Craft · Knitting

Getting past the ugly for beauty’s sake

You won’t always love everything about knitting. Quite often you won’t even love the thing you’re knitting right now, even though you were super excited to get started on it. That’s okay! Learning to tolerate and embrace the less-fun things about life and knitting will help you get a handle on the best things.

Let me give you an example: last year, I designed my own shawl (which will eventually make it to the interwebs). I usually avoid long gradient yarns, which means yarns that are died in long, gradual stripes of colour, but my LYS owner got in some simply fabulous locally dyed stuff from Blue Brick yarns and I snapped some up without thinking about it.

The colours are something special. It starts a rich evening-sky blue and melts into a sea green before finishing on the colour of soft wet sand. I grew up with seaspray hitting my bedroom window, so I’m a creature of the coast. Now I live a few hundred miles from the nearest ocean.

Despite the colourway apparently being something to do with a barn (and chickens?) I see the seaside, because we all see what is most important to us.

Weymouth harbour, Dorset, UK
Weymouth harbour, Dorset, UK. I walked past this scene daily as a young adult.

I’ve lived in Canada for three years, nestled a short way outside of Toronto. I can see the lake from my window where I work, but it doesn’t move right and Lake Ontario often smells like it’s been left out in the damp too long. There are no waves, no sea spray hitting my windows, no crashing against the cliffs. The only time I get homesick is when I think of standing on the beach in my hometown, shin-deep in saltwater, toes tangled in seaweed.

Looking at this gradient, I saw everything I missed about living on the coast. An idea splashed into my mind immediately and I picked up the needles.

Knitting this shawl went in several stages. At first I forgot about the colour and focused only on the knitting, on constructing a shawl for the first time from the inside of my determined brain. It was going well, so as the wingspan grew, so did my fascination with the colours. I ogled. I prompted strangers to admire it. I loved it with all my bitter little heart.

Until I didn’t.

With only the edging to finish, I looked at the shawl, then peered at what was left of the skein. For once I had decided to knit from the centre of the ball, just to shake things up a bit. Usually I prefer the neatness that comes from knitting from the outside, though anyone who knows my chaotic tendencies may find that surprising. It meant the blue/green was in the shawl and the gold/brown was in the skein, and disappointment flooded me. How had I not noticed how drab the colours were? They didn’t pop at all! How did I see my hometown beach in this?

Disheartened but too invested to stop, I continued knitting. I ripped back a few inches because I tried to drown out the colour with a pattern too complex for the original idea. I considered stopping knitting it completely, but then as the yarn moved from bright blue to damp brown, I realised something: I liked it.

The Beach Shawl - Knitter Nerd
A small blurry representation of the colour. The blue makes it pop.

I didn’t (and still don’t) like the gold/brown colour on its own. It’s boring and not at all a shade that would appeal to me outside of a big dollop of mustard. Or cheese. Or actual wet sand on Weymouth beach (softest ever, true facts).

Yet when I held the shawl up, blocked and ready to go, I was glad that I continued. Though the colour itself was unremarkable, the finished piece made me happier than I had been with a creation in a long while. I loved the completed shawl, even if I didn’t love the brown. After all, the individual colours are not the point.

Life is like that too, have you noticed? Sometimes you’re going through such a great time, ambling along with bits of your life falling into a neat little pattern that’s leading you just where you want to be, and then you’ll step in a big fat pile of dog poop and your day is ruined. It’s easy, in situations like that, to forget the overarching gradient of the day/week/millennium and focus only on that one stripe of colour.

Suddenly, a day that had been shining with bright, beautiful colours becomes invisible, taken over by that one brown smear.

The Weymouth Shawl - Knitter Nerd
Image of the shawl blocking. I have not touched it since. Whoops.

This is an unfortunate glitch in the human brain. Spoilers for both life and gradient yarns: nothing is forever. You will clean your shoe and move on from that steaming shitpile, and you will knit past the colour you hate. Don’t stop. If you stop, you’re stuck in that poop for good, and you’ve wasted your day. Would you stop knitting a pair of self-striping socks because you don’t like the individual stripes alone?

What I’m saying here, minus the gratuitous poop comments, is that sometimes you’ve got to ignore the terrible stench on your shoe.

Wait, no. That’s not at all what I’m saying.

I’m saying that if you keep knitting past that colour you don’t love, you’ll end up with a project you do. And even if you don’t, you’ve still completed something with talent and meaning, and your life is richer in experience if not in shawls. Keep knitting past the mustard smear. It’s worth it.

This is a small chunk of something I’ve been writing for a while outside of my blog. I’ve never posted any of it anywhere, so I’d really appreciate hearing what you folks think. Do you want to see longer, more in-depth posts about craft, especially how it relates to self-development and activism? Let me know!

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11 thoughts on “Getting past the ugly for beauty’s sake

  1. I love this post. And I love the colors of the shawl. I’m from the desert and that’s what they remind me of. The brown is the mountain range with the bright, blue sky above. So pretty!

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    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Lesley! I may live in Canada now, but I’m from near you originally (Weymouth). Plymouth is a beautiful part of the country. 🙂

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  2. *ahem* you are still a young adult Laus!
    Your shawl looks lovely, but I think I would have had the same response to the colours. I really admire you for sticking at something through to the end. It’s something I’m working on in everyday life too; thinking about doing this MA for 2 years is scary for me because I worry I’m not going to keep the momentum going. We’ll see.

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    1. I am an old adult now. Did you know I turn 30 in just a couple of months? And I have a grey hair now! ONE WHOLE GREY HAIR! (I’m not actually complaining. I’m proud of my tiny grey.)

      What you say about keeping momentum for the MA is so true. That’s what we were talking about yesterday really. I think we can both do it though because we are badasses and we can cheer each other on (and commiserate our lack of non-studying lives).

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  3. I look at it and see the ocean with the lovely sand bordering the blue! It’s so pretty, and I’m glad to get to see it, since I didn’t get to see it the first time I read this piece. 😉 Keep up the writing please!

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    1. Thanks Bonny – I really appreciate you reading this through that time, you’re awesome. I haven’t added much in the rest yet, but I remembered to go back to it recently. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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