Stop Worrying About Successes And Failures


Things are not going according to plan. I didn’t get my post for Monday ready in time to publish. Working on it Monday night, I discovered a huge flaw that I may not be able to fix. I may have to scrap the whole thing. Hours of work down the drain, plus my personal goal of posting three times a week is in danger of going unmet.

Right now, I need to hear these words:

You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite steadily, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures. — Anton Chekov

Mistakes are inevitable, and by association, so are failures. So be it. I’ve goofed, and my post idea may be a complete fail. I’ll keep working anyway and try to accept that it’s all part of the creative process.

Knits For Your Favorite T-Rex

I’ve always been intrigued by dinosaurs. As a kid, my favorites were the Triceratops and Brontosaurus (now known as the Brachiosaurus), both herbivores. Maybe it’s because I’ve become a meat eater again, but I am suddenly drawn to the Tyrannosaurus rex. I have plenty of patterns for knitting dinosaurs, but thinking of the T-rex, I realized that what I’m really interested in is knitting for dinosaurs.

So I bought myself a T-rex and some yarn. Her name is Tiny.

Tiny the T-rex, playing with the yarn I bought for her sweater.
Tiny the T-rex, playing with the yarn I bought for her sweater.

While I’ve done plenty of knitting for critters in the last year or so, I wanted this to be different. As soon as I found Tiny, I was in love. She is so striking looking that I couldn’t settle on just one project. I decided to knit whatever I felt like, but instead of sewing things onto her, I would make every piece removable. That way I could change her clothes and knit as many things as I wanted to for her.

As I knitted, I imagined that Tiny had a loving aunt, one who was fairly new to knitting but enthusiastically making things for everyone in her family. She would start with scarves, graduate to hats, then branch out to mittens once she felt a little more confident.

Tiny shows off her hat, scarf, and mittens.
Tiny shows off her hat, scarf, and mittens.
Mom makes Tiny pose for a photo so they can show Aunt Rexie how much she loves her gifts.
Mom makes Tiny pose for a photo so they can show Aunt Rexie how much she loves her gifts.
Tyrannosaurs don't have thumbs, but everyone needs mittens. Especially when there's a comet in the forecast.
Tyrannosaurs don’t have thumbs, but everyone needs mittens. Especially when there’s a comet in the forecast.

The knitting bug is not easily fed, however, and it wouldn’t be long before Aunt Rexie would go for the Big Project and make her beloved niece a sweater like the one Velma wears on Scooby-Doo. (Tiny loves that show.) Aunt Rexie was understandably proud of herself for finishing it, even if the results weren’t quite what she expected.

Tiny loves her Velma sweater... mostly.
Tiny loves her Velma sweater… mostly.
"Thanks, Aunt Rexie!"
“Thanks, Aunt Rexie!”
Close up of the sweater (because I couldn't resist).
Close up of the sweater (because I couldn’t resist).

Aunt Rexie will keep knitting for Tiny, but it may be a while before she tackles another big project. She has to get her confidence back (and her niece’s measurements) before she tries again. In the meantime, she’ll knit some dish cloths to keep her hand in.

Technical notes for the curious: all of these pieces are my own invention, created using what I know about knitting for humans. Yarns are fingering weight or sock yarns knitted on size 0 needles. The sweater was particularly interesting to make, because the arm holes are horizontal instead vertical in order to accommodate Tiny’s forward reaching arms. It took a couple of tries to get things right, but the key is most definitely: 1) getting the gauge from a swatch and 2) careful measurement of the T-rex in order to design the pattern.

Forget Your Artistic Expectations: Just Dance


A post about being kept from our goals by our own doubts got me thinking about the power — good and bad — of expectations.

Expectations help me define my goals and motivate me to meet them. At the same time, expectations about the outcome of a project or how others will receive it can completely undermine my most passionate dreams.

Most artists face this dilemma, and the best thing we can do for ourselves is forget what we are hoping for, and just get on with making whatever it is we are trying to make. Or as Anne Lamott puts it:

Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance. —Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 112

Accepting Differences: One Woman’s Mess Is Another’s Desk

Sometimes I look around my house and despair. I seem to have so much stuff. My desk is a great example. Along with the piles of notebooks, index cards, and scraps of paper, I have a stack of reference books, a bunch of journals, and a herd of critters — ceramic, knit, and fabric — who all keep me company as I write.

My desk at its cleanest would make some people weep.
My desk at its cleanest is still pretty crowded.
But this is how it usually looks when I'm working.
This is how it usually looks when I’m working. Or worse.

I have a friend whose house is spotless, and it’s not an illusion. Not only does she have a minimum of knickknacks, but even her closets are neat, organized, and only half-full. Open the cabinets in her guest bathroom and every shelf is bare. Every single one. The last time my cabinets looked like that, we’d just bought our house and hadn’t moved in yet. They won’t look like that again until we pack up and leave.

I used to get upset about this. I wondered what was wrong with me. I admire minimalist living, and it coincides with my beliefs about avoiding unnecessary waste and simplifying to save both time and money. Whenever I visit my friend, I look around her house and think about how easy it is to breathe there, how calming the environment is, how soothing those huge expanses of white are.

But after a few days, I start to get edgy. What seemed soothing becomes cold, what was calming feels dead. My discomfort grows until I am desperate for the color and patterns of the beloved objects that surround me at home. I miss the comfort of my mess.

I didn’t understand what was going on until I read about the different modes of learning and how they affect the way we interact with the world. In an article about decorating a writer’s office, Jeanne Adams explains that our decorating style is directly linked to how we learn. Each person leans towards at least one of three learning modalities — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Those same learning preferences affect what makes an office space appealing and easy to work in.

I’m a combination of a visual and kinesthetic learner, and my environment shows it. I need color and texture (visual) but I also place a lot of emphasis on being comfortable physically (kinesthetic). My kinesthetic tendencies apparently override my visual ones, since I put up with a lot more chaos in my environment than a pure visual learner would. I realized that my friend is a musician and an auditory learner. She thrives in a minimalist environment because of who she is.

That realization has saved me. I no longer have to think I am a bad person for surrounding myself with an abundance of things or that my friend is better than me because she lives in such a stream-lined home. We are both doing what we need to do to function well in the world. Accepting that we are different people with different needs has enabled me to be compassionate and understanding towards us both. Our ways of living each have their pros and cons. One is not better than another, however one is better for her, the other, better for me.

I’m constantly working on being more accepting of myself and others. Most of the struggles in my own life come from me fighting against what is true instead of accepting the facts and working with them. This insight about learning modalities and living spaces was a lesson in acceptance for me, and I’m grateful for it.

Today, members of 1000 Voices of Compassion are blogging about acceptance. To see a list of other posts on acceptance and compassion, click here.

Dinosaurs From the Knit-aceous Period

My recent dragon fixation has shifted to dinosaurs. I’m not sure how I got the itch to combine dinosaurs and yarn, but I’m apparently not the only one. There are some amazing dinosaur patterns out there, in a full range of styles.

For fast and cute, you can’t beat these adorable crocheted baby brachiosaurs (free pattern) designed by Jana Whitley.

Baby Brachiosaurus designed by Jana Whitley
Baby Brachiosaurus designed by Jana Whitley

You can also knit a more complex and stylized stegosaurus (free pattern) designed by Tina Barrett.


In fact, Deramores has a plethora of free dinosaur patterns for both knitters and crocheters, including the two I mentioned above. Definitely check out their other offerings, including with the exciting news that archeologists have discovered the first knitting dinosaur, the Derasaur. (They posted that on April 1. Do you think that means something?)

If you want a more practical dino, how about a hat? Free patterns are available for both crocheted (Danyel Pink)  and knitted (Kris Hanson) hats with dinosaur spikes on top.

Dinosaur Spikes crocheted cap designed by Danyel Pink
Dinosaur Spikes crocheted cap designed by Danyel Pink
Knit Dino Cap, designed by Kris Hanson
Knit Dino Cap, designed by Kris Hanson

Of all the dino knits I found, however, my favorite is Christine Grant’s Tracy Triceratops, which has the level of detail I love in an animal knitting project.

Tracy Triceratops, knit pattern by Christine Grant
Tracy Triceratops, knit pattern by Christine Grant

While I’m sharing fun dino-knits, I can’t pass up sharing Katie Bradley’s charming tortoise “cozies”. She knits these covers (or costumes, depending on how you look at it) for her many pet tortoises. She’s made them pumpkin covers, shark fins, and, of course, dinosaur spikes.

Katie Bradley's adorable Tortoise Cozies, dinosaur style
Katie Bradley’s adorable Tortoise Cozies, dinosaur style

To get the full fun of her creations, watch this short video of her pets modeling their cozies.

I’m not willing to tell you what exactly I am up to with my own dinosaur knitting project. So here’s a teaser picture to give you a hint.

Tyrannosaurus Rex + yarn = ???
Tyrannosaurus Rex + yarn = ???

Any dino-knits in your life? Feel free to share them here.

What The Pluto Flyby Teaches Us About Spirituality

SciSpiritNew Horizons has made it to Pluto. As I’m writing this, we’re still waiting to see the images collected from the closest point on the spacecraft’s trajectory as it swings by Pluto after traveling 3 billion miles. I can’t wait to see them and feel antsy having to wait. But what is a few more hours? The scientists who launched New Horizons in 2006 have had to wait almost ten years to see the pictures of Pluto we are receiving now. What patience and faith that job takes!

Today, I am in total accord with this quote:

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. ~Carl Sagan

We are witnessing an amazing achievement. The simple logistics of getting scientific equipment so far into space, and having it timed so that it passes within 8,000 miles of a planet* on an orbit that takes 248 Earth years to complete are humbling. Knowing that we are seeing something no human has seen before, unveiling secrets about a planet that is so far away, gives me chills.

Here is the wonder that we can feel when we dive into science. Awe for what is possible. Awe for what is out there. Awe for the beauty of it all. That awe and wonder is at the heart of spiritual experience and always ends with the same thought: Today is a great day to be alive.

To get the latest on New Horizons and what we are learning from this mission, check out NASA’s official website.

*I know, I know. Pluto is officially a dwarf planet. But to me, Pluto is still a regular old planet. Old habits die hard.

Crazy Knitting Projects: Ceramic Flamingo Accessories – Part 2

On Friday, I introduced my flamingo salt and pepper shakers and the crazy knitting idea that they inspired. Today, I present you with the results. (One of the things I love about tiny little projects is that they can be really fast to do.)

Ready for a South Dakota winter!
Ready for a South Dakota winter!

Because I couldn’t get access to the entire neck of the pepper shaker, I decided to go with a simple scarf and hat. I made two different hats, one with ear flaps and one without. Unfortunately, the ear-flap hat just didn’t work on this guy, so I had to go with the more traditional ski cap.

This flamingo is no longer in danger of freezing to death. In fact, he's ready to go sledding.
This flamingo is no longer in danger of freezing to death. In fact, he’s ready to go sledding.
Even using size 00 needles, the scarf is only 3 stitches wide.
Even using size 00 needles, the scarf is only 3 stitches wide.

The salt shaker got a more elaborate outfit mainly because the extended neck was easier to work with. I knew I wanted to make a fitted gaiter for the neck to cover up the crack in it, but once that was done, I felt it needed more. I wanted ruffles for some reason, and the shawl I just made was the perfect pattern for the job. I made a tiny version of it, with only a fraction of the rows, ending at the right point to get the ruffled edge I was after. Then I sewed it to itself and the gaiter to make a frilly cover. To my delight, this flamingo was able to pull off the hat with ear flaps and I put it on her, even though she’s already well bundled up.

I had to glue the hats on to get them to stay in place.
I had to glue the hats on to get them to stay in place.
Ready to go ice-skating and twirl!
Ready to go ice-skating and twirl!

While I was working on this project, I had an idea for yet another crazy knitting project, one I am dying to do. But that will be a post for another day.

Which look do you like best?