A Continuum of Practice in Reading and Crocheting

I have been reading and crocheting so naturally at some point my reading connects to my crocheting.

As I mentioned in this post, I had started working on my first “real” piece of crocheted clothing: a sweater vest for my dad. It was classified as an Intermediate, level 3 on a five level scale.

Crocheted Sweater VestI have made lots of hats and scarves but they are forgiving, mostly one size fits all. The vest had different directions for different sizes and included ribbing and arm and neck openings. It also had a special pattern in front that was a little tricky. All in all, a challenging pattern for me. I am happy to say, I completed it, and it fits! (It wasn’t quite done when I saw my dad but he was able to try it on. I finished up the borders and put it in the mail yesterday.)

Once I finished the vest, I wanted something easy, almost mindless as one friend suggested. It is hard to be completely mindless with crochet as there is usually some counting involved but there are certainly plenty of patterns that are much more mindless than the sweater vest. I chose to make a corner to corner shawl using beautiful self-striping yarn. Once you get the simple pattern going, it is easy to continue and the yarn does all the work. And, in the end, you get a lovely shawl in much less time than the sweater vest.Easy Shawl

Is one bit of crocheting better than another because it is harder? I certainly learned more about my craft from making the vest. But there was a bit more stress for something I am doing to relax.

I was reminded of this question as I read David Denby’s Lit Up, his study of high school English students, their teachers, and the texts they shared. He focused on several innovative, committed teachers who challenged their students with classics but also found ways to connect them to contemporary lives and concerns. The students of one teacher read assigned texts as well as their own choices and, at the end of the year, made a hierarchy of the books from hardest to easiest and then thought about why they were hard and how difficulty impacted quality. It was, for the teacher, a way of helping them understand the difference between an easy beach read and something else.

Their end of the year project required them to combine Shakespearean soliloquy with their own reading. Denby identifies something more about the relationship of the classics and the contemporary: “Some books, they knew, were better than others, but there were strengths in merely good books as well as in a masterpiece, and those qualities could be made to play upon each other. Part of the connection of the classic texts and contemporary books was that they intermingled in the reader’s mind, working on each other–usually in mysterious ways, this time in explicit ways” (p. 182).

The obvious similarity here between my crocheting and the students’ reading is the laddering, starting with easier projects that built foundational skills for the more challenging project.  And that project has built my confidence for even more difficult projects. But what about the other direction? How has my successful challenge changed my attitude or approach to the simpler stuff?  Just like I refuse to label some reading as a guilty pleasure, so I don’t think the easy things are a waste of time. They are a chance to just enjoy crocheting but perhaps, as a more experienced crafter, these simpler projects are better, made with more precision, a higher quality than before.

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