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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Saturday, June 1, 2013

My head hurts


Let me explain. 

One of the few words of wisdom I am able to offer my students is one of my own personal discoveries.

That is when you are learning new things your head actually hurts. It's those new neuro pathways being built (I actually have no idea what I am talking about but this sounds great), new muscle memory being laid down, and all that activity hurts more than say slumping on the couch watching Mad Men and wondering what kind of foundation garments Joan must be wearing.

I use this line, and wait to use it, when my students complain that something I am saying, or trying to teach, makes their head hurt. "Good" I say "Great. That means you are learning."

Well all those years of being a total smart ass and annoying year after year of undergraduates has returned to haunt me.

It's karma man.

Karma and it's called golf and fair isle knitting.

The thing is, despite decades of my family insisting I have zero athletic ability (that was assigned to someone else and in my family once these things are doled out they are taken) I actually really like golf and am a not as bad at it as you might think.

However I am having a skill distribution problem. When I get my drives working, my irons go to hell. When I get my irons working better, my drives act like they need Viagra. Can't get them up.

Back and forth, one or the other. Never both.

This does not make me happy. And having my husband says things like "those are different shots you know" brings out my need to be a nice wife and not a person who, well you remember Tiger Wood's wife.

After about 40 games in the last two months there are a few mountains I would have hoped to climb over by now. But then again there is next season.

Not sure I can say anything quite so optimist about my fair isle vest project. I am taking this course on Craftsy and having put it off as long as I could by knitting this sweater:

This picture is pre-blocking, it looks better now, much smoother, but I had to strike while the model was hot.

However I have got to the end of the video lessons and no where to turn but to actual knitting. The instructor is very knowledgable, but fairly dippy (and coming from me that says something), there is more telling that she likes to knit samples than technical details like how not to lose you mind with 47 dangling ends going on and what to do with jogs. I suspect it has been so long since she found this hard she forgets to tell you how to overcome that part.

I figured this fair isle was a skill I should learn. I spent 4 nights winding skeins into balls and knitting samples trying to get gauge and getting used to the pattern. I have knit and unravelled and this is what the vest looks like at the present time:

All I have learned so far is I hate the bright yellow and am going to be making a substitution.
Fortunately my gauge is still wrong so I am emergency ordering in some more needles in a smaller size from Amazon and that gives me some breathing room to settle down before I go once more into the fray.

I am finding all of this really hard. My head hurts. 

But then I remembered what it was like to learn to sew. 

How many things did I screw up before it got easy? 

A long long time, like until last week.

And at the end of the day I guess I would rather be someone who was still in the process of painful brain expansion than letting it roll out of sight like those bowling balls that go down the alley. (This is my head analogy I just realized).

I will keep telling myself that, primarily because I have spent a fair amount of money on this whole project without actually having knit one decent inch.

And in closing I figured a shot of my golf coach is in order. Here he is in one of my sewn creations, doing one of the things he does best:

I think we call this a par.


Angela said...

I just love to read your posts! I can't help you on the fair isle thing or the golf thing, but I like that you are still learning stuff. I am too, and hope I always do. It's a little humbling going through life always as an amateur (I'm speaking of myself here), but it's never boring.

Jodie said...

I so WISH we were neighbours. Man - the conversations we would have over wine and over the fence! Can't help you with the golf thing, but I can tell you that with some things it takes time to get everything going in the same direction (sort of like WAITING for jam to come to the boil). Hang in and enjoy and try not to brain your coach....all those golf clubs would make dandy weapons...
As for fair isle - I've learned it - tried a course and then a book, and finally took a class. Class was waaay better as there was someone to immediately advise and solve my problems as I got into a mess. And it is messy...not "watch tv" knitting. More like "absolute silence don't interrupt on pain of death" knitting. But I got my project done. And I lived through it!
Enjoy your time, love your posts!

ozviking said...

Barbara I love your writing and all the issues big and small you come up with. I am re-learning to knit after 40 years of not touching anything to do with yarn and knitting needles. I moved from a country where warm woollies were wonderful and great to have, to a country with hot and humid weather and therefore no need for woollie jumpers. I have decided that knitted cotton garments could be OK, so I am having a go. I find getting the right tension is really challenging, but I am not giving up - yet.

meredithp said...

I also think you won this round by having him pose in Florida in what is in all likelihood a wool sweater. I moved out of that state (my home for the first 40 years) to learn to knit (and sew with wool). But then menopause hit, and I didn't move far enough north, and then there's climate change, so I'm still hot. :-) Love your posts.

badmomgoodmom said...

Do you knit English or Continental? It doesn't matter which way you do it, but try to learn the other way just enough to knit the other.

On each row, determine the dominant color (more stitches) and knit that the way you are most comfortable. Then knit the minor color with the other method. That way, each hand handles one color at a time.

If the stranding causes your tension to be wonky, knit with the tube with the "right" side facing in and the "wrong" (stranded) side facing out. The difference in circumference will even out the tension.

I found the Elizabeth Zimmerman and Lopi books extremely helpful. Also, check out knitting guru, Lucy Neatby's website and videos.

My first fair isle project with helpful links:

Anna Christina said...

Your husband's sweater is wonderful, but I think I prefer the apron. I have the same problem with my woods and irons. It was interesting to read about it so perfectly put into words.

Bunny said...

You are just too damn funny.

Lucille said...

My head hurts with new things as well. If you watched the Rocky and Bullwinkle essays on life, I believe that's where the phrase originated. You need to say it with the proper moose accent. We Canadians can do it. When I retired I wanted to learn to knit socks and make bobbin lace. It was amazing to try things so far out of my comfort level! You need to recognize that you are swimming without a PFD and just keep swimming.

Rebecca Clayton said...

I started knitting Fair Isle patterns in the 70's, and didn't enjoy it much. It was Sheila McGregor's 1981 "Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting" that got me excited. She features photos of ordinary folks in the sweaters their mamas knitted, photos of said mamas knitting, and Shetlanders ferrying their sheep from pasture to pasture in rowboats.

I could see at a glance that these were my people (I now look startlingly like the knitting grannies pictured), so of course I could knit Fair Isle patterns. A great thing about Fair Isle is that you can use your leftover yarn, and pick out some color patterns that intrigue you. It can be economy knitting with a bit of flair, which is what the Fair Isle grandmas were doing in those pictures.

Later in the 80's, some designers like Alice Starmore put out exquisitely colored, elaborate, gorgeous designs, and lots of knitters fell in love. I had a neighbor with more cash than I who bought these patterns, and the 23 different-colored Shetland yarns, and knit up some of these $300 projects (That's in 1980's American dollars). They were indeed beautiful, but no actual human could wear them--they were board-like, and would make the slimmest slip of a girl look wide as a wagon.

So, my question is, are you knitting a granny Fair Isle pattern, or a $300 Fair Isle pattern? If the latter, you should consider starting out with a granny hat, or some socks or mittens, using up some left-over yarns, before you go full-on exquisite fashion project.

It's one thing to have your head hurt because it's building new neural connections; quite another to have anxiety over an overwhelming project.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barb. Knitting chuckles for me and golfing chuckles for Duff.

Learning the Latin names for the plants in our garden makes my brain hurt.

Come back soon. Summer is on the way at last.

Calypso Flowers said...

Some great comments there !
I particularly like badmomgoodmom. There's a headache waiting to happen !
I fall in love with yarn whenever I go to Scandinavia, and last time I went, I saw a jumper made up, which I adored. So I spent the rest of my holiday money on the wool, and the paper/photocopied paper was included.
The pattern was in Danish.
I knew that when I bought the wool, but I reasoned "How hard is it to say K1P1 and PSSO in another language.
Answer - very !. I had the pattern translated into English, and managed to do the front OK, but the pattern for the back only went up to the armholes. Perhaps instructions had been lost in the translation ? Nup.
Suffice it to say that I finished it, but I think that I had a problem with tension to begin with, and it all went downhill from there.
I still love the wool, and one day, on a long car journey, I'll pull it all apart... and enrol in Danish language classes.

Mary said...

I'm cooking right now and only have time to say "I read and I laughed" Nice sweater and apron and husband :-)