Monday, July 27, 2009

I Am Knitting Lace. Why Am I Knitting Lace? Please Stop Me From Ever Knitting Lace Again!

I just got back from my fiddle lesson. It was a frustrating session. The song I'm learning, "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine," has one little run of notes that just eludes me. I'm learning by ear, which means I don't have written music to guide me. When I remember the right order of notes, I forget the rhythm, and vice versa. My teacher tried all different ways to help me get it, and a couple times I did, and then I'd lose it again.

At one point, after I'd practically collapsed from frustration, he said, "You're a perfectionist, aren't you?"

Reader, I was shocked. Anyone who has ever seen the inside of my car (or my attic, or my laundry room) would be shocked. A perfectionist? Moi? And then it occurred to me: Maybe I'm the worst kind of perfectionist. Maybe I'm the kind of perfectionist who thinks she's an imperfectionist, an uptight gal who believes herself to be loosey-goosey.

I don't know. I'm going to chew on this a little more. In the meantime, I've started knitting a lace shawl. If I'm a perfectionist, knitting this shawl will likely kill me. I'm 15 rows in, and I'm already faking it. I've cast on at least three times already, and I just can't bear to start again. But I really, really want to knit this shawl. I want to uncover the mystery of lace. I want to be able to make beautiful shawls for friends and family alike. I want to knit a shawl without screaming at my children, "Leave me alone! Don't you realize how HARD this is?"

Here's what I've learned about lace so far: Lace is insanity written up in a pattern and published in a magazine. Believe you me, I'm going to drive myself crazy knitting this shawl. But I spent $42 on the yarn (it's handpainted silk, it's beautiful), and I'm not giving up. Ever. In fact, I'm feeling slightly obsessed with my lace knitting, with getting it right, no mistakes, no gaping holes. Hmmm ... could I be a perfectionist after all? Or just plain nuts?

Don't answer that.


Sara Padrusch said...

I know exactly how that sort of thing goes. It led to paint both my floors and my driveway. It's a fine line between perfectionism and just being plain old nuts. Good luck with your shawl! I'm sure it'll look lovely when you're wearing it in your padded cell...


Pom Pom said...

Yikes. I've been looking at lace. Vogue Knitting has lovely lacy things, and even though I have been knitting for (gasp!) a couple decades, I'm scared of it! I remember yelling at my kids while knitting, too! I hope they don't remember! Please show us pictures of the lace though! Good for you, fiddle player! That's got to be good for your brilliant-already brain!

Gretchen Joanna said...

hmmm...about the perfectionist thing: seems to me that some of us are perfectionistic in patches. As we get older, especially, maybe we let ourselves do some things just "good enough" as balancing therapy. Just a thought. :-)

Heather said...

Draw a picture of the notes. Doodle that little bit that you lose when trying to concentrate on too many things at once. Even if you don't read music yet, doodle the notes as apples, or birds on a wire, or left hands, so you can picture the succession. Maybe then the perfectionist half and the imperfectionist half of your brain will meet, call a truce, and agree to work together on this piece.

As for lace, I've got no advice other than to stay away from sharp objects for awhile.

Tracy said...

I related really well to Flylady's description of perfectionism. I want things done so perfectly that when things are a mess it is overwhelming and then I don't even start. I thwart my own desire for perfection!

I now chant the mantra "It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done".

Of course, in the sewing, knitting and crocheting world, perfectionism is important. Good luck with the lace. The yarn sounds divine.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Sara, A woman who paints floors and driveways, well, that's a woman I can relate to. If my driveway weren't gravel, I'd be out there painting it right now.

Pom Pom, I subscribe to VK and have yet to knit one thing I've seen in there. If I manage to knit this shawl without doing myself in, I will approach Vogue with new confidence and finger (and perhaps a chronic eye twitch, but that remains to be seen).

Gretchen, I think "perfectionist in patches" describes me about perfectly. And I have to say I'm getting better about not insisting the house be spotless before company comes over.

Heather, The drawing the notes is a great idea. What I'm really having trouble with is the rhythm of this particular section, and drawing it may help my brain understand it better.

And I'm staying away not only from sharp objects, but the blunt ones as well. Really, lace should only be knitted in an empty hallway when no one else is home.

Tracy, I like your mantra and will adopt it immediately. I think it can even apply to some knitting. Unfortunately, lace knitting demands perfection,so what I'm focusing on now is taking it very, very slowly.

Susan said...

Vogue Knitting should be considered as eye candy alone. Approach with caution and have their website in your "favourites" so you can find the "errata" easily. They have a reputation for the patterns being riddled with mistakes and as a survivor of many hours of frustration, take my word for it.
On the perfection front, sorry to report if you are one you will take it to your grave. I am older than dirt, and some days feel it, there is no escaping it. There is a fine line between perfection and stubborn.. Who me?
Once you finish the first lace you will be on your way and no stopping you. You can do it.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Susan, Thanks for the VK warning. All the VK patterns I love are always the super-advanced once, and though I'm up for the challenge, my family's not ready to take that ride yet (they can barely tolerate the lace). So I suspect I'll be just looking for a long time to come ...
thanks for stopping by!