My Hands Will Learn 06-19-23

My Hands Will Learn

One of the great things about having done yarn-work for so long? I can always trust that my hands will learn.

Trusting That My Hands Will Learn

I’ve noticed recently that when I teach someone a new stitching technique the student doesn’t always make the same assumptions that I do. Often I hear distrust in their voice that they will ever pick it up.

I’m starting to think I need to teach how to trust one’s hands. After repeating something a few hundred times, the muscles in the hands will definitely pick it up.

For my most recent cardigan, I had to learn two new techniques. The crochet long-tail base chain, and the Tunisian crochet mesh stitch.

As I created a base chain of 295 stitches for the bottom edge, it didn’t feel at all comfortable. But I knew it would. When I’d split the yarn, I’d question if I was holding the hook in the right position. Or I’d ask if the long-tail wrap should be done in the same direction or the opposite direction of the yarn-over with the working yarn. And was I being consistent? Yes, I had questions and concerns. But I never worried that I wouldn’t be proficient at it pretty quickly. Similarly, when I started doing the Tunisian crochet mesh stitch I had to constantly count my stitches to make sure I didn’t mess up. The beginning and the end of each row was different and didn’t feel normal to me. Shaping the fabric with this new technique required me to think through how the rows layered on top of each other.

But again, I had every confidence it would all be worked out.

Teaching Trust – Possible?

This confidence in the ability to master something new in yarn-crafting was seemingly always there for me. I never remember ever doubting I couldn’t figure something out. But I’m sure that’s a problem with my memory and not really true. I’m sure in my first few years I doubted I’d ever be able to figure some things out.

And I’m not sure you can teach that confidence. I think it can only come with repeated ability to realize that your hands will always learn if given enough time and practice.

Current Tunisian Crochet

Yay! One sleeve down and the second sleeve just barely started…but started!

It was honestly a joy to finish the first sleeve. As I mentioned previously, sleeves are not my favorite part of making a sweater. I’m hopeful now that I’ve figured out all the shaping that the second sleeve will go a bit more quickly.

5 comments on “My Hands Will Learn

  1. This was a great column!!!
    In knitting, I have learned that repetition causes eventual proficiency and speed.
    And self confidence.
    And I have sometimes reminded myself of that lesson when learning other things than knitting.
    I identified with what you wrote immediately.
    Thank you.

  2. There is a lovely book called This is how I go when I go like this by Linda Ligon. There is a lovely passage that talks about learning from watching someone else’s hands. I can’t find my copy drats! But this tiny little volume is so profound. I think you would really enjoy it.

  3. Very interesting post. And the timing — lol — I just spent the weekend learning 6 Tunisian crochet stitches. I haven’t crocheted in many years, not since the debacle that was the never-ending granny square afghan whose square footage rivaled the footage of a small house. Almost 40 years ago and it still makes me shudder.
    But when I started noticing this type of crochet recently, and what a lovely fabric it makes, I watched a video by Toni Lipsey , (who wrote The Tunisian Crochet Handbook), on youtube and had a very nice swatch in 20 minutes. Then learned 5 more stitches the next day.
    So I get it, about trusting your hands. I dye, process raw wool, spin, weave, knit, embroider, and make so many things. I also trust my eyes. Once I watch someone do a thing with their hands, I am usually pretty sure that my hands can do the thing too.
    And, of course, doing that thing well, usually comes with practice.
    I’m building a ukulele and a cnc router now, so we’ll see how this plays out in non-fibery/artsy things…lol.
    I think you can teach someone to trust their eyes and hands. It’s about baby steps, I think. I used to teach painting and printmaking and I fully believe that anyone can be an artist, if they learn skills in the right order. People always say, ‘Oh, I could never do all that!’ and I always reply…’But you could learn how to, if you want’
    That said, I have met a couple of folks with two left thumbs… 🤷‍♀️

  4. I always spend a lot of time talking about how as adults we think we should be able to do something just because we understand it, but our brains really need to just keep practicing the steps over and over before our hands can do them. Even accomplished musicians I’ve to practice practice practice a new piece of music before their hands can do it easily. I also remind people that babies learn to walk by falling down and getting up and trying again. They have been watching it happen around them their whole lives but it takes lots of repetition. They don’t get mad at themselves for not getting it. Frustrated maybe but not self-deprecating! Learning to ride a bike or play tennis or knit. It’s all the same. We have to be ok with being babies when we learn new physical skills. 🙂

  5. While I agree with you that confidence can’t be taught, as it’s gained by experience, the trick of positive self-talk can and should be taught. Most people are in a constant internal dialogue, and what they tell themselves has a lot to do with how they persist in learning new things. I teach middle school students, and this growth mindset is a focus all the time. Like Gisela said above, be willing to put in the effort of learning has to be there. I’d love to play the piano, and I’m confident I could learn, but I would need to dedicate the time to doing it. Maybe when I retire.

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