The Great Crochet Adventure

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The last time I tried to crochet, it did not go well. My mother tried to teach me how to make a granny square, but we quickly realized a right hander teaching a left hander is beyond tricky. On top of that, I had no real basis of understanding how crochet works, so a granny square was probably way beyond my skill level.

I was going to let crochet go until I decided to launch a major project at work. In response to students wanting to learn how to knit (several come to see me for help) and craft in general, I am organizing an after school program that teaches students crafting skills. In addition, our little collective is going to have a community service component. Some of what we make will go to charitable organizations. We’re going to make and donate everything from chemo caps to kennel blankets!

In the midst of organizing everything, I found out a lot of kids want to learn how to crochet. Yikes! It’s kind of hard to teach them how to crochet when I don’t have a clue. So, last week I set upon teaching myself some basic skills – things like how to hold the hook, the yarn, and some basic stitches.

Due to a weekend of no internet, I ended up teaching myself using an ancient Reader’s Digest book, The Complete Guide to Needlework. The pictures weren’t the best, but it was enough to get me started. Seeing as the last time my left-handedness was a major obstacle, I decided to try learning right-handed. After several hours of epic failure – my right hand was fighting me the whole way – I finally managed to make a little 4×4″ swatch using a single crochet stitch.

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Hooray!! The little victories are the best, aren’t they?

Emboldened by my tiny success, I decided to make a set of coasters as a means to practice the single crochet stitch and to find my groove in holding the hook and the work yarn. Like knitting, there is a method and rhythm to manipulating both the hook and yarn.

Just like the first go around, there was plenty of failure, (and hand cramping – my right hand does not like all this work!), but the repetitive nature of the project paid off. I ended up with a cute set of coasters and the “groove” is falling into place. My fingers are naturally finding their grip on the hook and I’m finally able to regulate tension on the yarn without overthinking it.

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Not bad for a few hours of self-instruction. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it! Even if failure is a given. I’m not a genius at crochet, but I’ve at least got enough to be able to teach students the basics. As I learn, so will they. If anything we can laugh at our mistakes and cheer our victories together.

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c.b.w. 2016

From Epic Fail to Grand Success

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My journey into the knitting world started with a sock loom and gradually evolved towards using traditional needles. I made more than 20 pairs of socks, 4 hats, 1 scarf, 1 cowl, and 1 blanket before I took on a challenge that was waaaay beyond my skill level. I blame Interweave Knits magazine for presenting a pattern for a super cute camisole. Despite having limited experience with knitting needles, I decided I needed to make the Hashtag Camisole. How hard could it be? Famous last words.

I hunted online for a good deal on the yarn, albeit a different color than the pattern stipulated, (Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, #28 Blue Pine Green). Once it showed up on my doorstep, I should have taken it as a sign that I was in over my head. Even though it was beautiful, I didn’t know yarn could be that thin and split so easily at the same time. Still, my love for that camisole overtook any sense of rational thought.

Before digging into my pricey stash of yarn, I played it smart by using crappy yarn to learn all the new stitches I needed to master as well practice the chevron lace pattern that dominates the piece from top to bottom. After completing a nice sample, I felt confident in moving forward with the project.

All went well with casting on, creating the hem, and knitting the lace pattern itself . . . until row 28. Disaster! After a routine stitch count, I realized I had dropped a stitch. Worse still, it was near a yarn over, so the hole was huge. I had no idea how to reconstruct the stitch and those that fell apart around it. After more than two hours of trying everything, I thought I had it fixed. I was so wrong. Within seconds, another stitch dropped. Soon after, an extra stitch magically appeared in another section. Don’t ask me how this happened because I still don’t know.

I ended up ripping out every row in a mad fury of frustration. Then, I grumbled as I wound the yarn mess back into a little ball. Grrrrrrrrr!

After two days, I decided the pattern and the yarn were not going to win. I picked up my needles and started over again. This time, I was more careful about placing markers and counting stitches. I think my initial mistake was over-excitment with a dash of biting off more than I could chew. Not one to go down easily, I made the choice to learn from my mistakes. I took my time and went about my work one stitch at a time.

In two months, I had a beautiful Hashtag Camisole without a single dropped stitch. It fits like a glove and actually looks identical to the picture in the magazine (just in a different color).

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My Hashtag Camisole!

Completing this project was an odyssey to say the least, but I’m glad I stuck with it and didn’t give in to frustration. I even got a little bonus when the designer of the pattern favorited my finished project on ravelry.com. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!

Knit on!

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c.b.w. 2013

Gateway

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Watchful scholars,
cure vacant minds
Hands open wide,
catch empty thoughts
The portal opens,
welcoming all
Leave ignorance
standing outside

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Entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

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In honor of Mother’s Day, I hope it can be forgiven that this week’s Sunday Abroad is a day late.

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c.b.w. 2013

Wreck This Journal: Keep Trying

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Some pages in Wreck This Journal come together very easily, while others are extremely challenging. Then, there are the pages that qualify as epic failures.  And I don’t mean that in a bad way.  These failures might be better classified as learning moments or works in progress because I can look back on them and say, “Hey, I tried.”  I don’t like to fail, but I’ve always believed that trying matters.

The perfectionist in me hates to see an unfinished page or a botched concept, but they do have value in that mistakes are the first step to learning.  Without epic failures there would be no reason to push forward and try something different.  After all, Wreck This Journal is all about discovering a new viewpoint and daring to approach life with reckless curiosity.  Or at the very least, its about learning to have a really good sense of humor about myself.  It’s not a new idea, but it’s definitely one worth embracing.  As the saying goes: Those who can laugh at themselves shall never cease to be amused.  With this spirit in mind, I’ve selected a few pages in my journal that are constant sources of amusement as they represent some of my stellar “What was I thinking?” moments.

Towards the back of Wreck This Journal there is a page that gives instructions to doodle on the front cover.  I’m not much of a random doodler, so this was a bit of a challenge to begin with and things only got worse the more I tried to make it happen.  I thought it might be fun to use a metallic silver gel pen, so I made a little border around the edge with dots and squiggles.  It looked pretty good until I found out the ink smudged if anything touched it!  No matter how long I let it dry, the ink refused to stick!  Even after two days I was able to wash it off with a sponge.  Back to square one!

For my second attempt, I whipped out the paint pens and made polka dots from top to bottom.  After they dried and didn’t smear, I thought it might be fun to add glitter glue over the top of some of the dots.  For more than an hour I squeezed red, blue, green, gold, and silver glitter onto various polka dots.  It look so cute and sparkly when it dried!  Too bad they all popped off as soon as I opened the journal.

  

There’s also the little problem that I can’t bring myself to bend the cover to cause damage.  The cover is still a work in progress and perhaps one day I’ll overcome the roadblocks that stand in the way of doodling success.

On another page, I was supposed to draw an endless line.  I easily accomplished this, but when I decided to decorate my line, things went horribly awry.  For some reason, I thought adding a spiral would make it more interesting, but it only made the special effects in 1960s time travel movies look more realistic.  I credit poor color choice and failure to think things through for the ruin of this page.

I failed utterly and completely on another page in that I didn’t follow directions and my design ideas totally backfired.  The directions asked me to connect the dots with my eyes closed and I did all the way until I peeked.  Then, I got the brilliant idea to fill the page with large circles and color them with two colors that do not compliment one another.  I learned two things: 1) I can’t draw circles without a little help. 2) Coloring large circles with yellow and green makes them look like Mountain Dew bubbles under a microscope.

With each failure, I was reminded of the choice that exists when something goes wrong.  I can beat myself up and pout OR I can pick myself up and learn from the mistake.  Whether its an academic, professional, creative, or personal mistake, I must keep trying.  This especially applies to writing, a realm where I’m bound to make a slew of mistakes.  Everything from spelling, grammar, descriptions, poor first/last lines, format, sentence structure, syntax, etc. includes a mistake waiting to happen.  The list is endless and every mistake will be glaringly obvious and pointed out to me.  Am I going to sit and pout?  No.  I am going to keep trying.

(I might laugh a little, too.)

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For previous Wreck This Journal entries, please see my sidebar and tag cloud.

c.b. 2012

Wreck This Journal: Rebel

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It’s funny how Wreck This Journal often reflects whatever is going on in my life.  I don’t write much about my day job as a teacher, mainly because I like to keep my writing life separate from my professional life.  Sometimes, however, it can’t be helped when inspiration and the daily grind combine.

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider among my colleagues because I don’t fit the mold of a typical teacher. My methods are a little outside the box, I have a quirky personality, and my appearance often gets me mistaken for a student instead of a teacher.  Say what they may, my odd approach works as my students can’t wait to come to my class every day and for some they never liked history until they walked through my classroom door.  Learning should be a disciplined process, but it should also be creative and fun.  The world needs people who can think for themselves and find solutions to problems and its my job to help students become those independent thinkers.  We owe it to our future.

As the economy worsens and public education continues to take financial hits, districts are scrambling to snag federal funding which is often based significantly on standardized test scores.  I’ve been teaching for eleven years and with each year I’ve watched my district become more and more obsessed with statistics and data and that unfortunately takes the focus off individualized learning and performance.  Education is increasingly veering from diversified learning to cookie cutter intelligence that pretty much eliminates all forms of creative thought and problem solving.  To say this concerns me is an understatement. My philosophy of teaching revolves around allowing students to individually process information and find creative ways to use that information.  Slowly, but surely, I’m finding myself further and further outside the boundaries of the system.

Recently, my school district has taken to implementing a new dress code for teachers.  I’m not opposed to a dress code, but the timing of it is what irks me.  We are in the middle of a financial crisis and clothing is where they’ve chosen to place their focus.  In my school alone, there are leaking ceilings, mouse/roach infested classrooms (mine is one of them), a shortage of desks, 40 kids in a class, and outdated laptops (mine is held together with tape).  I’m not usually one to complain, but I think the district has lost sight of what’s important here. I’m all for professionalism in the workplace, but at the moment I don’t feel much like a professional in surroundings that are falling apart.

From a personal standpoint, I dress rather casually because that’s who I am.  I’m not a slob by any means, but I’m also not a rayon blouse, heels wearing kind of girl.  One of the most important things I teach my students, (aside from curriculum), is the importance of being yourself.  When I started teaching, I wore nice slacks, dress shoes, etc., but my students saw right through the fine attire.  It wasn’t me and in effect they couldn’t trust someone who was lying to them.  By my third year, I started wearing jeans and my signature Converse sneakers.  For the first time, my clothes matched the atmosphere I created in my classroom.  I wasn’t lying anymore and my students responded as such.  Not only were they learning history, but they were learning by my example what it means to “own” who you are.

Sometimes life is about jumping outside those lines.  My Wreck This Journal reminded me of that with a page that dared me color outside the lines in a very visual and vindicating way.

Five years ago, I probably would have easily given into the “back to basics” movement that is sweeping public education, but now I’m sticking to my guns more than ever.  What I do in the classroom works and I stand by it 100%.  I’m holding steady and waiting for the “reforms” to take place, but I know I’m in for a fight.  And you know what? I’m ready.  I’m not afraid to color outside the lines.

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For previous Wreck This Journal posts, please see my sidebar of Recent Posts and tag cloud.

c.b. 2011