Creative Outlets: Hallowe’en!

The leaves are falling, a nip is in the air, frost greets us in the mornings and the countdown to Hallowe’en has begun.

Whatever anyone’s personal view of Hallowe’en might be, it has become an excellent opportunity to express creativity. Whether through costumes, decorations or parties I love to see people’s creativity shine at this time of year.

When my kids were small, I liked to make them costumes for Hallowe’en. Of course in our region, it’s very cold on Hallowe’en. So their costumes needed to be inherently warm or fit over a winter coat. As a performer and costume designer, I love any excuse to dress up in a costume. In a world that can be heavy and demanding, I firmly believe that we should take every appropriate opportunity we can to have some silly and lighthearted fun.

You don’t have to be able to sew to come up with a costume. Sure, if you want something elaborate, it helps. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. It does help to give yourself a bit of time to come up with something. What you really need is a sense of humour and some creativity.

The thrift shop is a fantastic place to start.

  1. It’s best to make a few trips. The cool thing about thrift shops is that the stuff there is constantly changing.
  2. Watch for anything unusual. Perhaps a hat, a coat in an out of the ordinary colour, something that you could use as a prop to imply a character…
  3. Don’t let it pass you by! Because thrift shops have a quick turnover, if you see something unusual or cool, buy it! Go with cash and be prepared to grab the items that make you stop in your tracks. You might not use them this year, but if you leave them and think they’ll be there when you go back, you will be disappointed. If you think it’s cool for a potential costume, someone else likely will too.
  4. Let the unusual get your creative juices flowing. You need to give yourself permission to get out of your normal head space in regard to the clothes you see at the thrift shop.
  5. Think outside the box. A giant coat that would fit more than one of you might be worn over a backpack to create the impression of a hunchback. A bright red child’s coat might need some small black pompoms hot glued on it. Pair it with black pants or leggings and a black toque (beanie for non-Canadians) and you have a Ladybug costume.
  6. Don’t be afraid to cut things up. Don’t be afraid to reimagine what you see. A coat with a wild looking lining? Turn it inside out and be a Wild Thing!

Sometimes it’s worth it to purchase an inspiration piece.

  1. An inspiration piece in this context is something that evokes a character or an era.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of a hat. A hat can transform normal clothes into a costume. Put on a suit you already own and add a fedora, a pencil thin mustache and a cane… Presto, you are suddenly from a whole other era. A distressed bowler hat? Get some grubby old work clothes in shades of brown and suddenly you might be a railway labourer from the 1880’s. A cowboy hat, a hard hat, a helmet, a bee keeper’s veil, a welder’s cap, a newsboy cap… you get the idea.
  3. Props can also give the impression of a character. They can inspire a complete outfit. Of course if you have to carry that prop around in your hands it will make it difficult to do other things. Oh, and I don’t recommend using a real Katana as a prop. Most venues frown on patrons carrying edged weapons in their establishments. And children with weapons…. hmmm… not a good idea. Costume shops often carry plastic swords and other interesting items that can act as your inspiration for a costume.
  4. A wig can transform you. Enough said.
  5. If you have any consignment shops in your area, these are another great place to look for inspiration pieces. You may have to pay up a little for an inspiration piece. However, it may mean that you can pull the rest of the costume together with items you already own.

Recycle, Repurpose and all that Jazz…

  1. It’s amazing what you can do with some cardboard, tape and spray paint.
  2. Throughout the year, keep an eye out for unusual items that could be used to make a costume. Old bleach jugs with the ends cut out could become the arms of a space suit. They can even fit over the sleeves of a winter coat you picked up at the thrift shop. Spray paint the whole thing silver? Tadah!
  3. Check out You-Tube videos of Cosplayers for inspiration in this regard. Cosplayers are genius when it comes to transforming what most people consider garbage/recycling into brilliant costumes. Use the words  “hacks” in your search. That will generally bring up cool work-arounds and creative (and inexpensive) suggestions. If you are not familiar with Cosplay, be prepared to see pictures of people dressed up as cartoon or video game characters. Many of the female costumes are based on Anime and can be rather revealing. So, your search will bring up these images. If you are looking for ideas for little kids, maybe do that search after they go to bed.

Make it up…

A little makeup goes a long way to imply your character. There are lots of costume make-up tutorials on You Tube.

Put it all together and you’ll be on your way in a great costume. And bottom line, it’s about giving yourself permission to be playful in a world that generally expects us to be anything but. Have fun!

Happy Making!

 

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Let’s Show Designers Some Love!

Designing is both a skill and a creative art form. Whether the designer’s work results in a building, a chair, a garden or a garment it’s important that we respect it. Not just anyone can create a design. Today I want to celebrate designers.

Designing requires more than just coming up with a cool, innovative or creative idea. It takes a lot of trouble shooting, math, trial and error, frustration and perseverance. There are probably a zillion design ideas that will never see the light of day. And it’s because it’s a lot of work to take it from idea to item.

Truly original ideas are very rare.

Generally, anything that is designed is going to have similarities to existing items. If we focus on knitting patterns as our example (since that’s my daily focus) let’s face it, a cardigan or a sock have to be a certain way or they won’t function as required. So you have your basic structure that immediately limits how creative you can get. If it isn’t essentially a tube with a 90 degree turn in it and one closed end, it won’t be a sock. (I know, you can have a tube sock without a heel… you get my drift, though.) Obviously, there’s a lot that a designer can come up with to create a beautiful sock that is different than others. That’s where the talent, vision, skill and perseverance come in!

Recently I started looking for local knitting designers. I want to support them by selling their patterns in my store. So far I have purchased patterns from Raquel Oliveira of Squamish, BC and Knox Mountain Knit Co. from Kelowna, BC. Their designs are lovely. I encourage you to check them out on Ravelry or come and see them in my store.

Raquel Oliveira

© Knit It Out

Joy     Cocoon     Shannon     Stawamus

Knox Mountain Knit Co.

© Knox Mountain Knit Co.

Cedar Creek Cowl     Biggie Hat     Granby Mitts     Fintry

I have personally been inching away at a cardigan design for small children using a particular construction technique. After spending months of all my spare time, (obsessively) I have one size completed (using chunky weight yarn). I used three different yarns respectively, abandoned one of them, knit and frogged many, many times. I tested the pattern more than once and had another person test the pattern as well. It was revised multiple times to correct the errors we found. That was only one size. Yeah, I can “math” the others to some extent, but they still all have to be test knit to be certain that the proportions will be correct. The math in knitting is not exact. It’s a lot of work.

I already have a full time job (being a knitwear designer is not a particularly lucrative way to make a living! cough, cough… LOL) so all this happens in my down time. It takes care and focus to write a good pattern. Often when I have down time, I am too tired to have the focus needed. Often, I’ll get the bones of the design down so I can go back to it later and write it out properly. I have a collection of those, waiting to be finished. I still absolutely LOVE designing. I truly love the actual writing of the pattern every bit as much. And that (as any knitter knows) is an art form too. A well written pattern is worth a thousand poor ones. Once the actual written pattern is created, it requires photos and formatting. That takes a whole other set of skills and a particular eye.

What I’m trying to say is that designers who create beautiful patterns that we can follow to make practical and lovely items deserve our respect and support.

When you find a design you like, show that designer some love! Buy their pattern.

We can protect designers by avoiding those sites that take you down a rabbit hole for the promise of a free pattern. Those sites often don’t even own rights to the patterns they are giving away and it means that they take away from legitimate designers the means to support their creative endeavours.

Next time you are scrolling Pinterest or Ravelry take a moment to really appreciate the endless hours designers have spent turning inspiration into a tangible pattern.

Follow the designs all the way to the designer’s actual page; respect their copyright. Or purchase them from a brick-and-mortar yarn shop that purchased hard copies directly from the designer. The prices we pay for patterns are a pittance relative to what it takes to create them. If a designer is really lucky they might sell enough of each pattern design to cover the cost of producing it. There are so many designs available that competition is fierce. We need these amazing, creative individuals in our world. Let’s show them some love!

Happy Knitting!

 

Who Flipped the Switch?

Wait a minute! It was warm and now it’s cold. It’s like someone flipped a switch and the seasons are hurtling us toward winter. AAAAAACK!

I looked out the window this morning and the mountains around us are snowy. I’m not talking a wee bit of dusting at the very top, either. I’m not ready; and here it is coming up to Thanksgiving and I’m supposed to be all thankful and grateful and stuff. I’m feeling so conflicted!

Okay, so here’s me, taking some long deep breaths. After spending a couple hours between chat and phone calls to the phone company to try and sort out my account, (I won’t go into gory details. I’m sure you feel my pain.) I’m reaching to pull myself out of this not-so-thankful-and-grateful head space I have found myself in. More long deep breaths. I can do this, I know I can!

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh… thinking of beautiful new yarn; flowers; knitting projects I get to make; people I love…. Yes! it’s working!

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And you know what, I do actually love snow. I love skiing and if we have lots of snow up in the mountains it will create a good base for the ski hill. That’s a good thing too. There we go. I’m feeling a lot better already.

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It’s funny how the nature of life is that there will always be curve-balls of all different shapes and sizes coming at us, no matter who we are or what we do. And it can get you down if you let it. And some days you can roll with it and move on relatively effortlessly. Other days it’s tougher. Yet, there are always reasons to be grateful. It just takes a bit of reaching, you know? I know that I’ve got a pretty wonderful life. I really am very happy about that and I’m grateful for how tremendously blessed I am.

Chalk it up to the human condition.

At the end of the day, I guess we just need a little bit of time to wrap our brains around what’s going on, so we can adjust accordingly. Sometimes, it’s a graceful shift and sometimes it just ain’t pretty. On the days when it ain’t pretty, the challenge is to not let the stuff that has us off base spew out onto other folks who have nothing to do with what’s frustrating us. Everyone knows what it’s like. Everyone can relate. Knowing that makes it easier.

The big thing I have to remind myself on the Murphy’s Law days is that for me to wallow in a crabby mood is nothing more than self-indulgence. And the silly thing is that it doesn’t even feel good to be there. I catch myself with an internal rant going on. That doesn’t feel good either. That rant is so self-righteous. Yet it doesn’t do me any good. It just keeps me spinning around in the muck. It takes a deliberate choice to give myself a shake and reach to let that stuff go. Sometimes it takes several tries to get to where I can step out of the muck and stay out.

And it’s such a relief.

Once I settle back into my usual happy self, it’s such a huge relief. All that negative stuff is really draining.

So today, I salute everyone out there who is having a “Who Flipped the Switch” kind of day. Anyone who got thrown off balance by some stupid curve-ball that life had the gall to throw at them. I feel you! You’re not alone. This too shall pass! I know you know all that stuff. We all do. Sometimes it just helps to know we’re not alone in this messy thing we call life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Needles: Old, New, and Different

The final stage of Tour-de-sock features a very unusual sock pattern by Kirsten Hall called Sidetracked. I am determined to complete this round, despite my flagging motivation. I have tried a number of different needle combinations hoping to stumble on the ideal combination. I’ve tried some old, some new and some very different.

To put it into perspective, here’s a picture of this round’s socks.

 

The pattern dropped last Saturday at 4:00 am, my local time. I was printing off the pattern and had my first sock underway by 4:20. We planned a trip to visit grandchildren for the long weekend. I was determined to get as much done as possible before we hit the road around 11:00 am. I was grateful that the construction, although strange, was actually pretty fun.

I had the sock on a 60cm circular needle to start and worked the 12 active stitches with a DPN. It was awkward. I ended up with one circular and 4 DPN’s at one point. It was a very strong reminder of why I really prefer not to knit with DPN’s. It’s so easy to drop stitches off them. You don’t want to drop stitches on this pattern! By 4pm, I was feeling pretty done. With one sock barely half way done, I set the project aside and watched the scenery go by until we arrived.

I really struggled to determine how far to knit before beginning the heel and I have to say that I should have stopped a full wrap earlier than I did… which I couldn’t have known until after the heel was complete. By then, there was absolutely no way I was frogging anything. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take the wind out of my sails. They’ll take longer to finish but they’ll fit my very tall son when they are done.

 

I came home to a big pile of work. I’ve been plugging away in the evenings. I still haven’t finished the first one. I’m ready to begin the cuff, so I’m on the home stretch and the second sock will go easier since I’ll know what to expect. I have until Thursday at 10:00 am to finish.

So yesterday, I was feeling pretty desperate to come up with some way to infuse some fun back into this project. I had a shipment of needles come in and in that order were 25cm circular needles. My supplier was a bit short on numbers and there was one lonely 2.25mm needle among them. That’s the size I’m using for these socks. I’ve had customers tell me that these teenie tiny circulars are God’s gift to sock knitters. (I wasn’t convinced.) What with all the new stock, I had to rearrange the wall in the store to accommodate all the new stuff. In the process I stumbled on the sets of curved DPN’s I had all but forgot I brought in. I figured I’d try these out too.

I pulled out the Neko curved DPN’s. I was immediately disappointed. They are plastic. Sigh. So bendy! I am not crazy about bendy needles. I took a deep breath. I was determined to give them a fair shake despite my initial feeling. I looked at my Sidetracked sock-to-be: didn’t even pick it up. My daughter had requested a pair of socks out of some Lana Grossa Scandic yarn and I had that ball handy. I figured I’d cast one on to try the bendy needles out. These needles look like someone took their DPN’s and tried to bend them to 90 degrees. They are definitely different.

I began my Twisted German cast on, over two of the three needles; I usually cast on over two needles. It was awkward, although in all fairness, it takes getting used to something that is this unusual. By the time I had 15 or 20 stitches cast on, it got easier. It was challenging to get started on these. I found that no matter what I did I kept jabbing myself in the palms of my hands with one end or another. I’ve been knitting long enough to know that the first few rounds are always a bit of a pain and then it’s fine after that. So I continued. My yarn kept getting caught on one of the ends. I really don’t like bendy needles and found that the flexibility of these really irritated me. I assume that the point of these needles is to be an improvement on DPN’s. I’m not convinced. But bear in mind that I abandoned DPN’s for sock knitting a long time ago in favour of circulars. I got about 4 rounds of twisted rib knitted and I had to set it aside. I tried having the tips of the passive needle above the active needle, then below; I tried flipping it toward the back. I don’t know. I didn’t see any videos with continental knitting on curved DPN’s. Perhaps that’s the issue. I will pick it up again after the Tour is finished and see if they’ll grow on me. For now, the jury is out on these.

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I then picked up the Knitter’s Pride Dreamz 25cm circular and transfered my Sidetracked sock onto it. The sock fits nicely. The needle tips are short. I thought they’d put up resistance as I’d knit with them because the cord is so short, but honestly I didn’t notice once I started to knit. This needle is a huge improvement over what I was doing. Heavens! What a relief. I like a longer needle tip so I can use my pinkies to anchor my movements against the needles. These tips are too small to do that without scootching my fingers close together. That will take a bit of getting used to. But you know,  I was quite surprised, but I really do like these… a lot. The only downside is that they’re too small to try the sock on, unless you were to use two of them.

Happy Knitting!

A Knitter Was Born

In the mid 1970’s, my parents got a call from Mom’s cousin, my Tante Gertrud. It seemed their son, Peter, was bored in school and was inclined toward mischief. Well, was it any surprise (cough, cough) that my parents and Peter’s parents decided that I would be the one from our family to send off to Germany to take Peter’s place while Peter came and took my place here in Canada? We were to spend a year away, going to school in each others’ countries. I was thrilled and beyond excited at the opportunity.

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Photo by Brodie Vissers from Burst 

I didn’t speak German at the time. That having been said, up until my sister’s first day of school, our family only spoke German at home. When she came home from school, distraught, Dad (being an all-or-nothing kind of guy) decided that we would no longer speak any German at home. After all, we were in Canada and English was the language in our province. I was just beginning to speak when this edict came down. I was primed to speak German and then “poof” everyone switched to English. When I was ready to go to Germany at 11 years old, I could count to ten and I knew how to say “Gummistiefel” (gum boots) and “Leberwurst” (liver sausage). You know, just the really important words.

What a tremendous opportunity! We headed out in August, and before I knew it I was in school. Classes began much earlier in the morning than I was accustomed to. But we were finished by mid day when we would go home. The exception was for physical education, which we would do one afternoon per week. Our big meal was at mid-day. After we ate, we’d have a short siesta and then it was homework time.

The girls took sewing classes during school hours.

We were expected to take measurements and design patterns that we would then sew. The teacher would guide us as to the proportions of the various pattern pieces. That was grade 6! We were also expected to join a “Handarbeit” club. This was a club where we learned knitting, crochet, embroidery and other such needle crafts. We chose which craft we wanted to do and went to the weekly session for that particular craft. I chose knitting. My mom was a knitter but she didn’t have the patience to teach me so I was determined to embrace this opportunity.

I was excited!

I went to the first meeting and was handed a set of needles and some bright red yarn. The teacher sat with me (the only one in the group with no experience) and patiently guided me through a long-tail cast on. I cast on, and ripped it apart for the whole session. Then I went home and continued. But by the end of that day, I could do the cast on.

My aunt took me yarn shopping the next day. I was to take some time and find something that I liked to make a scarf. The scarves at the time were worn down to your knees or shins. So I wandered through the store, delighted that I had permission to touch everything. My aunt suggested I short list three yarns and then decide. Well, my three choices were cashmere, alpaca and a blend of cashmere and silk. I had no understanding of the pricing of any of the yarns, I just went for what I liked. The clerk and my aunt both had a good laugh that I already had a taste for the good stuff. I was then guided to the displays of acrylic yarns. I made a selection of a rich chestnut brown and a creamy ivory to go with it.

The following week I attended the club and when I pulled out my yarn I was admonished for my colour choice.

“What?!” Yeah. You see, in Germany at that time, if you wore a scarf, it was the way you indicated your support for a soccer team. Soccer was king. It likely still is, but I haven’t been back to Germany since the 1980’s so I couldn’t say for sure. In Bavaria, you either wore blue and white, or red and white. That was it. So my choice of brown and cream confounded my knitting compatriots. I just shrugged my shoulders and asked them who their favourite hockey team was. That was the end of the discussion. I pretended that my colours were hockey colours. Although to be honest, I had never thought about sports teams’ colours before.

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Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst 

For the following three weeks, I practiced knitting and purling on my offset 2×2 ribbed scarf. I spent a lot of time frogging. And eventually, I had an appropriately long scarf. Other kids were knitting socks with cables and lace, or cardigans with bobbles. Some were knitting doilies. We were expected to show our progress to the sewing teacher to show that we were actually doing the work. Our efforts counted toward our marks.

I don’t remember the Handarbeit teacher’s name. But I remember her face and her patient, kind voice. I remember how gentle she was as she showed me over and over what to do until I finally got it. If she was feeling exasperated with me, she never showed it. I remember her celebrating my successes with me and getting cheers out of the other kids when I got it right. That club was a foundational experience for me. She set the tone for one-on-one teaching for me. She gave me permission to be a raw beginner. And she inspired me. She told me that one day, if I just kept plugging away trying new projects, that I could knit anything that she could. I was in awe of the beautiful things she had made. Later, any time I was scared to try a new technique, I would hear her voice gently encouraging me to embrace being a beginner with this new thing.

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That year, a knitter was born.

Happy knitting

Thanks, Barbie!

When I was a kid there was no toy I loved more than my Barbie doll. And I have Barbie to thank for starting me on the path that brought me to where I am now. There are a lot of Barbie-haters out there. For the record, I never once imagined that anyone might ever have a body like a Barbie doll. That would be like thinking that if I studied hard, my head might get as big as a Chibi character’s. (Adorably cute little Japanese characters with disproportionately large heads.)

Over the years, Barbie (in all her many incarnations) was marketed creatively. They had a Barbie with every possible career going. From Pet Store Barbie to Doctor Barbie, Mattel gave girls a way to envision themselves in almost any career. And no, there was not a Dressmaker Barbie or a Yarn Shop Barbie; at least not that I know of. LOL! Barbie’s hand in my life path was a little less direct than that.

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My younger sister and I had (and still have) fantastic imaginations. We loved to play Barbies. At one time we used Touch-Lite boxes to hold the floors of a high-rise building with an elevator fashioned out of a bra box, packaging string and some pulleys we took from Dad’s shop. We actually hid it behind boxes of stock that our parents were storing in the rec room for their retail store. Friends of our parents saved their empty cigarette packages and we made furniture out of them. We cut up old clothes that were destined for the thrift shop and glued the fabric onto the cigarette pack furniture to upholster it. Some of them we painted. We made couches and chairs, coffee tables, dressers, you name it. We never asked permission to take the pulleys or the string or some other things we used… shelves for the floors and so on. So we tried to keep it secret. When Dad found it and called us over, we expected to be in trouble for “stealing” things from the shop. But he was actually impressed with our ingenuity and resourcefulness. It was definitely a team effort!

But alas, our Barbie dolls’ wardrobes were sadly limited.

image from Ashley and the Noisemakers

My dad, after saving up for two years, bought a Bernina sewing machine for Mom. It was a thing of beauty! It was in a wood veneer cabinet with drawers and fancy hardware. Looking back now, it probably wasn’t as fancy as it seemed. By today’s standards it might have been considered tacky, for that matter. But to me, back then, it was pretty glorious. And then I was told without any doubt that it was absolutely off limits to me. I was not to so much as look at it, let alone touch it… or (heaven forbid) sew with it!

Ah, but I always had a rebellious streak.

After school, there was always time before Mom and Dad came home from work. My sister and I were responsible for housework during those hours. Our siblings were older and helped in the store. And the Bernina would call out to me… like the Lorelei! “Judy… where are you? Don’t you want to sew? Don’t you want to know how I work? No one will know if you don’t tell them…”

To start with, I didn’t intend to touch the sewing machine. Honest! I was just going to look at it… maybe flip through the user’s manual. But I couldn’t stop there. I read the user’s manual from cover to cover. (Who does that, by the way?!) And then I became aware of a garbage can next to the cabinet. What do you know? There were small pieces of fabric in that garbage can. I figured, if it’s in the garbage it’s fair game. So I took every small piece of discarded fabric. I wound a piece of thread onto a small piece of paper, found a hand sewing needle and (feeling like a thief) spirited it off to my bedroom.

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I honestly meant to only just sew things by hand. I realized that my scissors were not adequate for cutting fabric. So I would sneak the scissors from the sewing room… always careful to notice just how they were laying on the desk so I could orient them exactly as I found them. I took a few pins next so I could shape the fabric around my Barbie’s body. I cut the fabric into pieces and carefully stitched them together with the needle and thread. That was when I learned about seam allowance. After hours of hand stitching and many little pricks to my fingers, my masterpiece was too small. I cried. But I learned.

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And I decided that hand sewing was for the birds!

From there I got braver. I started experimenting with the machine. Ever so careful to put everything back just as I found it. Little by little, I made clothing for Barbie. Sometimes I would have to wait because I ran out of scraps of fabric. But I stuck with it. With every top and every dress, every pair of pants or hat, I learned something new. Sewing curves onto straight lines, darts, tucks, snaps… it all started with my beloved Barbie, some curiosity and a whole lot of creativity and tenacity.

I honestly believed that Mommy didn’t know. In hindsight, she obviously did. After all, my Barbie went from having 2 outfits to a plentiful wardrobe made of fabrics that she had discarded. I mean, seriously, she had to have known. But believing she didn’t made it exciting and daring. I felt guilty, yet exhilarated at the same time. No wonder I loved to sew so much!

I’m so deeply grateful that my mother allowed me to believe that I was sewing in secret; that she allowed me to embark on my journey of discovery and follow my sparks of interest and inspiration. And I’m so grateful that I had that Barbie doll… and that my parents had refused to spend money on clothing for her!

Thanks, Barbie! And even more, thanks Mom!

Image from here

On Competition: A Double Edged Sword

Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition.

Tour-de-Sock is well underway. Stage Two officially began on Wednesday at 10:00 am my local time. I completed my stage two socks in the wee hours of the morning today. Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition. I have always had a healthy dose of competitive spirit. Sometimes — a lot of times — that’s a really good thing. It can be an excellent motivator. Sometimes it can be a bit of a double edged sword; sometimes it can be downright destructive.

As a kid growing up in a German immigrant family, the expectation for excellence was a visceral thing. The desire and need to impress my parents and teachers was all consuming. Not measuring up was simply not an option. The trouble was that I never actually knew what I was trying to measure up to. So I learned to shake hands with my two best friends: Perfectionism and Competitiveness. Only what I didn’t realize was that they were actually, what is that word… frienemies?

As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible.

As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible. The drive to be best was encouraged without moderation. But it’s an empty quest. That set the stage for my whole life. Am I good at doing stuff? You bet! I’m very good at what I do. And there came a point in my life when I began to realize that this competitive drive was more than just a good “work ethic”. It became clear that it was a set up; it was a form of programming that kept me believing that no matter what, I would never be enough. I’d never be fast enough, thorough enough, efficient enough, skilled enough… or any number of other fill-in-the-blank enoughs too numerous to mention. Having that message running through your neuro-pathways in a never ending loop self deprecation. YUCK!

Many years ago I read a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruis. One of the “agreements” that he speaks of is to always do your best. And it’s how he defines “best” that really helped me to re-frame this perfectionist subroutine in my psyche. Your best, is whatever your best is in that moment in time. For instance, if I had a great sleep and my perfect breakfast and I’m feeling fantastic, my best will be sparkly and impressive. However, if I have the flu, my best won’t compare very well.

When my kids were small, I wrestled with just how much I should encourage competition. A lot of the time, I’d simply avoid dealing with it because I simply didn’t know what constituted a healthy level.

Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress

Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress, I have come to understand that healthy competition is a great way to motivate growth and skill development. And IMHO, the best form of competition is when I deliberately compete with myself. I want to see how much I can improve my performance over the last time I checked it against a known benchmark. It’s with this attitude that I approach Tour-de-sock.

Each person competing has their own goal as to what they hope to get out of the TDS experience. I don’t know what all the other people’s goals are. Some, clearly want to be the fastest and take that first place spot. Some just want to knit socks and experience some camaraderie while they do. Others want to support the charity, Doctors Without Borders. Some want to use each stage of the competition to challenge their personal skill level, and in that perhaps learn some new techniques.

I am part of a team

I am part of a team; our team is pretty laid back and I like it that way. There is no expectation that we should all be super-knitters. The expectation is that we will each allow the TDS experience to be a good one: one that fills whatever it is we would like it to fill. So if that means that one of us would like to connect with other knitters who like to knit socks and don’t care whether they finish any of the socks within the cut-off period, that’s perfect. I want to be a team member who appreciates their presence for exactly what it is. This year, I want to push myself to see what I’m capable of (within reason). But I certainly don’t expect anyone else to share my specific goal. I just want us all to be able to feel the joy that knitting brings us.