CC Issue 33 / Reflections

The Yarn Bag

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There are about a dozen little squares on my bedside table. Right now, I only have two colors–coral and purple–but I bought a few more skeins of yarn in some nice neutrals . . .  My baby niece currently rocks pink, but hopefully she’ll be stuck with this blanket for a long time, and I’m hoping to preempt any pre-teen bucking of girly colors by including shades in sage and sand.

I’m making her a granny square blanket. If you don’t feel like googling it, imagine an All-American wooden rocking chair, then imagine the classic home-knit throw that’s on it in all kinds of mismatching colors. Some people just construct granny squares in their spare time with whatever scraps of yarn they have lying about, which makes for these fabulous (and/or kitschy) mosaics.

My process is a bit less wonderfully haphazard because I’m on a mission. I missed giving something to my recently born baby niece at her birth, and I am trying to make up for it in some serious crochet time this holiday. As with all textiley projects I start, I’m not entirely sure how many squares I should make as I tend to dramatically under- or over- estimate the actual size of knit, but I’m guessing I have at least four dozen more little squares to manufacture this holiday. At twenty to thirty minutes for each 3×3″, it seems I have a little part time holiday job on my hands. I am a slow crocheter.

I am also a chronic dabbler. I began this project sorting through a huge sack of yarn, whose size in no way warrants the amount of time I actually spend knitting, and I found a half-finished baby-blanket. This project has moved to seven different homes and has participated in two trans-Pacific cargo shipments. The baby it was originally intended for is almost six years old. Thankfully, I never told the parents or the child about my intentions to make a blanket . . . I simply left the country around the time she was born.

As I approach 30, I find myself lugging around a greater bag of projects, and I marvel at my lack of commitment. I have folders of half-baked songs. Rusty piano skills. Marginally above average cooking. A smattering of office experience. Migratory teaching habits. Dried up paint supplies. Half-hearted commitment to blogging.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he documents the rise of prodigies in our age and argues that we reduce hours of commitment and practice to plain luck and talent. Whether you are an NFL star or The Beatles, Gladwell’s magic number for reaching mastery is ten-thousand hours of practice, repetition, exposure. It’s a shift in thinking about ability, and I highly recommend the book for a burst of inspiration followed by a hounding suspicion that you might never commit ten-thousand hours to anything.

I read the book 3 or 4 years ago, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Gladwell’s ten-thousand hours. It makes sense to me, in that there are no short cuts to becoming good at something. Ten-thousand isn’t an outrageous number either. It’s about four years of doing something as a full-time job. But at my dabbling speed, if I even committed ten hours a week to a hobby (something inconceivable as I think about my habits when I’m at work and in school), it would take me almost 20 years to become a “virtuoso.”

I don’t like squandering or toting half-finished goals from apartment to apartment. I didn’t intend for this to be a new year’s kind of post, but I would like more resolution. A little drive, maybe in one thing. I like being a dabbler and the thought of pursuing something to its ten-thousand hour allotment makes me nervous for everything else. For the end of this year, though, I just need to plug on with my twenty-four to thirty hours with this blanket, which will probably pass quickly because it’s a gift for someone dear to me. Plus this project that has some built in variety . . . it’s not so bad churning out little squares–I can switch colors when I’m bored. I’m hoping that it will be one stitch at a time, one square at a time, until there’s something finished in front of me.

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