Thursday, February 05, 2009

big fish, small pond

One of the more interesting aspects of having gifted kids is that you get a chance to see yourself through the eyes of your parents and former teachers, as you realize that your kids' giftedness didn't come from nowhere. The kids and I are all what I call garden-variety gifted, while Joe is more in the "yikes-scary-smart" category. We are each curious and articulate, and school work comes easily.

As a teacher, that was most salient feature of the needs of gifted kids. When school work comes easily, you get one of two problems: either the kid skates through school, never having to muster an ounce of effort for good grades, or the kid is totally bored, acting out and (sometimes) failing. I've done both. When I had kids like these in my classroom, I worked hard to provide challenges for them. Homeschooling makes that aspect of modifying curriculum really easy, because it just doesn't matter what other kids their age are doing, we just do what makes sense for our kids now.

But I had very traditional schooling, with zero modification of the regular elementary classroom for my giftedness, and just a tiny bit of enrichment from time to time. As a result, I am accustomed to doing all the ordinary things easily, and I encounter my own significant resistance when I attempt something more challenging.

So: I knit. Mostly I knit things that aren't too hard for me. I've been knitting a long time, and it takes a lot of determination for me to steel myself to learn something new. There are people around me in real life who are impressed with my knitting, but I know better. Because of my constant trolling of the internets for knitting patterns and blogs, I know that my knitting is serviceable at best, but nothing to brag about.

I haven't blogged about this (although others have) but I went on a weekend spinning excursion in December. I rode on the train overnight out to Michigan so I could take a class from the very famous and fabulous Abby Franquemont at Beth Smith's very fabulous and famous shop, The Spinning Loft. I knew I would encounter knitters far more competent than I on this trip, and I did.

I came home determined to try something a little out of my comfort zone. Not crazy hard, just a little more challenging than the repetitive lace scarves, stockinette stitch sweaters, and ribbed socks I knit most of the time. I settled on this pattern: Juno Regina, by Miriam Felton. It's a symmetrical lace pattern scarf, with a long simple section sandwiched between two large diamonds full of diamonds. It's cool. I really like it. I'm knitting it in a fabulous two-ply black alpaca that is squishy and soft, and I know I'm going to love love love this scarf when it's finished.

I've been working on it about three weeks, and here's how far I've gotten:
The reason for this pathetic progress is that I've ripped it out three times, all the way back to the beginning. And the reason for that is because I refuse to use life lines. (Just in case there is anyone still reading who doesn't know about life lines in this context, it means threading all your stitches through a length of contrasting yarn, so that if you make a mistake later and have to rip it out, you can rip back to the yarn holding your stitches, rather than all the way back to the beginning.)

And the reason for that is my own stubborn arrogance. I get going on the thing, and I get excited that it's going well, and I don't want to stop to put in a piece of ugly string that's going to be hard to knit around, so I don't. And then I make a mistake, and I can't figure out how to fix it, so I rip it back to the start and cast on again.

I'm not giving up on this scarf. I think I'm going to have to use life lines.


Granna Judy said...

Here's a suggestion -- try dental floss. It's easy to put in and really quite easy to get around when you're knitting that row.

elsie deluxe said...

I did try that, but it shredded all through the yarn, and made a terrible mess. I was using Glide, cuz that's what we have. Wouldn't it be goofy to have to go buy dental floss when I have ALL THIS YARN, EVERYWHERE?!?!?

Granna Judy said...

How about I'll send you some that doesn't seem to shred? Keep an eye out for a package.

The scarf is indeed beautiful -- are you using the black laceweight we got from the woman in Canada?

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I think I am agreeing with your mom. Though I've never used dental floss for a life line (sock yarn; that's thin)

Have fun. I love to knit lace. And it isn't that hard. It just requires concentration. Which means you need another project to knit when there are people to talk to, and kids interrupting.

elsie deluxe said...

Right, which means the only time I can work on this scarf is early in the morning, or late at night. Early I want to be out walking with the dog, late I'm too tired usually to focus. Progress is slow.

Anonymous said...

That's why I don't knit Fair Isle sweaters, or lace patterns...I can't find quiet time when I can follow a pattern! So I do a lot of mindless crocheting. Anyone need an afghan? :-)

I'm glad you're trying something a bit challenging. Maybe you'll finally inspire me to make that sweater vest for my husband....