“Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
I’m calling BS on that one, because by now, we all know it simply isn’t true. Words can actually do more damage to our well being than a minor physical altercation.
I can hear what you’re thinking. “Hey wait a minute! This is a knitting and crafts blog. What’s this got to do with anything?”
Keep reading. You’ll discover the power a few little words can have on your perception of yourself and your work.
It was my first shawl pattern. It felt like a “Big Girl Knit.” You know what I mean? I had purchased the pattern in print from the LYS, and I bought expensive kettle dyed yarn to make it. I went from my usual size 13 needles down to 7s for this project. They felt so tiny in my hands, and the stitches seemed minuscule in comparison to what I was used to making. My time on this project was considerably more than projects I had previously constructed.
I worked on this project. No that’s not it. I TOILED on this project for more than a month. It was the first time I followed a pattern, so I had to read and implement instructions. I used Stitch markers. I counted rows. It seemed SO HARD, and I ripped the project out and restarted it a couple of times. It was also the first time I ever swatched for a specific project.
So when I wore it, I was really proud of my accomplishment. I wore it into the same LYS to show the shop owner what I had made with her yarn, and she was ecstatic. She was supportive and kind and went on for days about how beautiful my shawl had turned out. Someone told me, “Your stitches do not look like beginner stitches. The tension is so even, so beautiful. This looks like a project made by a far more advanced knitter.”
I was beaming inside.
Then it happened. I was minding my own business buying more of the skinny knitting needles and that’s when I met her. My first knitting elitist. Looking down her nose at my work, she handled my pride and joy between her thumb and index finger and said, “Well I would be completely bored with this. Stockinette is just too simple. I need something that will actually challenge me. I could make that with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back.”
I suddenly felt ashamed of my hard work. I felt like I was not a real knitter and that I was stupid for proudly wearing my shawl into the fancy yarn shop. “Who did I think I was?”
The project that had been such a source of pride only two minutes earlier now felt like yesterday’s garbage. I wanted to hide. I wanted to take off my shawl and stuff it under the couch. But, it was freezing cold that day, and I need the cuddly warmth of the alpaca fiber.
I skulked out to my car, tail between my legs, ready to cry from embarrassment. Suddenly I felt patronized by the shop owner and everyone else who had been so nice to me.
And then it hit me. Who the heck does that woman think she is, anyway? My knitting is just as valid as hers.
I was so hurt.
After all, I was still a new knitter. I had only been working with fiber for about a year. Anybody else with less of an attitude might have quit yarn crafting that very day. Because that’s what so many of us do when we pour ourselves into something we are so proud of only to have someone come along and say our stuff doesn’t matter.
We base our feelings of accomplishment and worth on what other people tell us. Note to self: We need to stop doing that!
Maybe she was just offering a little constructive criticism?
Let me explain something to you. There is a HUGE difference between someone being constructive and someone being critical. One is helpful and designed to assist you in becoming better at the thing you’re doing and one is designed to be hurtful and tear down your sense of accomplishment. Someone can easily break a person’s spirit by being critical. And for some reason, people seem to think we are constantly inviting their assessment of our work in every online post, and even in person interaction. Please dear reader, don’t offer a critical assessment to someone, unless they ask for it. And then, please be kind about it.
So I’m sitting in my car, and I can’t go home and burn all my yarn and break all my knitting needles, which is what I want to do at this point. I still have errands to finish. This includes going to the grocery store.
It’s Saturday, and you know what Trader Joe’s is like on Saturday afternoon. Wall to wall people with everybody trying to get in the exact spot where you are quietly reading labels on the frozen food trying not to feel like a loser in that eyesore of a knit you’re wearing. That was really how I felt!
Then it happened.
A woman walked by me a couple of times. Then she came back specifically to speak to me. “Did you make that scarf you’re wearing?” Why, yes, I did.” “Oh my goodness! It’s beautiful! I tried to take up knitting a few times and just got so frustrated I had to quit. I wish I could have made something as beautiful as that!” My response? “Why thank you so much!”
Ten minutes later, a new person walks up to me, and she says, “I just have to tell you that I’ve been admiring the shawl you’re wearing since I first saw you walk in the store. The way you put the colors together in this is just gorgeous. What did you use? What’s the pattern?”
That’s when I learned a huge lesson about knitting, and it really applies to any sort of creative endeavor we undertake. Ready?
Don’t let one critical statement get you down. Tell those mean girls to STEP OFF and you keep doing your thing.
That’s when I learned to be confident in the projects I made. The simple truth is that you can have great design with simple stitches and construction. Are you familiar with the global fashion brand Wool and the Gang? If you think simple isn’t fashionable or popular, their 70,000+ Instagram followers will disagree.
If it’s knitted well, a basic garter stitch scarf is as worthy as any lace knitted shawl. Get the stitches even, block the edges so it’s straight and spend some time thinking about color combinations that are interesting and unexpected. That’s how we make a show stopper knit. Do it well, and do it right.
It’s not all about the mental gymnastics of complicated knitting. Although, that’s fine, too! The point is to find YOUR voice in knitting. The point is to do what you YOU like and work with materials and styles YOU enjoy. Forget what other people like, it’s YOUR knitting practice, and you should make what you want it to be.
Knitting is a process. It will take some practice, and you must be willing learn from mistakes. Read this story about my very first knit, and how I didn’t give up even though that first piece was super terrible.
But isn’t that the foundation of a successful life? To try, to fail, to succeed, to try again?
Keep focused on doing your best, and be proud of your accomplishments. And yes, mastering a cast on or learning the knit stitch IS an accomplishment. Just hang out with me, kiddo, we’ll get YOU knitting your own “Big Girl” knit in no time.