The Art of the Start

I love starting things. I love that thrill of anticipation when the project is new, the end vision is clear, a plan is formed and nothing has yet gone wrong.

Solving and avoiding problems is a big part of what I do in the real world and just getting through a week at work can really deplete my reserves when it comes to being able to motivate myself and also deal with whatever mistakes and problems life at home throws my way. But, once I find the energy to address them, I nearly always end up learning something in the process.

Witness my handwoven mistakes towels. Here's what they look like:

They look great, don't they? In the process of finishing them, I had to resley portions of the reed (490 ends!), twice fix serious pattern threading errors, fix two crossed threads, fix tension issues and even deal with one snapped warp thread. The first problem was after 4 hours of work - and one that cost me nearly two weeks worth of progress simply because I wasn't in a position to find another 4h uninterrupted block of time. It felt like a brick wall that was miles high and topped with barbed wire. I did eventually cobble together an afternoon to address the problem (being sick has its advantages) and once I cleared that hurdle, all those other issues weren't quite so horrible. Each could be fixed rather quickly but their collective power came from being "one more thing" that I had done wrong. So many mistakes. So much "wasted time". But was it?

Knitting has, over the years, given me a gift - it's ok to start over. I can't always start over with weaving, but a smart teacher of mine told me to "finish things, even if they're wrong. You'll be surprised at the result." What's buried in there is the gentle reminder that mistakes are learning experiences. And you know what? She's right. In hindsight, I'm glad that I made those mistakes on my towels. I tried. I experienced. I learned. And on the next set of towels I make, I'll make different mistakes, or even some of the same ones, but hopefully they won't be so emotionally burdensome.

I love those towels. What a beautiful mistake.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm training for a marathon. That's not atypical for me as I enjoy running, even more so when I've got a goal to help pull me along. But, as I started thinking about this post, I realized that I'm training for so many other things as well.

Since I rediscovered handwork, most recently in the form of weaving, it's meant a lot to me to really be able to immerse myself in the learning process. That's allowed me to start training, and re-training, my brain to think beyond just analytics and the empirical - it's moved on to the creative and artistic side as well.

My life has really been formed by the scientific method and it's application to solving problems of all shapes and sizes. That's meant a heavy reliance on data, extrapolation, deduction and general reasoning. Spinning, weaving, knitting and these other wonderful fiber crafts are so much more (to me) about intuition and sense. There's most assuredly good science in there too - and the application of rigorous methods can really help in understanding a process or getting a specific result - but I find that I'm able to get results that satisfy me without applying so much rigor.

I also know that I won't grow/learn/become proficient if I don't start applying a bit more rigor in key places.

So, what does this boil down to? Training.

Oh and yes, I'm still running. Thank goodness this is a light week. I'm sick as a dog.