Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I'm doing it all wrong

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly."

This has been a mantra of mine for a long time, ever since I read it...somewhere...and I'm reminding myself of it today. Because yesterday, I learned that I was spinning badly. I'm doing it all wrong. And it's the lesson I expected to learn -- I am self-taught after all, and I'm not usually big on autodidacticism, I think it leads to bad habits and stunted skills. So I wasn't shocked and offended or anything, but even still it was a bit of a tough pill to swallow.

It's hard to learn new things at any stage, but when you're a child, there are so few things you know, and even fewer that you know well, so it's not quite as much of a risk to the ego to try doing something new. As we grow older, though, we learn what it feels like to master skills, learning sets, facts, and paradigms. We put it all on the line when we try -- and risk failing at -- something new. It takes, I think, a greater deal of bravery to try something new the older you get. It's why some people simply stop trying new things.

The rewards are tremendous, though. Today, I feel that childlike sense of possibility and confidence, the voice that says, I can't do this, but I'll practice, and then I'll be good! And that feeling is why some other people keep trying new things. When I was little, my mom expressed admiration for an 80-year old friend of hers. For her 80th birthday, this friend asked for an 8-volume set of the history of China. Because she didn't know anything at all about China, and wanted to learn. I was kind of inspired then, and I continue to be now.

The fact that I clearly have so much to learn, more than I thought I did going into this, is good news in one way though. These classes are pricey. They're the perfectly correct price, given that they're comprehensive, thorough lessons taught by a highly skilled instructor, but it's a chunk out of my budget to be taking them, which is one of the reasons I waited this long to sign up. So the good news is this -- since I have so very much to learn, I am definitely getting my money's worth.


Mama Stone said...

I, too, learned I was knitting 'wrong' about a month ago. Apparently I was twisting all my stitches. I thought that's the way they were supposed to be. Kind of embarrassing, really. But again, I was self taught. Nobody had told me otherwise. Luckily, it was an easy fix, and now I do it both better and faster :) Hopefully the new method of spinning you learn will also increase your production time :) Good luck!

Christa Giles said...

For someone who sells as much handspun as you do (I get to watch it fly out the door almost every shift I'm on)... I don't think you can call it "wrong"... maybe "not quite the best possible way?" but that's not the same as "wrong" :)

So, I'm curious now: what was the big "aha" about your method vs your instructor's?

YummyYarn said...

First, the instructor was demonstrating the short draw technique to get a worsted yarn, and the mistakes I was making were a) pulling slightly with my forward hand, instead of just pinching and controlling the twist down the drafted area, and b) letting the twist travel past my pinching fingers into the mass.

Now I half suspect that when we get to learning the woolen method, my habit of letting the twist go slightly into the mass won't be such a problem -- I'm pretty sure it's a part of the long draw method. And for what it's worth, I have never tried to make worsted yarn. I love puffy, airy, slightly disorganized wooliness. So hopefully I'll find I'm not so completely wrong as I thought.

One of the interesting challenges is to match practising what I'm learning with *not* screwing up what is, clearly, already working. I practice the proper short draw technique on fiber I have no intention of making into anything saleable, and then try to put it out of my mind (for this week, anyway) when I'm making stuff to sell.

Alyssa said...

From one self taught spinner to another:

I have never encountered a hobby that had as many different ways to do it as there are people. It amazes me how two different spinners (who both spin usable yarn) can tell me things that completely contradict one another. But sure enough, this has been my experience since I started spinning.

As to "letting the twist travel past my pinching fingers into the mass." In my view this is no trouble. You simply untwist slightly before you draft the next section. It's one smooth motion. I do it all the time. It's wrong! I think I knew that, but oh well. As long as I get knittable yarn, who cares?

Sometimes, the humbling experience of thinking we are doing it all wrong is just what we need. Othertimes, we need some encouragement to keep on going. I found some encouragement in a skein of Manos wool that had these overtwisted sections. I had been worried about overtwist in my own yarn. But hey if Manos can overtwist in the thin spots and still sell for $15 a skein, great!