On beginning

Now that the wedding shawl project is finished, it is time to start something new. Sometimes this requires encouraging some creative inspiration; by leafing through pattern books and back  issues of Spin-Off and Handwoven, or digging through the yarn stash and piling skeins and cones in different combinations, waiting for colors and textures to come together and suggest something. Usually, however, it is simply a matter of turning to the next item in the “things I have been trying to find time to make” list. 

In The View From Saturday, by E. L. Konigsburg, a boy named Noah is being taught how to do calligraphic writing by an elderly woman named Tillie. She teaches him that filling the pen with ink properly involves six separate steps. Noah objects that six steps is a lot to do before you can begin writing. Tillie responds that the six steps to fill the pen ARE the beginning of writing.

It is easy to get impatient with, or bogged down in the preparation, when you are anxious to see a woven or knitted project begin to take shape. It helps to regard the preparatory steps as the actual beginning. Getting a warp measured out, threaded on, and tied up could be considered preparation for weaving. However if you regard it as part of the weaving process, your project is half finished by the time you throw the first shuttle. Knitting a test swatch to check the gauge is a tedious step that it is always tempting to omit, but it is faster and less frustrating than ripping out the first four inches of a sweater because it is turning out to be much larger or smaller than expected. Knitting a swatch and checking the gauge should really be a step in the process, as necessary as assembling the yarn and needles.

Several projects are begging to be undertaken, and surfaces are littered with skeins of wool or colorful clusters of cones of cotton warp, bits of paper with scribbled calculations, and pattern books sprouting clumps of page markers. Rifling through the various caches of “UFOs” (unfinished objects) has yielded one or two that are ripe for finishing and not yet gone by into “what was I thinking when I started that?” (or worse, “what was that supposed to be?”). One or two of the resulting projects may end up as false starts, but there is no doubt that something has begun …

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