Sunday, 23 June 2013

What Makes Something Too Hard?

I was in Almonte yesterday to sit in a knitting group that I knit with when I can. A lady who has only been part of the group for a short while brought a friend with her.  The friend appeared to be an experienced crocheter, but a fairly new knitter. After she "oohed" and "aahed" at everyone's work in progress she said that she really admired those of us who could make socks because they were so hard - there were at least four of us with socks in various stages of completion. She went on to say that she had taken several classes but never completed any of her socks; she had worked the leg, knit the heel flap and turned the heel, but never knit the foot. So she was waiting until the fall for the next class when hopefully she would be able to actually finish the sock.

But she didn't have just one sock like this. She had four. I was a little taken aback at this, after all - the heel is usually considered the "hardest" part and that was done. So what was the problem? You pick up the stitches and decrease down until you have the same number of stitches as you started with (at least this is how I do it), knit to desired length of foot and decrease for the toe. Graft to finish.

And then it hit me - sure, its easy for me to say this, but I've probably knit 20 pairs of socks. I know where to put the decreases - and what matched set of deceases to use. I know how to measure to ensure my socks fit me. I know what decrease method to use for a toe that I like. I know how to graft the toe to get the finish I want. In other words, I have enough familiarity with the techniques to actually complete the project.

So what this lady was really saying was she didn't know how to finish her socks. And saying "I don't know how" is very different than saying "It's too hard".  I hope she comes back next week - I'd like to take the time to show her how to finish her socks because there is really nothing hard about it.

This reminds me of an interview I read several years ago with cellist Ofra Harnoy where she commented on learning to play the cello. Because nobody around her had ever said that playing a cello is difficult, she didn't know it was. She simply played the music - and made her professional debut at age 10.

Think about it. What else do you avoid because someone else said was "too hard".  I only made jam and pickles for the first time last year because:
  a) I was put off by all the warnings about the danger of old recipes and
  b) I didn't know how.  (It's as easy as boiling water in case you wanted to know).
I avoid most home improvement-type projects because of a lack of confidence.
The only thing I can do with my car (other than drive it) is put gas in and top up the wiper fluid.
I really want chickens but don't know how to raise them so I'm thinking of all kinds of reasons not get get any.  That, and this isn't like messing up a sock - it's a living animal.
And I've put off buying a fleece because I don't know how to process it.  That my friends is going to change. The wool depot is just down the road, I know where to get combs and I can use YouTube.


  1. So true Alison! I'm sorry I didn't get to the sitnknit yesterday, an auction called......hope to see you next Saturday!

  2. A wonderful thing, the internet. I get to be inspired by your humanity and good writing even though I live in Pennsylvania and don't know you.

    And we all get schooled doing things when there are no experts around us. Blessings on YouTube!!!

  3. I think when I say "it's too hard" about something I've never tried, it really means "I don't know how... and I'm afraid of messing things up irrecoverably if I just go ahead and try".