Okay, a few words are necessary here: Project Unstick turned up a very old friend in a bag of stuffies in the basement. Froschi was a gift from a friend – she sewed him for me for my confirmation, when we were both in Grade 7. I didn’t even know I still had him! Steve was pleased to meet one of his forerunners.
Project Unstick advanced to the coat closet yesterday. And in amongst the random mess of mittens, scarves, sun hats, broken umbrellas, and dozens of mismatched stretchy gloves that were crammed into the shelf above the coat rack, I found a pair of slippers I knitted a few years ago. Unfortunately, something got into the stuff and chewed holes into the slippers, so they’re kind of useless now.
However, they inspired me to dig up the blog post I wrote about knitting them, just a few weeks after I first started blogging. And re-reading it, I thought it’d be worth re-posting. Even though the slippers can’t be worn any more, the insight I got from the process of making them is still, dare I say, kind of profound-ish. Here it is:
27 August 2010
It’s raining today. And I’ve got a rotten head cold. So, instead of doing the headless-chicken impression that I had planned on for today (a.k.a. cleaning the house), I’m just going to do not-much-of-anything. I pulled out my knitting again, because to me, knitting is a bit of a not-much-of-anything activity. Stitch after stitch after stitch, bit by bit – it’s a very inefficient way to produce clothing. But as a meditation technique it has a lot going for it.
Here’s a project I’ve had on the needles for some time. It’s meant to be a pair of slippers when it’s finished. A number of simple squares in garter stitch, attached to each other, rather like a scarf with a couple of extra pieces sticking out the sides. Then there’s supposed to be some rather complicated bit of folding-and-sewing trickery, attaching the corner of square number one to the edge of square number three-and-a-half and so on, and you’re meant to end up with something that keeps your toes toasty.
The only problem is that I’ve lost the pattern. I found it in a library book, and copied it out by hand on a piece of paper – I even drew the picture of how it’s supposed to look, and coloured it in with felt pens. I returned the book, knitted the first slipper (but didn’t sew it together yet) – and then lost the paper. It just went AWOL. And for the life of me I can’t remember what the book was called. So I know how to knit the piece – I can just follow the pattern of the first one – but I have no idea how it’s meant to be finished any more.
A lost pattern. But the project is still going. And working on it like that, without knowing if I’ll ever be able to really finish it, rather emphasises the zen aspect of the whole experience. I’m knitting for the sake of knitting, not for the sake of having finished slippers to wear at the end. It’s quite a useful discipline.
Isn’t it also rather like life, in some ways? We’re doing things a certain way because once, we had a pattern for it, we had a goal. Now the pattern is lost, but we still carry on doing it the same way, because now the aim of doing it has changed. Now I knit because I enjoy the sensation of the yarn sliding through my fingers, the slow rhythm of the needles poking, looping, clicking, poking again.
Actually, in the back of my mind, I still hope, faintly, that I’ll find that book again. Or that someone will know the pattern, and can tell me. Or that, in experimenting with the finished pieces, I’ll remember how it was supposed to go. So in working on that piece of knitting, I work on hope. Not anticipation – just a vague thought that maybe I’ll be able to finish this after all. But I won’t worry about it now. For now, I’ll just stitch. Bit by bit. Whenever I feel like it, or I have a head cold.
Life, the universe, lost patterns, and hope. I’ll let you know if the slippers ever get finished.
The slippers did get finished, thanks to a friend who commented on the post with a link to a pattern (here); and I wrote another post about that, too (“Loose Ends”, here). I didn’t wear the slippers much, but I do hope the moths or whatever it was that made the holes enjoyed their snack.
And now I want to sit down and knit some more… Maybe another pair of slippers? Or I could finally finish the scarf or the pair of socks I’ve had on the needles for a while. Not as long as the nine-year-sweater, though – but that one is a story for another rainy day.
Life, the Universe, and the Philosophy of Lost Patterns. Still something to be said for that.
…has reached the kitchen food cupboards, forcing me to cook and eat four-year-old packets of chocolate pudding and five-year-old jars of home-canned pears. Can’t just throw it away, can I? (Well, yes, I can, and do, if it’s stale or otherwise unappetising, but this stuff still tastes good. Properly preserved food can actually last a remarkably long time. And I was raised by war-generation Germans who taught me that wasting food is a sin.) But I also don’t want to stick it back in the cupboard. So I still have a collection of food out on the counter that I’m going to either use up in the next few days or finally chuck out.
It’s actually not that big a collection, considering – especially compared to the vast total quantities of food that I had piled all over the counters. It reminded me of the Hungry Planet project, where researchers took photos in different countries of what one family eats in one week. My collection is several month’s worth of non-perishables, not just one week’s, but still, looking at it all made me feel very fortunate and thankful.
So I guess today I’ll be eating sushi (rice, seaweed, and a tube of wasabi all coming under the “past their best-by date” heading), and perhaps a pot of chicken noodle soup to get rid of that box of capellini noodles. If nothing else, this is making me eat something other than the same-old same-old.
Life, the Universe, and Everything in the Kitchen Cupboard. Project Unstick is having unforeseen side effects.
“You have to unstick your life before you can write.”
This piece of wisdom was passed on to me by one of my writer friends early in November, when I was whining about how I had a hard time diving into NaNoWriMo because there was so much other things I needed to do first. “Unstick your life” – that phrase has, ahem, stuck with me ever since.
And I realised that one of the major sticking points in my life is the stuff. You know, the stuff all over my house, in cupboards and drawers and closets, on coat hooks and shelves, piled in corners and in the garage. The stuff that I was going to deal with right after I finished grad school. Yeah. Haha, never happened.
But I recently turned 50, and one day it dawned on me that that milestone was a really good time to unstick my life – in other words, to tackle the stuff. So far, I’ve progressed as far as the second bathroom, and as per usual, it’s all taking a lot longer than I figured. But it’s moving along, so that’s all good.
So here, for your delectation, is a brief and concise Ode to Stuff. In haiku, no less.
Ode to Stuff
Choices that have to be made.
Do you stay or go?
Life, the Universe, and an Unsticking Endeavour. We’ll see where it goes.