to muddle through and end up with something that doesn't fit. (Yes, I did the latter. Oh well - the hat will fit a child. Sighhh.)

It's okay to start over again. It's okay to admit mistakes, even if by doing so the end result takes three times longer to do, than it is to blunder ahead and have to apologize for all the holes and tangled mess you made. (And yes, I've done the latter - with my kids. Dozens of times. Sighhh.) I'm learning to stop before it gets too far, to stop dead in my tracks and to admit my mistakes, go back to where I went wrong and start over.  This has so many applications: ground rules that don't work, parental overreactions, and making concessions that get out of hand, to name but a few. 

Stitches make rows; rows make a work of art
Getting blasé about the little things makes for bigger mistakes later on. Stitching every stitch, not skipping stitches unless instructed to, leaves holes that look like blemishes in the piece. Even such a small thing as forgetting to add a stitch at the end of a row (or a round) that is the same height as the rest of the row (or the round) can make the finished work look amateurish and crude. 

Little concessions made, boundaries not set (or not enforced) make way for bigger concessions and more broken rules (and hearts) later. It's so much better (even if it's harder) to pay attention to the little things. Such a simple matter as saying please and thank you (and meaning it) - or little courtesies such as turning off an appliance (or light) that you turned on - or a decision made to treat the other person's feelings with respect by not criticizing or belittling (even in jest) can make the world of difference in the fabric of our lives, and the lives of those with whom we are in relationship. 

Trust the designer and follow the pattern
On my first major project earlier this week, (I referred to this earlier) I looked at how my hat project was turning out, and I thought, "That's not right. It'll be too big." So, I started to narrow the work beyond what the pattern said. 

And it ended up being too small. 


Lesson learned. All was not lost; I could give my finished hat to a child or a really petite adult. However, my plan to give it to my daughter (whose head is just as big as mine if not bigger, apparently) was foiled. 

Sometimes I just have to trust that the Designer really knows what He's doing and just concentrate on what I'm told to do next. Even if it doesn't make sense at the time. Even if I think it won't turn out right. The moment I start thinking I know better, that's when things take a turn for the worse. I can't control what someone else says, does, believes, or thinks. When I try to control it (or the other person), my effort blows up in my face. I've proven that time and time again. 

You'd think I would have learned by now. 

However, one thing I will say: Experience is a great teacher.

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