Rules and obligations

I am on a roll. I am suffused with smugness and delight. I am embracing the Joy of Finishing – not just finishing any old thing, but finishing a veritable slew of Other People’s Knitting. Well, my knitting, but knitting for other people. You know? The unselfish kind, or the obligation kind, depending on perspective and/or level of impatience and frustration.

I’m basically a selfish knitter. I like knitting for myself. I’m not that fast, and I don’t have that much time to knit, and I have a whole HUGE mental list of things I want to wear and must therefore first knit. I have a huge stash full of yarn that is almost entirely chosen to suit my own complexion, taste, and wardrobe needs. I have plans for this yarn. I am selfish.

But I also have friends, and family, and enough awareness of their good points to know that they might also be deserving of the fruits of my needles. It helps that they are actually appreciative of these fruits. So, between rashly made offers and flat out begging, I tend to accumulate a second list: a list of Knitting Owed. And then follows the tricksome task of trying to juggle those lists, set priorities and make things happen. It doesn’t always go well. I never actually forget the promises I’ve made… but those projects tend to get postponed for reasons ranging from the reasonable (“I have a brandnew, sleepless baby and am so not ready to design and knit an XL men’s jumper, ok?”) to the perhaps slightly less well-justified (“I have totally cast on for that lace shawl but it’s my bedside project and now Armin doesn’t like me knitting in bed!”).

I am pleased and proud to report that I’ve been on something of a roll this year. As I surfaced from the baby/early toddler fog of knit deprivation, I did in fact make a point of prioritising those outstanding obligations, and have slowly cleared the decks. It feels great.

All in all, this year I have delivered a “colourful jumper” to my dad (requested maybe five or six years ago), a crochet shawl to my mother-in-law (requested I think two years ago), and a cabled jumper to an old friend (requested also easily six years ago… I even bought the yarn about four years ago). I also made Claudia one cardigan and one tank top, and completed a tunic; made four washcloths for the family; and three baby gifts (one still in progress, actually). For myself, just one Calorimetry and two pairs of socks.

It has, in other words, been all about what needed to be made – mostly for others, sometimes for myself. And honestly, it hasn’t been the most exciting or satisfying knitting. Every project involved a lot of stop-starting, as I slowly figured out the best way to fulfil the brief (colour! cables!) while also accommodating my own time constraints and the wearer’s fashion needs (not that much colour! not that many cables!). In almost every case, I started out with an original design in mind, but ended up following a pattern (and/or simplifying the concept considerably), in the interests of Getting the Damn Thing Done. Which was pretty unsatisfying. But getting the damn things done, well, that was satisfying indeed. So it all works out.

Here’s the interesting thing:* it was only while writing this blog post that I suddenly realised why it had taken me so long (two to six years apiece? seriously??) to get to those promised knitty gifts. Obviously, it wasn’t just Claudia. No… the real inhibiting factor was Purlescence. And it wasn’t just about time. The bigger problem, I think, was that while running the shop, I had all these Rules about what I should be knitting – using shop yarn, and such, and preferably designing, too. I had to be knitting as a Professional, rather than as a hobbyist. But the thing is, that didn’t go so well. Much as I tend to freeze up when designing for others, I froze up under my self-imposed constraints. Maybe that’s because I have a Problem With Authority (TM) – even my own! Maybe it’s fear of failure. I don’t know. It’s a bunch of crap, is what it is, and it makes me want to kick myself in the pants, but there it is. With all the ideas I had about knitting to show off shop yarn, designing to promote shop yarn, and so on… I actually achieved very little. I wasn’t getting things done. I wasn’t delivering on my promises. And I certainly wasn’t having any fun.**

So here I am, with an increasingly independent toddler, and no business to run, and suddenly I’m Getting Things Done! It’s immensely exciting. Even if, as mentioned, the actual FOs aren’t. I still have quite a queue of things that need to be made (hat, handwarmers, chunky cowl, jacket), rather than things I desperately want to make (shawl! lacy cowl! self-designed jacket!), which is a pity… but at least they are now, mostly, things for me. And I can see, just on the horizon, a future in which I finally get to knit the things that have been making my fingers itch while I was otherwise occupied.

The big question, perhaps, being: is this when I get to design the things making my fingers itch? It’s what people keep asking. After Purlescence, what next? Are you going to Design?

Perhaps. Perhaps not quite yet. I want to; I really do. The next big deck-clearing effort will involve all those half-finished patterns I have lying around – so, paperwork, more than actual knitting. Which I hope will feel as liberating, as lightening, as fulfilling my unselfish obligations has been. Maybe it’ll also help to get me into the pattern writing groove (at present I find it enormously daunting; I’m not great with the notes, and the grading, and the schematics, and oy with the numbers already). But you know… maybe I’m not ready yet. Or maybe I’m not really designer material. I don’t know. I do know that pushing myself to Produce like that is likely to backfire as completely as it did on the knitting-for-Purlescence front. So, the new rule? No rules, no pressure. I get to knit just for fun again.

Awesome.

_____
* Note to self: Consider getting to “the interesting thing” before writing half a dozen boring paragraphs, mmkay? Just a thought.
** Well. I was having a huge amount of fun running the shop and all. I just wasn’t enjoying what I was achieving with the actual knitting so much – which is a serious bummer.

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One thought on “Rules and obligations”

  1. The biggest shock about having children was that I never ever finished anything – not even a thought. It took until my daughter was 5 years old before I got enough mental space to think about “my” things. You are doing really well! Just don’t turn fun into an obligation or it will stop being fun!

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