Getting there

As I mentioned the other day, I have been working through Figuary, a daily series of life drawing videos provided by Croquis Café and LoveLifeDrawing during the month of February, with a view to encouraging daily drawing practice.

One of the recent videos included a quote I rather liked, and which is applicable not just to life drawing but to a wide range of other subjects:

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

This quote originated with Arthur Ashe, an American tennis player (described in the video where the quote was mentioned as a “tennis legend”, though I must confess that I’d never heard of him). I’m guessing he’s more likely to have had tennis than drawing in mind when he said it.

It occurred to me that if you wanted to be slightly obscure you could paraphrase this quote as:

Getting there is more important than getting there

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Welsh Grannies and Navajo Rugs

After a break of several years, I’ve recently taken up knitting and crochet again (I never officially stopped but I didn’t get around to making anything – apart from a case for my mobile phone – in the last 3 or 4 years).

Having refreshed my memory on the basic skills, I’ve plunged straight into trying a few new things in crochet.  In particular, I’ve finally got round to entering the worlds of granny squares and thread crochet.

Granny squares are probably the stereotypical crochet motif, as well as a staple of 1970s fashion.  They are relatively quick and simple to make and can be very colourful and versatile, offering plenty of scope for the imagination as well as a good opportunity to use up scraps of yarn without having to worry too much about carefully following patterns.  Just the kind of thing I like, so it’s perhaps fairly surprising that I never got round to making one in my earlier crochet career.

Last week, though, I bought a book entitled The Crochet Answer Book (2nd Edition) by Edie Eckman.  This contained a simple recipe for granny squares and I decided to try it out as I was reading.  The result, in the space of half an hour or so, was my first ever granny square, made using some oddments of yarn (which happened to be in the Welsh flag colours) and a hook I had to hand:
Granny Square #1

This, like all the crochet I’d previously done, was using yarn.  However, there’s also a strong tradition of using thread (and much smaller hooks) for crochet.  The basic techniques are the same, but the scale is somewhat smaller.

I decided last week that the time had come to try out crochet using thread, since I’d acquired a set of hooks that included several thread hooks as well as yarn ones and I wanted to put these to use.  I ordered 3 balls of #10 crochet thread (pretty much the standard size, I gather; it’s made of mercerised cotton and is quite a bit thicker than standard sewing thread but much finer than yarn), which again happened to be in the Welsh flag colours.

My very first attempt with thread, on Saturday morning (once the threads I’d ordered had turned up), was a quick Möbius band.  After this, I decided to try another granny square using thread.  My thought was that this might make quite a useful coaster.

I went for the same design (including colour scheme) as the first granny square but extended it to six rounds (instead of 3) in order to make a suitable size to sit under a mug.  It was worked with a 1.75mm hook and took perhaps a couple of hours to work up (I did quite a lot of it simultaneously with some other tasks, so it’s difficult to say for sure).  Here it is, fresh off the hook:
Granny Square #2 (FO); AKA Welsh Granny Coaster

If you look carefully at the lower left corner of this photo, you may spot what I noticed shortly after I’d finished tidying up the thread ends (i.e. the point at which it became too late to do anything about it) – a slight mistake whereby I accidentally worked an extra group of 3 stitches (in the red thread) into the middle of one of the groups in the previous round.  The result is effectively that there’s an extra stitch group along one side of the square in the last couple of rounds and a bit of a hold in one of the stitch groups in the white round.  Fortunately it doesn’t seem to have distorted the square shape too badly and it’s not too noticeable unless you look carefully but it does break up the symmetry a bit.

I could rip half the work out and redo it (this would probably require the removal of the entire last two rounds), or just put up with the mistake.  However, I remembered something I was once told about Navajo rugs, namely that they are always made with one deliberate and obvious imperfection woven into the fabric.  Apparently this is supposed to let the spirit in and out of the blanket.  Using Google, I managed to track down a reference to this on Brian McLaren’s blog and I’m fairly sure that when I first heard about the idea it was Richard Rohr who was being quoted (as McLaren does on his blog).  I don’t believe that the rugs (or my coaster) need a hole for spirits to get in or out, and I can’t claim that I incorporated the imperfection on purpose, but I like the idea that perfection “is not the elimination of imperfection… [but] the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection!” (to quote Rohr directly) and therefore I can view this as a reminder rather than a mistake.

 

Knowing me to a tea (or coffee)

I have made no secret, either on this blog or elsewhere, of the fact that I love both tea  and coffee.  However, it seems to be the case that many people, including some who know me quite well (or at least, have known me for a long time) seem to assume that I only drink one or the other.

Most often, I think, people get the impression I’m an exclusive coffee drinker.  Certainly it’s true that I like to start the day with a cup of fairly strong black coffee and that’s also what I’ll often opt for if I’m given the choice when I go to someone’s house for dinner or if I’m meeting someone for a chat at a local café (if it’s not a greasy-spoon venue that charges more for a cup of instant coffee than for tea, in which case I prefer the latter).

In fact, I probably drink more tea than coffee on an average day, as that’s what I’m more likely to brew for myself after my first morning coffee (though if people offer me coffee I’m generally more than happy to accept it).  Although I’m quite content with what would be considered a standard British cup of tea (with milk and, unlike coffee, I don’t dislike it with sugar, though I don’t usually bother) I tend to go more for slightly more delicate teas, generally without milk or other additives.  My tea cupboard at home probably contains on average somewhere between 5 and 10 varieties of tea, both black and green (and sometimes white).  I also drink quite a lot of rooibos and sometimes yerba mate, both of which I tend to think of as types of tea although I know that strictly they aren’t.  I’m not generally a big fan of herbal teas, though I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt from time to time and I do quite enjoy an occasional infusion of rosemary (which I think is supposed to be good for the memory, though I can’t remember for certain).

One group of friends that I regularly used to hang out with included a lot more tea drinkers than coffee drinkers, to the extent that quite often everybody else there would be wanting to drink tea (of the standard British variety with milk) and I was happy to go with the flow for the sake of simplicity.  At one point somebody I’d only known in that context saw me drink a cup of coffee elsewhere and was surprised as she’d assumed that I was a tea-only drinker.  Actually I still hang out with essentially the same group of people although we now seem to have more coffee and rooibos drinkers in our midst so I quite often go for one of those instead.

The reason I bring this up is not just to reassure you that you’re welcome to offer me either coffee (as long as it doesn’t have sugar in it) or tea but due to an incident that occurred yesterday.  I was chatting to someone I’ve known for almost 15 years and happened to mention that I was about to make myself a cup of tea.  This surprised him as he’d assumed it was coffee-or-nothing for me; to be fair, we first knew each other when we worked together in a university maths department and I drank a lot more coffee and somewhat less tea than I now do (click on the picture below for a possible explanation).

Theorem machine

Musing on this encounter, it struck me how easily we can have a very limited and inaccurate perception of someone even if we’ve known them for a long time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it means that getting to know a person well can be a lifelong journey, which helps to keep things interesting, but it means we should be careful about jumping to conclusions (especially on more important issues than which beverage someone prefers).

PS if you were wondering about the title of today’s post, it’s a deliberate mangling of the idiomatic phrase “to a T”, which is used to mean “precisely” or “in great detail”.  I don’t think it’s often used in the context of knowing something to a T but I don’t see any reason why it can’t be.