| I am one of those people who tends to live life in stages, at least when it comes to my leisure time activities or spurts of creativity. You have heard of Picasso's blue period? I had one of those, although it was not so much that I painted with blue as it was that I felt blue, which is a colorful euphemism for depressed. Blue period sounds so much better than depressed period though, don't you think? Anyway, I have had all sorts of stages in my life where I focused on one activity or another or decided to learn something entirely new. Sometimes I return to a particular activity after an extended period of time during which I have ignored it altogether; this is the case with knitting and crocheting.
I confess that I was never a really rabid participant in the yarn arts, I learned how to do it and made quite a few afghans and scarves and hats at one time using the most basic of stitches, but I never got into it with any depth or reached any level that could be considered expertise; I just kind of dabbled. This time I decided that I would make it more of a challenge and learn some more complex stitches and techniques; in retrospect, I should have quit while I was ahead.
Historically, I have been pretty good with all kinds of directions, I tend to pay attention to detail and am pretty thorough in most things that I do. I'm a very good seamstress and have no difficulty with even the most complex sewing patterns and directions, and I'm very good at reading blueprints and drafts. I spent years in the Army so I can handle acronyms and was trained in cryptanalysis. With all this in mind, I had trouble understanding why I was driven to crazy frustration by a book full of knitting and crocheting patterns.
To begin with, I absolutely despised the way that crochet and knitting patterns are written. Even with a reference guide I found myself wondering what the heck they are talking about half the time. I started with knitting, which I quickly abandoned since I am surrounded by distractions and I found that I lost track of where I was and picked up and lost stitches and ended up with no idea where they went to or where they came from. I decided to stick with crocheting, which could be unraveled and redone with relative ease. Still, the directions were ridiculous. Since I had learned how to crochet late in life and in a hands-on kind of way, I had never really looked at directions before, so it was all kind of new to me. No one I knew crocheted or knitted when I was a kid growing up in California; there was not a lot of call for things made out of wool. Consequently, this was all new territory for me.
I started out assuming that things in parentheses are done first, like algebra. It seemed like a safe bet. That worked out alright, but I still found myself confused a lot. I would occasionally ask my mother for help understanding what was going on, and she seemed to know what she was doing, but not enough to clarify things. She told me that if she were doing it instead of me, she wouldn't have any problem. She told me that about most things. I told her that if she were doing it instead of me, I wouldn't have any problem.
My son, Chuck, came upon me at one point when I was insulting the person who wrote the pattern, her ancestors, and her pets and cursing all her future progeny for 100 generations. He found it all terribly amusing.
“Mom,” he said, “take it easy. It's crocheting, you're not defusing a bomb.”
I pointed out to him that if I were defusing a bomb it would be a piece of cake, the directions would tell me in plain English to cut the green wire and then the red wire. If I had to defuse a bomb with these directions it would be, 'using the green wire, ch 3, dc in the third wire from the last dc, ch2, dc cluster, (sc in the red wire, 2dc, ch5, tr cluster) twice, slip st in the green dc, finish off. We'd all be dead before I figured out what to do.
This all started when a friend of mine, whom I had taught the most basic of crochet stitches, decided that she wanted to do something more complicated and mistakenly assumed that I would be able to figure out the directions and teach her how to do them. I think that she may have overestimated my abilities somewhat. Maybe a lot. I improved, albeit slowly, but I was a long way from making anything that would impress someone who was not even more inept than I was.
Unfortunately, I am one of those people who refuses to back down from a learning challenge, so I continued to grind along at a snail's pace, determined not to be beaten by something that lots of people seem to be able to do without pulling out their hair, putting the skein of yarn down the garbage disposal, or driving a bamboo crochet hook through their own hearts. In the end things happened the way they usually do I improved vastly with practice. Now I am considered a highly skilled individual with either a crochet hook or a knitting needle, which just goes to prove that practice does indeed make perfect, or at least, a whole lot better than when we started out.