Friday, April 11, 2008

Disregarding Stitch Markers

I'm developing -quite by accident- a list of aphorisms that I tell knitters. At the absolute top of the list is my belief that our knitting tells a story about who we are and how we interact with the world. We reveal ourselves as who we fundamentally are all day every day; all it takes to read the signs is a careful observer.

One of the best parts of my week is helping people improve at knitting. I love teaching. I love knitting. I love empowering people to confront the challenges that face them. So there's this knitter who is becoming quite accomplished. What she isn't yet is confident, but that's not really today's story. She's working on a sock, and she'd made a little mistake. She could have fixed it herself -or ignored it, since the evidence is going to be inside her shoe- but she wanted me to fix it.

The first step to fixing someone's knitting (or any other) problem is figuring out what's going on. The knitter almost always wants to talk in my ear, pointing out the tragedy. They of course know because they have an intimate familiarity with the fabric they've created. I have to get that familiarity fairly quickly, and the talking really doesn't help much. It's more a matter of quietly looking. Really looking. It's not usually a big deal. One of the painfully true things I tell knitters is that it's impossible for them to make a mistake that I haven't made -and way more than once.

This knitter was creating the heel of the sock, which is where accidents will happen if they're going to, and there were two stitch markers just sort of hanging in the middle of nowhere. I saw the mistake well enough, but I couldn't figure out what the stitch markers were for. Maybe they were marking other mistakes? Maybe she was making a sock in some new way that I don't understand? What's happening here?

She told me that they were just leftover from when she had done the decreasing for the gusset. (For the non-knitters among us, the details aren't terribly important. She had needed the stitch markers. Then she didn't. That's all you need to know.) She just hadn't dropped the stitch markers back into her knitting bag when she was finished with them.

My comment was "Don't train yourself to disregard stitch markers." Ask me how I know. I'm probably more inclined not to use markers when I should, rather than using them when I shouldn't. But the effect is the same -a lack of credible information that would have been easy to obtain if I had just done the simple things: pay attention and make a little effort.

You don't need to beat me over the head with this. I've been disregarding bigger signs than stitch markers. I get it that there was something of a failure of mindfulness, to put it mildly, in my life over the past few years. Had I been paying attention, at the very least I wouldn't have been blind-sided by my husband's betrayals and lack of commitment. I might even (although probably not) have caught it in time to be able to make an effective effort to save the marriage.

But he's not even really the story. I missed lots of other signs along the way -small places where there were alarms ringing quietly and I just breezed on past them. Places where I gave up autonomy, accepted too little, accepted stories that made no sense at all, truncated my own life, skipped opportunities because I was afraid.... I disregarded the stitch markers in a big way.

Another truism that falls out of my mouth is "do something different. Do ANYthing different." If you want things to change and you're not quite sure how to make that happen -or even exactly how you want it to look on the other end- do something different. Do anything different. The hope is that the entire system will adjust itself in accommodation to your new behavior. So, my "anything different" is to pay attention to the stitch markers. Which is just another way of saying that I'll try to be mindful and aware of the signs in my life.

All we need to know, we learned at knitting group ;)


jill said...

Places where I gave up autonomy, accepted too little, accepted stories that made no sense at all...

No curtains in the bedroom. Rectilinear gardens. Yep.

I think the larger message also has to do with, "You have value - your opinions, needs, desires - they have value too. By continually saying, 'It doesn't matter that much to me,' you're denying that value."

Andrea Rusin said...

I think that might be Growing Up 102 -the advanced course ;)

Elisa said...

I don't know the first thing about knitting, but this was a very good post.

Anonymous said...

A chapter in the book, perhaps. I'm looking forward to buying it on Amazon. (of course, you need to write it first. . . .)

and, btw, the card said that I loved your garden post.

lonelywombat said...

I may be ready to start another shawl. I saw a rectangular one in the book called Victorian Lace or something like that. It's the Melon shawl. So wondering... can I possibly finish it by June 7? I need it to cover up my flabby upper armage.