Jan 282008

Some of you might have wondered about the button in the left sidebar that says “SOTS ii – the secret is in the mist“. It is a knit-along where you don’t know the pattern in advance. “Knit-along” means that it’s a group of people who knit the same thing at the same time, usually it’s an online group setting goals like “Everybody will try to finish rows 1 to 70 until January 25th.” (And to avoid confusion I might add that each knitter is making her own stole or sock or whatever.) The group that I am part of is knitting a “mystery stole”, that’s a lace stole where we don’t know yet how it will look when finished. Each Friday we get the next part of the pattern and try to finish that during the week. There are more than 2,000 people in this particular group, and if we finish each part of the stole on time each one of us will have her stole at the beginning of March.

I was a bit nervous when I signed up for this. I was afraid it might turn into something like a nine-week-NaNo where I had to spent every waking minute frantically knitting to catch up. Also I was afraid that I wouldn’t like the pattern. So I decided to give the stole away if I didn’t want it for myself, and I made a firm rule not to freak out over this. If I couldn’t knit it in the designated time I’d just finish it later. No pressure.

Then there was the first part of the pattern. I was quite excited on January 18th, printed it out as soon as it went up, and started knitting immediately after dinner on that same day. And was almost disappointed because – it was so easy. After knitting for 2 1/2 hours on Friday evening the first part was more than halfway done. The pattern is very logical and symmetrical so far and so I had long stretches of knitting where I barely had to glance at the chart. Saturday morning I started knitting again immediately after breakfast (what? obsessive? me?) and had the first part finished after another two hours or so.

I almost contemplated casting on for another lace stole that I want to make on the same day, and working on two of them, but then I had to remind myself of the other four unfinished projects around the house. It seems that knitting lace makes me very happy, even though I hardly will wear lace stoles every day. But knitting lace can also be addictive. Like playing computer games. “Just one more row.”, “I just want to see how this will look…”, “If I knit a mere six rows I will have finished this part of the chart.” Never mind that knitting a row might take anywhere from five minutes to an hour.

Which I found out the hard way when working on the second part of the stole last Friday. Since the pattern seemed so easy to me I decided to knit it while watching the finale of “Angel”. Great move! While I made excellent progress for about two hours I also spent almost an hour knitting back four rows.

So, what does this have to do with being proud and such? Well, I am immensely proud that my stole looks so nice and that it’s so easy for me. But when I looked on the group’s message board and ravelry group I found that there are very few people who think like me. There are people who never have knitted lace, people who had to start over three times already, people who are in tears because they are so frustrated and they find it so hard.

I’m not here to make fun of them. I know how they feel and I’d love to help each and every one of them. Sit next to them and help them correct a mistake four rows down without having to unravel the whole thing. But I can’t, since this is an online group. Instead I have been thinking about why this is so easy for me. I found a couple of reasons: a) I have been knitting for 30 years. b) I have never been afraid to try new techniques. c) I like to challenge myself. d) I have heard that German knitters are considered to be very fast.

I can’t say, I have never thought about knitting as a race, I just do it. When Debra Roby wrote that she is a slow knitter and needs about 30 hours to knit a pair of socks, all I could say was that I know that back in the eighties when I had to take a very slow train to visit my parents I could start and finish a sock (basic, boring, very easy sock) on the train ride. That would be nine hours with time off for eating and such. But, really, I don’t look at the clock when I’m knitting. I just knit until the thing is done.

And then I found that instead of being proud of what I had done and my skills in doing it, again, I had tried to find reasons why it wasn’t a big deal and why, really, there was nothing to be proud of. And this is something I have been doing all my life with everything I do. You know, if I can do it it can’t be hard to do. And I could have done better. There surely would be a flaw or mistake in there somewhere. I’m one of those people who, when you’re admiring something they made, always say, “Yeah, but I made a mistake here. Do you see it?”

Every time I’m starting to be proud of something I think about how this makes all the other people around me feel bad. How I really shouldn’t be standing in the limelight but instead I should be there to help the others getting better. How the things I do are not important in the big scheme. How there is always someone better than me.

This even extends to happiness. Even though I know that this is not true, my inner child is firmly convinced that every time I am happy this will make somebody else unhappy. As if there weren’t enough happiness around for everyone and if I take too much there won’t be enough left. And then people would get angry at me.

This certainly is a main factor in my life, one that makes me sabotage myself and makes me at least slightly unhappy all the time. And, as everyone knows, people only like you when you’re nice and humble, when you’re not bragging, and don’t make them feel inferior by being so damn superior all the time.

So, well, I changed the pattern and I’m not sure if the change looks good, maybe I should frog it all and do better the next time over. And, really, you could have done the same under the same circumstances as I and so don’t feel bad. You totally could crank out lace if you wanted to. Go you!

Can I have that bit of leftover happiness if you don’t want it? Thanks.

  9 Responses to “secret of the stole, or on being proud and happy”

  1. For the most part, pride is a healthy, good thing. Pride is manifested in self-esteem, self-respect, sense of achievement, joy, satisfaction. It is that which saves us from humiliation and allows us to try again when we fail. If you deny yourself these emotions, then yes, you will erode your happiness.

    Pride only gets to be a sin when you’ve got too much of a good thing. I believe in the truth of the proverb “Pride goeth before a fall,” and so I am pleased (even proud) that I have been humbled by life on plenty (puh-lenty, let me tell you) of occasions and have hopefully learned from it and adjusted. I generally overlook other people’s smugness because eventually something will happen and they will learn that lesson for themselves.

    I think the stole is beautiful, and once again you’ve chosen a color that will complement your looks well. I hope you like it, and whenever you wear it you receive many compliments you accept with grace.

  2. you do such gorgeous work

  3. Wow, beautiful work.

    And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being proud of your abilities and special talents. There’s a difference between being proud and bragging, and I don’t see you as a braggart.

    On the other hand, I do understand the desire to play down one’s accomplishments sometimes so as not to make others feel bad… and, as long as you’re not being patronizing, I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. That’s just trying to make others feel good about themselves, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I’m going to be unhappy tomorrow only so you can have a few hours of pure joy. Let’s say I’ll be miserable from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., my time. I hope you’re not sleeping then, I’m hopeless with time zones. Can the unhappiness accrue so you can use it later? Maybe that would work.

    You are an amazing knitter. I’ve never seen such a beautiful thing made out of just some yarn with some needles and some brains. Wow. My sister has a similar talent for sewing and making all kinds of things. I don’t. You who can do should be proud, but not too proud, just proud enough. Nothing wrong with that.

  5. What if we swapped happiness?

  6. It is amazing how many of us think things like “oh i have had a really happy time recently, somthing bad is obviously going to happen”. I constantly apologise for teh price of my bags for the simple reason that i think anybody could make them. But can i just tell you that your knitting is sublime. It is amazing and you deserve to be proud of yourself and of it. The people that are struggling with the knitting will excel at something that you are useless at. That is how it works. So be happy, be proud and start giving away your lovely stuff :o) (last bit was a semi joke)

  7. dude, are you making fun of the knitalongers? shame.

    kidding. that is talent, sister, i can’t imagine creating something like that.

  8. I think your stole is coming along nicely! I am glad you are enjoying the pattern. PS – Love the elephant, too!

  9. Reading this post made me feel happy, because I sort of feel the same way. I’m working on the same stole and haven’t had any big issues yet. If a little bit of hubris sets in, I usually have to tink back half a row because I missed something ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m still learning things by knitting this, dealing with fine yarn and being patient with myself being two of those lessons. I look forward to working on the lace at night because it gives me some time to focus and not worry about anything else for a while, something that usually doesn’t happen when I knit something plain. I might not be the first one done every week, but I’m getting a lot of pleasure from making this project.

    There’s no reason to feel bad about doing a good job. None at all!

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