Saturday, March 30, 2013

lessons from a traffic report

So a while back I was listening to a traffic report. Yes, I know my city and the streets he's discussing. But for the life of me, I am having trouble processing what's he's saying . . . because he's saying it too quickly. I think I was trying to visualize the intersection, and by the time I got close, I'd have lost the information. (Maybe the visualization was happening in the right brain, but the language required me to go to the left, and I was unable to do the to and fro as quickly as the information was coming.)

So then I wondered Has anyone called in and asked him to go more slowly? Am I the only one?

And then the light bulb went off!!!

At moments when I am teaching, especially at the end of class, I occasionally see blank stares after an instruction. With apologies that always accompany the request, I am then asked to repeat what we all know is a simple instruction. I will do so, often saying That's okay: at the end of a class, I say left hand and you hear yarnover (which sounds silly but is actually true).

But the day of the traffic report I then realized that my students were having the same experience! Even though I am very precise in my language, and I try my best to be clear, I am--at this moment in class--speaking too quickly. My students are hearing the language but also trying to establish the visual. I need to give them more time to do so.

So in my last two teaching venues, I have tried to keep this in mind. And I really do believe that the classes at Rumpelstiltskin Yarns (Sayville, NY) and Creative Yarns (Macon, GA) were the best. I do love all my classes and all my students, but I do believe there was a perceptible difference, and I think it was because I deliberately slowed down towards the end of class.

For those who have never taken one (and I do suspect I am preaching to the choir here), knitting classes are great fun, and time passes very quickly, but at the end you are worn out! Who knew it could take this much energy!? But if you have this reaction, you have likely learned a lot and know it was all soooooo worth it!

Speaking of classes, I am often asked if I will be in Ohio, NY, Florida . . . anytime soon. That information is on my website: under SCHEDULE.

And speaking of my schedule, I am really excited about an upcoming venue.

In May, I will be teaching at the Grand Hotel (from the movie of the same name) on Mackinac Island (northern MI for those who don't know). What a gorgeous venue! Who wouldn't want to get inside this place?

But you know who would very much like to do so? A girl who went to high school just north of there (Sault Ste Marie, ON CA), who went to Mackinac Island on dates and for high school graduation, who stared longingly at this landmark hotel, who thought that ever getting inside was unattainable. And that would be me!

Just goes to show you, as they say about knitting and baseball and all things wonderful: you never know!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

launch day!

Today is a day of celebration for me. It's the day my last, and most anticipated (at least by me), and most comprehensive book launches.

So how can I say those things?

last book
I know myself to be primarily motivated by teaching. Believe it or not, I never set out to write pattern books : I set out to teach, and the patterns were merely support for that. (I know that's a rather odd thing to hear when I am probably most known for a single pattern: The Einstein Coat. But teaching you to knit it was actually my primary goal.)

Even in Sally Melville Styles (my first book, on using up leftovers), I did not intend to include patterns. The garments I made to support the principles I was teaching were meant as illustrations: I was actually surprised when my editor suggested we publish them!

So it's in this book that I teach pretty much everything I know about producing great garments. I've dumped my knitting brain on the page and don't think I have anything else to teach.

 By the way, that same editor asked me "how many books I had" in me. I answered "I think seven," At the time, I had no idea where that number came from. It just sounded good (and isn't usually considered a lucky number?)

This book is number seven!

most-anticipated book
This is the book I've always wanted to write.

My knitting career started with this material. In the late 1970's, I wrote a 100-page manual (and called it Advanced Knitting Design). I taught it at my local yarn shop, my students and I established what was (at the time) the largest knitters' guild in Canada, we brought in teachers from abroad, those teachers pushed me out onto the international stage . . . and the rest is my professional life.

 It feels wonderful to offer this book, taking me back to my roots and allowing me to say thank you to the craft I love and that has given me the life I have.

This is where I put all the tools I have into your hands.

This is where you will learn skills that will keep your whole brain alive and healthy.

This is where you will find everything I can offer to make you a fully-empowered knitter!

It is based upon the premise that everyone one of us should be able to do the following:
  • go to our closet, 
  • find a garment we love but did not knit, 
  • measure it,
  • draft it,
  • knit it, 
  • finish it,
  • wear it with pride,
  • honour our craft!
To finish, here is my own example of how you might use the book.

I have a black vest I've worn forever and ever. Very simple, probably 20 years old. I have often told myself that I should knit it. And so I finally did--a simple round-necked vest, with deep set-in-sleeve armholes, with straight-sides . . . and with a bit of an edge in its unexpected use of zippers.

I will call it Zip-Study Vest, and the pattern itself will appear on Ravelry some day.

But in the meantime, the book offers you all the tools you need to do this for yourself. When you do this, the result really can--and might--be this simple. But these are the garments that are the staples of our wardrobe and that we wear day in and out.

This is how I work, and this is what the book offers you. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

balance through change

This should have been posted Feb 23: I was just too busy to get to it!
Also a warning: while I do come around to knitting in the end, this is more personal than usual.

You've heard all that good stuff: change is constant, life is change, the more things change the more they stay the same, etc. But no matter how much we are supposed to embrace it, change is rattling!

I am facing a big change. It's a change I chose, it's a change I have looked forward to, it's a change I am to be envied for. So why, for the past week while I've been packing up everything I own, have I felt grief-stricken and profoundly disturbed?

I probably need to re-learn and re-confirm some lessons I learned long ago.

lesson one
 Many years ago, something wonderful happened to my son: he won what seemed at the time a major piano competition, and he was only 12. We were so very excited for him,  . . . but it had a terrible outcome for us! He was much younger than the other competitors, but we were encouraged to allow him to stay in a university residence with the others . . .  and where we were told there would be adult supervision. But there was none--other than the lovely, teenaged, female competitors who kindly took him under their wing (which he adored). 

So this kid came home telling us that we couldn't tell him what to do anymore! He had designated himself an adult overnight (after all, he had lived like one for 4 days), and we plunged headlong and without warning into . . . unpleasantness.

The lesson from that experience was that no matter how good something seems, there's always a down side to it. 

lesson two
 And the obvious corollary would be that no matter how bad something seems, there's a lesson to be learned that will make sense of it.

lesson three
 And if nothing is ever wholly good or wholly bad, then nothing should be able to shake our foundations too terribly much.

This last lesson was sorely tested 4 years later when a much bigger change assaulted me and my 16-yr-old son and 14-yr-old daughter: my husband and their father died. Staying balanced through that was very hard but necessary. (After all, I had two teenagers at home!). 

lesson four
 From it I learned another lesson for survival-through-change. Find out what you believe in, and keep a steady grip on that.

No matter what storm is going on around us, we need to find what gives us meaning and hang on for dear life. I did that after my husband died, I did that after the heartbreak of my professional life (when my relationship with XRX ended), and I've done that through subsequent difficulties.

and now . . .
 So now a lovely change looms: I am leaving my condo to move into a house I have bought with my daughter and her (builder) husband. In 4 days I will move into their part of the house while they build an apartment for me; when it's done, I'll move into it; then after their part of the house is renovated they'll move in. We should all be enjoying the yard and pool by mid-summer.

So what's to mourn? In the end, it'll be wonderful! But it all came a little too early. (I guess that's the other thing about change: we can't always pick its timing?) I am not ready to leave my space and neighbourhood, so I am feeling a little sad as I pack.

lesson five
 Maybe there's the final lesson: it's okay to grieve. Despite all the comfort we can find from those other lessons, it's still okay to feel sad. If we swallow what ails us, doesn't that make us sick? And if I don't acknowledge my sadness, then I won't go looking for these lessons I've learned that help me get through it!

This whole thing is reminding me of mistakes in knitting.

    Acknowledge the mistake.
    Feel sad for a bit.
    Learn the skill needed to fix it.
    Fix it . . . and create something wonderful!
    Start a new project!