The Waiting Game

Here are two facts about me: 1) I hate rejection. 2) I am not a patient person.

Rejection

Does anyone like it? Of course not!

Most of us have developed a lovely set of defense and coping mechanisms specifically for dealing with it. Or rather, avoiding it. Some people, including myself, have become so skilled in this area that we begin to circumvent situations where there’s even a possibility of rejection. Pre-emptive rejection rejection! Perfect! This pre-emptive rejection rejection, which I fondly refer to as PRR, is great reason for to choose a career other than telemarketing. But advanced skills in PRR, as I have found, are sucky for becoming a published writer.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure how I expected to get published if I wasn’t putting my work out there. Writers don’t just “get discovered.” (But wouldn’t it be nice if we did? Like the stories of old where models and starlets were plucked from obscurity while sipping a malted at the drug-store counter, or while shopping for the perfect tankini at Abercrombie & Fitch?) Perhaps I had a pipe dream somewhere in my mind that this little unpublicized blog would somehow come to the attention of an editor, who would then see brilliant potential in my ramblings on fiber, and offer me a book deal. Yes! Sweet!

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. What a rude awakening!

So I started making a few formal queries by submitting a very few article and story ideas. But so far? No takers.

To be fair, this is all quite recent. Most of what I’ve sent out into the world is still waiting for a reply. But now that I’m in the middle of it, I wonder if that isn’t worse than a straight-out rejection: the dread grows in step with the length of the silence. Enter the Need for Patience.

Patience

It may be a virtue but it’s not one of mine. When the going gets tough, I find something else to do. I Perhaps you’ve seen evidence of this in some of these blog posts…  15-month Angelberry? Two-year tweed? Each Day’s Beauty?

But patience is something I must develop on the path to getting published. And more than just patience, the ability to shrug off doubt and to keep moving forward, working and trying. And out-PRRing PRR.

After all, what great writer hasn’t curated a lovely collection of notes saying “No Thank You” or “Not for Us”?

Recently relevant examples include Louisa May Alcott and Stephen King. LMA’s struggle with what to write and how to get published is an integral theme of Little Women. King tells funny yet poignant stories in On Writing about his own stack of rejection slips, which he kept skewered on a spike (how appropriate) above his bed so he would be inspired to persevere. And of course there is the ubiquitous recent example of J.K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 major publishing houses before she found one willing to give Harry a shot.

As I was looking up the statistic for Harry Potter (since I thought it had been rejected “only” 8 times, that in itself was a little glimmer of encouragement), I found this article: 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected. The list is stunning: Kenneth Grahame, Dr. Seuss, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale, Jasper Fforde… these are incredible writers.

I guess I should be embarrassed at my own audacity: Who am I to feel inadequate when I experience the same challenges as these Lions of the Pen, when I don’t have half their talent? But I do feel inadequate as I wait, and that’s a fact. I guess that should be Fact #3 in the list above.

But here’s the thing: As I’m going through this process, through these experiences, I’m learning about what’s truly important. I’m learning to care less about the rejections (and the anticipation of them), and to care more about honing my skills and trying by submitting my work. I’ve let fear of rejection stifle my forward progress for too long. Now it’s time to practice patience while believing in myself and my talents, and to surge forward with relentless enthusiasm toward getting published.

This is one Waiting Game where I plan to emerge the winner.

Treasured Tools of the Trade

As I mentioned in Possibilities, a recent joy of mine has been collecting tools and oddments associated with needlework.

It is so much fun to come across these tools, used mostly if not exclusively by women, which were integral to their Making. I love the real materials they are made of – the heft of the metal, the solidness of their construction. And in so many there is a real beauty of design. I treasure them and have been using them with my own work; there is something special about using these tools that have been part of hand crafting for a nearly a hundred years or more.

A Susan Bates stitch and needle gauges for knitting and crochet, the ubiquitous standard. Same for the plastic stitch/row counter. I have had these for several years and they have served me very well:

But the gauge is made of very bendable, thin aluminum. And the plastic row counter always feels cheap to me when I have it next to my hand knits – so much work and such beautiful yarn seems to deserve better accompaniment.

Now look at some examples from years past:

A modern pine darner, unfinished:

It looks washed out and without character to me! Contrast with these two beautiful oak darners from my great-grandmother’s workbox:

A little rust and signs of wear that she actually used them to darn socks. I love that they are part of my collection and use.

One more:  a Jahncke’s Mitrailleuse knitting needle case:

This is likely from the 1880s; I am charmed by the brass end caps, beautiful enamelling, and the stylized printing on the case.

And there are even a few of the original “knitting pins” still within!

Beautiful!

Do you have treasured tools for your crafts and making – be they old or new? I’d love to hear about them.

Determined Denial

I am totally aware that for many Knitters, Gauge is a pretty major issue. But since I mainly deal in scarves, mittens, socks, and puffs… well, gauge just hasn’t been that important.

Until this happened last week:

uhhhh, WHA?

It all started so benignly. One lovely Turkish Bed Sock,

began who knows when but certainly over a year ago. Knit with lovely sock yarn from HelloYarn in a colorway called Swell, on size 2mm dpns. As I knit this first sock I get all kinds of sassypants, thinking that since it’s quite ridiculous to have to mattress stitch the sock closed at the end (and I hate finishing) I just join the sides as I go. Lovely! Excellent! Sock #1: Done!

Well, nearly. As usual, I balked at the Kitchener. So instead finishing it like a normal person, I left the toe open (because it will be less pain to do them both at one time, right?) and cast on for the second Bed Sock and knit the ankle wrap and heel. Since my contrived joining thing on the first sock was a bit fussy and time consuming, I decided to knit the second sock to pattern and don’t join as I go.  Brilliant!  It’ll knit like hotcakes. Decision made and bedtime approaching, I decided I was done knitting for the night at this point:

Sparklie things distract me the next day and the day after that. Eventually the sock parts get shoved into the UFO Knitting Projects cabinet. Before I know it, 12 months or more go by.

(Please note – all pictures from this point forward are dramatic recreations to help illustrate the finer points of this mysterious and astounding story.)

A couple of weeks ago I was overcome by a debilitating bout of finishitupitis. The Bamboo scarf came off the needles. Angelberry got several new repeats. I started rooting around in the UFO cabinet for other knitting misfits that I could quickly bust through. The Ishbel? No, too much lace left to knit. The Red Cap? Maybe… but that’s still a lot of knitting. The white mitts? Meh, too wintery.

Then I unearthed the socks.

Perfect! I convinced myself that I could pound them out in an hour or so of truly dedicated knitting.

  1. I’ve pulled out the original nearly-finished Sock and the second partially-finished one. I take a look at the pattern. Since the needles are still in the second one I’m all ready to go. I toss the original sock on the desk at my elbow, then start knitting on the second one.
    I power out the flat piece that goes across the arch of the foot. In minutes I’m cranking out rows like nobody’s business. Finishitupitis is AWESOME!
  2. I join in the round and start knitting the ball of the foot. It’s a set number of rows, and after I’m about halfway done I think offhandedly Hm, this section looks long to me.
    I glance at my first sock and it looks fine – and I followed the pattern with it, so no issues there. I keep knitting.
  3. I finish the foot and begin the toe decreases. At this point, I am definitely thinking that the second sock looks ‘a bit’ looser than the original… and possibly longer as well. I should check, but by now I’m knitting on the couch and the first sock is in my sewing room, an insurmountable 17 feet away. I keep knitting.
  4. I’m totally knocking this thing out. I’m knitting the toe. It’s nearly done. But… it does seem to be rather pointy. And big.
    Uh yeah. Really big. I wonder whether I omitted the knit rows on the first sock – a trick I’ve taken up to have socks match my squared-off feet. I can’t remember for certain when I started doing that trick, but I’m sure it wasn’t until recently and so I’m sure I didn’t do it on the first sock since I knit it so long ago. I keep knitting.
  5. Finally I’m done! Just the Kitcheners left to do! I walk the sock into my sewing room and pull out the original too. As I set them down side-by-side, I am actually stunned by what I see.

    That’s 2.5 inches of difference there, folks. And not just that – the left sock is too small for a 10 year old and the right sock is too big for a troll.  And here’s the thing: In my consciousness I knew that second sock wasn’t right, but my subconscious just kept overriding it and refusing to see the problem. Or wait – is that ‘subconscious’ and ‘conscience’? Conscious? Whatever, I’m confused enough as it is without worrying about homonyms and whatnot. And please, PLEASE, don’t get me started on Freud.

What else could this be besides a raging case of Determined Denial? I wasn’t drinking… though I probably would have done better had I been.

Turns out that at least three things were going on here – first, and possibly most importantly, the needles I left in the second sock weren’t the original needles, but a pair of placeholders that were a size larger. Second, since a year or so ago, I’ve been making myself learn to knit more loosely. I’d been knitting so tightly that I was putting a lot of strain on my hands and causing some pain. I can’t risk that with the sheer volume of knitting I have planned for myself! Third, I *did* skip the knit rows on the first sock’s toes. (OBVIOUSLY)

Seriously – I am at a complete loss to explain how I could have been surprised by this. I have no excuse, but it’s TRUE.

Do I frog and reknit? Frog and puffknit (PUFFS! WOO!)? Throw in the trash? What do you think?

Sweet Suprises

One of the greatest, unexpected joys of collecting my new generation of Possibilities is the excitement I feel when they arrive, and more than that, what I find as I open the boxes and packages and see my new treasures in person for the first time.

The standard was set for me by the lovely Kathi of 5gardenias when she sent my Favorite Cups last year.

Since then, many packages have arrived containing various things. Sometimes Possibilities, sometimes fiber, sometimes a gift for someone else… but they all have been an adventure.

The first time I received a package from England, I was beside myself with joyful glee. To have a little packet sent half-way around the world just for me, filled with little special things… and a cool international shipping label. Well, it’s hard to beat that.

Some things have arrived in shambles, or nearly so. There was an open wood crate of vintage “haberdashery” findings sold by a new mom, who was upside-down with her brand-new baby and had her husband package and ship my purchase. In his inexperience, he just wrapped a sheet of bubble wrap around the whole shebang and shoved it in a shipping box. Thankfully, other than some tangled threads and general jumble, everything survived the journey without damage.

The sweet new-mom seller and I both got a good laugh out of that one. (And I’m guessing that her husband got a “tutorial” on How To Ship Things.)

There was also a vintage wood sewing box that wasn’t wrapped well and was just shoved in a USPS flat-rate package. It arrived quickly, but because it was sliding loose in the shipping box it got a dented chip in the back of the lid. It is so sad when such things occur.

 

Yet even here there were surprises.

Needles hidden under a little lidded compartment, which weren’t shown in the listing pictures. What was a red blob in the listing pictures turned out to be an emery strawberry, quite on its last legs, but all-the-more treasured by me for it.

And the intricacies of this vintage embroidery hoop – lightly oxidized metal and the completely unexpected felt inlay on the inner hoop, which I’ve never seen before. I’m guessing it was intended to keep the fabric from slipping and also to protect it a little from creasing and the wear and tear that all hoop frames wreak upon the fabric.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Sweet Surprises. Little arrivals that soar far and away past anything else out there. These are particularly charming when you least expect them, and usually the outer wrapping is quite unassuming and no indication at all of the treasures that lie within.

One example of this is a gorgeous polwarth/silk roving, custom-dyed just for me (!) by of Three Waters Farm. I received a plain ‘ole box.

But inside….

Soft muted colors of a winter’s daybreak, wrapped in robin’s egg blue tissue with a ribbon and kind note.

There was another package from Kathi, this time of glass buttons that I will use on a stole or sweater that I’ve spun and knit myself from that polwarth and silk roving above. As usual, the whole experience was one of beauty and layers of discovery.

Most recently was an unassuming little package sent all the way from Wales.

I’d selected a few items from Sophie’s fun shop on etsy, Pratt’s Patch. As luck would have it, one of them was her 100th shop sale. This started a fun little exchange over email between us, but I was not expecting what I saw when I opened that little box. The very first thing I noticed was that it smelled like flowers.

And looked like them, too!

What a sweet woman – as a little extra gift for being her 100th purchaser, she sent me three vintage thimbles. Each is unique and beautiful.

A sweetly gorgeous collection of notions, one that I will always remember receiving.