The Upside of Stubborn

I saw this video on how to make an argyle pattern with a crochet stitch and got all excited. I had to try it. I went through my stash and found a yarn I thought would work (based on their explanations) but after several tries, I hadn’t succeeded.

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One of many failed attempts (this one used a sock yarn I had in my stash). NOTE: I’m pretty sure I could get this yarn to work now that I know more about it.
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Intentional crochet color pooling, or how to get an argyle pattern using only one yarn.

Determined to make something using this fun technique, I went out and bought a yarn that was on one of many lists of yarns that have been tested and work. I bought a crochet hook (I) to match the yarn and went to it.

I tried. And I tried. And I tried. I started using smaller and smaller hooks to see if I could get the pattern to work, but nothing was working. I went through 5 different hooks (I had to buy 3 of them). I crocheted, then ripped it out, then crocheted some more. Lots of ripping it back out.

I had ideas I thought would fix my problems and none of them worked.

But I still wanted to succeed.

So I watched another video. This one had a few details I had missed before, plus it cleared up a misconception I had about how the pattern should develop. She was much more adamant about the fussiness of this technique. I knew I might need to adjust tension now and then. She explained it was something that must be done constantly.

I started again, this time with a set of 3 hooks (G, H, I). I kept close tabs on how the colors were showing up in the stitches, and would change hooks to fix the tension (pulling out stitches to re-make them) until the colors were in the right places.

It is a fussy technique, but at last, I got it working. And I realized that stubbornness (more kindly referred to as determination) only makes us successful if we recognize that something isn’t working and we change what we are doing. To keep doing the thing that doesn’t work over and over again doesn’t get us anywhere.

I changed hooks. I gathered more ideas about how to do it by watching another video. I made more notes to help myself figure out how to get the colors to come out right.

And I succeeded.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED: Click here for the tips and tricks that helped me most.

When has being stubborn paid off for you?

3 Reasons to Take Classes on Techniques You Already Know

When I saw that my quilt guild had a beading class with Lisa Yoder coming up, I debated with myself about taking it. I’ve been beading on fabric for years and have even done demos at the guild on basic beading techniques. What more was there to learn?

Fortunately, I talked myself into taking the class. After all, a class gives me a chance to practice a skill I won’t practice at home. I’ve taken multiple machine quilting classes over the years, even after I started getting compliments on my quilting, and never regretted it. Classes remind me of things I’ve forgotten, and I always learn something new, though it may be something small.

Here’s what I got from taking Lisa’s class:

1) Inspiration: Lisa’s quilts are hand-sewn gems, tiny bead-encrusted worlds that are delicate, whimsical, and breath-taking. I loved her work.

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Hand-sewn and beaded quilt by Lisa Yoder.
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My studio the day after Lisa’s class: Beading frenzy!

2) Fun: I thoroughly enjoyed making my little beaded quilt during class (and yes, I got all but a dozen of those beads on during the 3-hour class). I remembered how much I love to bead things.

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The beading I did in class (fabric is 3.5 by 5.5 inches).

3) Learning: Even though I’ve beaded for years, Lisa had things to teach me. She did some things differently than I do. I gave them a try because I was in her class and discovered some tips to make beading go more smoothly.

As a rule, I love to learn. But it’s easy to forget that just because I know how to do something doesn’t mean there isn’t more to know. I’m really grateful I took Lisa’s class. Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but there are so many new tricks out there waiting to be learned.

Reminder: Doing Nothing Is A Mistake

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I’ve shared this quote before and I’m sharing it again, because I can’t hear it, see it, or read it enough.

Perfectionism tells me not to bother. Don’t even try. If I can’t do it perfectly, then it’s a waste of time to start.

So I repeat this proverb to myself:

Only he who does nothing makes a mistake. — French proverb

Its advice is the exact opposite of my internal perfectionist’s.

It tells me to do something, anything! It doesn’t matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s smudged or sloppy or not quite what I had in mind.

Better to make something that to sit in the vacuum making nothing.

Perfection is beyond me.

But there’s satisfaction to be had in making something I’ve imagined. Even if it’s a quote card with wobbly hand-written letters on it that doesn’t look exactly like I intended.

There isn’t any satisfaction to be found in holding back.

Forget perfection. Satisfaction is better.

Satisfaction can be achieved.

What I Learned By Losing My Art Journal

In an effort to draw more, I carry a sketchbook with me whenever I can. Since I am especially interested in drawing animals, I took it to the Estes Park Wool Market & Fiber Festival in early June. I knew there would be lots of animals to sketch there, but losing my sketchbook was not part of my plan.

I sketched the goats and sheep in the barns. My first mistake was not putting my sketchbook back in my backpack when we returned to the vendors hall. It was still in my hand when I was looking at the luscious yarns and fibers at the Fiber Optic Yarns booth, which is how I wound up leaving it behind. I set it down for a moment to pick something else up and, dazzled by the rich colors, forgot all about it.

Fortunately, I had my name and number in the front of my journal. Even more fortunately, the person who found it wanted to get it back to me.

My phone rang as we were driving out of Estes Park. I didn’t recognize the out-of-state number, so I didn’t pick it up. If I had, we could have gone back and gotten my journal right then, saving everyone a lot of time and trouble, worry and waiting. But I didn’t. I didn’t listen to the message until we were already home, and by then it was too late.

When I called her back that evening, Kimber Baldwin (owner of Fiber Optic Yarns) told me that my journal was already packed up with their booth. She would mail it to me after they got back to Ohio and unpacked. It would be a while before that happened, however, because they were heading to the Black Hills of South Dakota next.

Once I got past my dismay, I was amused. My journal was going traveling without me.

We were away on vacation in California when my journal finally made it home. I took other sketchbooks with me for the trip, but I was constantly missing the book I’d lost. I kept thinking of information I needed that I had recorded in that particular journal.

Thinking about it so much gave me an idea. When my journal and I were together again, I would draw a map in it to show where we both had been while we were separated. I was surprised at just how far we had both gone.

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I feel incredibly lucky that I got my journal back and I learned some strong lessons in the process:

1) Answer the phone. The person calling could be trying to help you.
2) If you aren’t drawing in it, put your journal back in your bag.
3) Make sure at least your first name and cell phone number are written in the front of your journal. Forgetful moments happen.
4) Despite the media’s current representation of America and Americans, there are kind people out there. People like Kimber, who will make the effort to get your art journal back to you.

Brighten Your Day by Bringing Sunshine to Others

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Summer is the season of sunshine. I live on the prairies in Colorado, and we have sunshine in abundance year round. But I can’t get enough of it.

It’s not only a question of generating the vitamin D I need to live.

Looking out a sunny day lifts my spirits. A walk in the sun with my dog warms my body and my heart.

Today I suggest sharing your inner sunshine with another. Let your warmth shine in someone else’s life. Being kind feels good, so brighten another’s day.

The sun will shine all the brighter for you.

Happy summer.

Your Mistakes Define Your Style

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I’ve got a new obsession: bullet journals. It’s really a combination of old obsessions — list-making, planning, and books — all coming together in a different way. As with any new interest, I’m in the process of learning all about it. I’m reading blog posts, watching how-to videos, and examining images of other people’s systems to see which ideas I might adopt for my own. I’ve even joined some Facebook groups. I find a well-run closed group is a great place to ask questions.

What does all of this have to do with mistakes?

Yesterday, I saw an FB post from someone who is just starting their first bullet journal. She admitted she’s a perfectionist and went on to say that she messed up her first journal so badly that it is now her practice journal. I was OK with that. What I wasn’t OK with was her declaration that she will not let herself write a single word in her new “official” journal until she is certain she can do it perfectly.

That broke my heart, because I know what it’s like to be a perfectionist. As desperate as we might be to achieve perfection, we are all human. We never can and never will be perfect. If I made that sort of deal with myself about a project, I would never begin. The fear of making a mistake would freeze me in my tracks and kill any enthusiasm I had for the project dead.

This morning, I ran across this great quote:

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style. — Fred Astaire

I love that idea that our mistakes are actually our style. It fits perfectly with everything I’ve been hearing from Sketchbook Skool about embracing the mistakes I make in my drawing to the encouraging words of many of the bullet journaling experts.

Bullet journals are customized, hand-written planners. They are prone to all sorts of mistakes, from typos to calendars with the wrong number of days. A recent favorite I saw was someone who kept spelling Wednesday wrong and decided to overcome the problem by not trying any more.*

We all make mistakes, especially when we are learning how to do something new. I know not everything I am trying in my bullet journals (yes, journals; I have two already) is going to work. I have written things in the wrong space and scratched it out. I have started layouts I am not sure I need. I keep changing from all caps to lower case and back again. So it’s a little messy, but it’s also real.

Which is good enough for me.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you deal with it when you make mistakes?

*She wrote “Wedareyouf*ingkiddingme” instead.

When Charity Doesn’t Extend to the Rental Car Agent

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I watched a woman yell at a rental car agent at the airport. I was returning my car, and because of an earlier snafu, I needed a signature before I could get on my plane. I was in a hurry and a little anxious to be waiting in a line I hadn’t planned on waiting in.

As a result, I got to witness a completely unreasonable woman losing it. “This is unacceptable! I’ll never rent from you again!”

Why was she so upset? She insisted she’d been assigned a minivan for a compact car rate by the man who made her reservation. When she heard how much a minivan is supposed to cost, she badgered the agent, telling him, “I won’t stand for this. You have to do better.”

So the poor guy did. Apologizing endlessly, he beat on his keyboard until he had knocked nearly forty dollars a day off her rate. She seemed pleased.

Then he went over the contract. When he told her that her rental period would cost her 140 dollars, she lost it again. “He promised me I could pick it up now (9 AM Saturday) and return it tomorrow at 9 PM for the cost of one day.”

The agent stared at her with tears in his eyes. The poor man was so thrashed by her words, he was nearly crying. Once again, apologizing profusely, he explained that anything over 24 hours would cost her an additional day’s fee.

Anyone who has ever rented a car knows that this is how it works, but this woman acted like the agent was insane. That’s when she promised never to use his company again.

From things she said, it was clear she was doing work for a children’s charity. She needed the van to haul packages to a hospital, or party supplies to a venue. Something of that nature. So concerns about keeping costs down would make sense. Maybe this is why she was so angry, so combative, and so abusive.

Maybe.

After she was gone, he had another customer to help before he got to me. Despite the minutes he spent with a normal, decent customer, the agent was still trembling when I reached the counter.

She was that nasty.

I was as kind and polite as I could be, though I had my own annoyance about the delay I’d been put through by my rental hassles. I wanted very much to comfort him, to apologize for the angry woman who apparently has very limited ideas of how to be charitable. But I also feared that he would fall apart if I empathized, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want that.

On the plane, I was able to think of the words I should have said to him. “Ignore her. She was being unreasonable and irrational. None of it was your fault.”

Weeks later, I wish even more that I had had the courage to speak up at the time.

Not to him, but to her.

I wish I had been brave enough to challenge her attitude, to embarrass her in front of others for behaving even worse than a frustrated toddler. I wish I’d had the courage to defend the man who, because it was his job to please the customer, couldn’t speak up for himself. I wish I could have stopped her abusive behavior.

It’s easy to feel sorry for others, even to share their pain, but it is much harder to stand up and defend them — to stop the people who are hurting them. If we are going to show true compassion for others, we must go beyond feeling and act. We must find the courage to speak up and help one another.

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