Learning Like Velcro

Danielle Moore

15 Jan, 2019 8:21 pm

“The longer it takes to figure something out, the longer this thing has to find ways of sticking in your brain… like VELCRO!”

This is what my French conversation teacher (because what’s one more thing on my plate of things to learn?) says to our class of 12 adults trying to practice a language foreign to their tongues when one of our classmates, Michael, tries to think of the word for waist. She hushes us up when we try to jump in and save a classmate from the embarrassment of “not knowing”, letting our struggling classmate to figure it out for themselves. We all sit in an awkward palpable silence, staring at our classmate, until a couple minutes later, he beams and exclaims “TAILLE”!

This is how I feel as I embark on this journey of learning a new skill a month. Maybe without the exclamation of simple french vocab.

“What was I thinking?”
Was what I was thinking
When it came to actually doing

When a friend reached out to teach me how to process a wool fleece (we’re meeting this weekend, thanks Lauren!), I thought: fibre-working is the first theme of the year. It made sense too, to learn an indoor skill meant for keeping one warm, in the heart of winter. Having previous difficulties with knitting, I was not yet ready to re-encounter this two pronged beast. Instead, I opted for its friendlier cousin - crocheting. With a ball of yarn, my friendly crochet needle, and a printed beginner’s guide, I set to work.

My hands felt like giant sausages fumbling around with a piece of dental floss. I felt like a teenager all over again, except instead of my newly widened hips ramming into tables, my fingers tripped over one another, clumsily trying to make this single piece of yarn into fabric. And then I thought of Michael, sitting in silence (public silence, at that), allowing for the velcro to finally stick. So I stopped panicking about my sausage fingers and allowed myself to be okay with fumbling while I learn. It took a while, but after half an hour (and a really helpful youtube video) I had managed to get the hang of the basic stitch. TAILLE!

Turns out sitting in discomfort is essential for growth (think of it as a puberty of sorts, for learning something new).

series of crochet steps

I continued for another hour and a half listening to a new-to-me podcast called Teaching Your Brain to Knit, hosted by two knitters, Margaret and Catherine, who explore topics like how we learn best, how we change our minds, and whether or not sock yarn can store negative energy. In the episode I listened to, I learned about the concept of metacognition, or, thinking about thinking. Which is something I do a lot. I think. An interesting side-effect of this project will be finding out how I learn/think best. So far, I can tell you this, it ain’t through printed guides.

Last night, my roommate Zoe and I had a crochet night in. We boiled some tea, ate some homemade baking, and set to work with our YouTube gurus in front. And something interesting happened, the difference in my crocheting abilities was like night and day! (Metacognitive thought: maybe knitting with others has a positive effect on my brain and learning process) I fell into a meditative state, and before we knew it it was almost midnight. It’s pretty magical watching the emergence of this new piece of fabric, in real time, as a result of your hands dancing around with a needle and a piece of yarn. In this rhythm, I had found a moment of meditation.

So perhaps this peace I found is a skill for the apocalypse in itself? And the fabric, garment a mere by-product.

Thanks for reading everyone! If you’re in the Winnipeg area, hit me up for a knitting/crocheting date. If you’re at a distance, what are your hands dancing with? What is your mind dancing with? How have you found peace this month?

(Also stay tuned for more thoughts and projects on wool/fibre - because I’m sitting over here with my mind being totally blown by conversations I’ve had with folks. There's so much more to the topic of fibres, I'm bursting at the seams here! Haha!).


The Cautious Optimist