Ahhhhh ... alpaca!

Ahhhhh … alpaca!

By Lisa Huddleston

Last Saturday, I made plans to meet my husband after the Vandy football game and do a little Christmas shopping. After he left, I started thinking about making a quick run to my favorite yarn store, Haus of Yarn, before meeting him. I had an idea for a birthday present for my daughter that required a yarn purchase, and it just made good sense to make the most of the long drive into town.

I arrived at Haus with only about 30 minutes to shop so I felt pushed, but I could do it. I knew I wanted something gray and chunky and soft so I gave those specifics to a kind lady working there, and she led me right to something perfect: baby alpaca, soft and squishy and in several (no, not 50) shades of gray. Great! I paid for the yarn, jumped in the car, and headed to Vandy to meet Chuck just in time.

The afternoon was very enjoyable: a late lunch at Ted’s, shopping in Green Hills, and people watching over a cup of Starbucks. Lots of fun, but that soft yarn was calling my name the whole time, and I couldn’t wait to get it on my needles when I got home.



That evening I cast on the required number of stitches that the pattern called for and got right down to business. The yarn looked beautiful, and the diagonal ribbing was working out just right. I was feeling pretty proud of the great, hand-made gift I’d be giving my daughter. And, hey, I was really getting good at this knitting stuff! (Insert a lot of back patting here.)

The following day was pretty full so I didn’t get to knit until late in the evening, and I was too tired to work on it then for fear of making a mistake. After knitting just a few rows, I put it down for the next day. It was nearly finished so it took very little time to wrap it up on Monday. I carefully measured the length–yep, exactly nine inches as specified. I couldn’t see any mistakes, and I proudly began binding off the cowl. I was excited to see how it looked on so I immediately pulled it over my head. Wait! It was really tight. Not what I’d hoped for at all. More of a rogue turtleneck without the turtle than a true cowl. What the heck??

I went back to the picture I’d seen on … hmmm, my friend had adjusted the pattern by casting on 80 stitches instead of the specified 60. And I looked at the last cowl I had made–I had cast on 100 stitches for that. Man! I wanted to give up and cry, “Everything I do just turns out terribly! Waaaaaa! I really suck!” So that’s just what I did.

But after my short pity-party, I dried my tears and moved on. And lo and behold, some good lessons were learned:

1. I loved the yarn I used and will give it another try for a cowl.

2. A little more research will help me to avoid future disasters like this one. Yes, I will spend more time reading the notes other knitters have added to their projects on Rav.

3. Experience is the best teacher. I love my 100 stitches-diameter cowl so that may become my go-to number.

4. You don’t always get what you expect, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw the whole thing out. The soft, gray, turtleneck-sans-turtle will still be great on a very cold day, and it is still very pretty.

5. The next one will be better because of my time spent learning on this project. Not perfect–but better!

Good life lessons, good knitting lessons, and all in all, a good yarn to tell.


"I can't stop!"

“I can’t stop!”

By Lisa Huddleston

I have at least one other little homily to write down from last week’s vacation, before it completely escapes my mind. It is about the importance of being humble.

On the first full day–our second at The Homestead–the four of us, our New Jersey pals and Chuck and me, decided to take a tour on Segways. Radical. A new experience for each of us. And incredibly nerdy. I chuckle to myself just thinking of it. Jokes about Paul Blart, Mall Cop, abounded, but we were all just a little worried about balancing the odd contraptions. Well, Suzanne was worried. Secretly I imagined that I would have no trouble whatsoever and privately sniggered at her concerns. I flew confidently up the practice hill and back with no difficulty and felt ready to roll. I did ask the instructor to explain one more time how to “lock my arms” in order to stop, but he made it sound like a piece of cake so I discarded any shadow of doubt and followed the group down a slightly sloping path to a paved road where we stopped. Our guide once again asked if we were ready, and I confidently asserted that I was.

Oh boy! He led the way down the steep road, but before I knew it, I had overtaken the guide and left the whole group in my dust. Which might have been just a little cool if I had had any control over my speed at all– but that was nowhere near the truth. With the guide yelling, “Lock your arms!” and Suzanne screaming, “The heels, the heels!” I was totally out of control. Holding on for dear life and shouting over my shoulder, “I can’t stop!” I continued at literal break-neck speed all the while frantically trying to think of a way out of an inevitably painful landing. The guide finally caught up with me and got in front where he showed me how to rock back on my heels and slow that sucker down. I was joyfully relieved and also hysterically laughing at the sight I knew I was. For the rest of the tour my new name was “Speedy,” and it was a source of great amusement for us all. Yet only I knew the embarrassment I felt at not living up to my high and mighty expectations. I was torn between laughing and crying–so I laughed until I cried!

This might just be another funny anecdote in my crazy life, but as usual I think I had some lessons to learn from the experience. First, about my attitude: I thought I had things under control. I bike. I kayak. I hike. A dorky Segway trip would be no trouble. Wrong. And because I had too high an opinion of my ability, I didn’t really worry about the fact that I didn’t understand the whole “locking your arms” thing. Dumb. Next time I have a question, I’m going to get the answer before I start rolling.

Second, passion and intensity are only good things when one is using them in the right direction. No matter how hard I clung to the handles of my Segway, I was eventually going to crash if I did not relax enough to straighten my arms and rock back on my heels. Those directives do not come naturally to me. I can be a strong force to reckon with, and relaxing my grip on anything is difficult to say the least. In this case, it was darn near impossible, because it went against all of my natural instincts. But I had to listen to the cries of those around me, to accept that my way was the wrong way, and change what I was doing–or I was going to crash. Period. Good practice for me in being a little more humble and a lot more teachable.

I feel as though there should be a “third” right about here in this essay, but I think it is better simply to reiterate these first two lessons into one succinct word of truth: Humility. Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Humiliation may not be a lot of fun, but it sure can be profitable … and sometimes it makes for a very funny picture. Oh my.