So before we had our first baby, we went to a “Having a Baby” class. A great class with a great teacher – she had wisdom etched in the lines of her face - which is what you want. At the time, with our heads full of the sparkle and static of having our first baby, I didn’t understand that one of the things she taught me, was going to be one of those pieces of self knowledge that changes your life forever.
Sitting crossed legged on the floor, facing our partners, she asked us this simple question. “In stressful times, what is your natural reaction – fight or flight?” Now as I am hhmmming and ahhhmming, my partner is grinning and almost guffawing. Obvious to him and not so much to me, until that moment.
I am a runner. I run metaphorically and I run physically away from the pain. Any pain*. And although I am not a natural runner (if you meet me one day that will make sense) I can run fast when the need arises. When I have a problem, am feeling uncomfortable or unsure, I avoid the whole schmozzle and go to a happy place somewhere else. A little bit “run away, run away”, a little bit “ignore it, it will go away” crossed with a little bit “if it can’t catch me it doesn’t exist”.
Running can look like lots of things. I can turn anything negative into something positive (otherwise known as running). I can find “solutions” to things that don’t need solving (more running). I can just pretend something isn’t a problem at all but pretending it doesn’t exist (and even more running). I do happy. I don’t do any of that other stuff. Or at least I used to.
About now I can hear you start thinking “but what about the crafting” and “who cares about babies”. And so here comes the lifechanging bit. Learning that piece of information (fight or flight), and really understanding what I do in any situation that is uncomfortable/sad/blah/blah - means that I now have much greater control over my life. Now I watch myself start to run, and often I stage a coup!
And so was born The Great Colourwork Monogamy Strategy. Otherwise known as Monogamy is The New Black.
I’ve talked about my love for multiple projects before on this blog. I think I even titled the post “Multiple projects are the way forward” and I totally still believe it. Some projects for comfort, some for utility, some for presents, some for art etc. Crafting to fit the need or mood you have on the day. Crafting for your life.
However in this case I knew that having multiple projects wasn’t going to get the job done. I knew that this sweater was going to be uncomfortable for me. And I knew I would avoid it. Even though I really wanted to see the outcome, I would avoid the discomfort.
Discomfort because I don’t know that much about colourwork. I don’t know for sure how to combine colours and patterns to achieve the effect (gorgeous!) that I want. It could just as easily turn out to be really ugly. And I like getting things right. Discomfort because I don’t have the internet like I normally would. I couldn’t check my “how-tos” at a moments notice when I wasn’t sure about something technical, like what to do with a float longer than five stitches. And while I was ready to “Rip with Joy” because I wanted to make this jumper something I could be proud of, I knew that there was no way to do this without making lots and lots of mistakes. And mistakes are sometimes uncomfortable. And many many mistakes can take me well into running mode.
After getting a little way into the knitting – and realising it had sat in the pile for a good month untouched because I wasn’t sure what to do next – I knew that I needed to act. In this case staging a coup meant looking at all the things I was doing instead of the cardigan and getting rid of them. It was clear that the solution boiled down to some monogamy. I needed nowhere else to turn in my time of need.
No sweet little Pebble vest calling to me with its ease, constancy and guarantee of a good result.** No brand new, me-designed sweater for the girlchild which I had swatched for in a brilliant blue. No other options. That way the only option available to me – as I would still have to knit – would be to get on and do the colourwork. Sometimes that would mean I would have to sit with the discomfort of not knowing what to do and not knowing what was right. Because I was monogamous. Take that you runner you! You have nowhere to hide.
After posting the instagram picture (from the start of this post) where I thought I was nearly finished, I realised it still didn’t sit right and that I would have to rip it out again. I ripped the yoke three more times after that last photo; at least five times in total. Then I did the neck and got that wrong. And then ripped it and did it again.
This is not the way I normally work. I would rip once and then walk away for a while to recoup. Monogamy was totally working for me. I had to think about the problem rather than avoid it. I had to try different options and step into the unknown*** with no guarantee it would work. I had to be brave. And tenacious. And all the other words you don’t get to be if you are busy running and being happy.
And I feel pretty proud. I’m thinking I might try monogamy again the next time I really want to achieve something difficult.
A week or so ago my monogamy finished (read: was tossed aside with joy) and I am yet to finish the sweater. But I didn’t start anything else until the hard part was done. All that is left to do is the steek and the bands. And they are purely technical. No hard decisions left. Just a requirement for a bit of time and space and light, which are currently in short supply as we are between countries and campsites. When it is done, I’ll get back to you with a little steeking post.
In the mean time – do you feel like telling me about how many projects you have on the go? Or are you a one project kind of gal? Ever tried monogamy?
* Hence why it is a useful thing to understand if you are about to give birth to a baby.
** I had actually just started one, that I then pulled out – only 3 inches or so – just so it couldn’t sing it’s siren song to me.
*** Indianna Jones style obviously.