I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a beginner, to be new at something.
It’s a state of being that doesn’t seem to come with a lot of glamor, seen as something to move through as quickly and quietly as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working at the yarn desk and had someone approach me to ask for help and classify themselves as “just” a beginner, or apologize for not knowing what a certain phrase or piece of terminology means.
First of all, let me get this out of the way: please never apologize for being where you are.
And second, do you ever think about the things you wish you could do for the first time all over again? Like a particular book or movie you’d like to experience without knowing how it ends. Or getting the first glimpse of a breathtaking view that is now, while still gorgeous, very familiar to you. Or the first time you tasted an exotic fruit and it was so delicious it felt life-changing.
But what about yearning for the days of not knowing what you were doing? Do you ever wish to go back to the times when you weren’t very skilled at your favorite craft or hobby?
… I doubt many people would answer yes to that question. I can’t say that I would. But what I do wish is for everyone reading this, at whatever point you find yourself in your crafting journey, to give yourself grace to be a beginner, whenever you get the opportunity because — and this is the whole point of practicing and honing our craft, isn’t it? — you don’t get to be a beginner forever.
I can think of so many metaphors for what it’s like to be a beginner, the most apropos of which is to say that it’s like carding the wool before spinning it into yarn. Removing debris like we remove obstacles in our path, discarding the inner voice saying it’s too hard or the external voices telling us we should be doing something more ‘productive’ with our time. We persist, aligning the fibers like we align knowledge and practice. This is not something we must do before we begin; this is the beginning.
I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when The Sow’s Ear staff had the pleasure of attending an all-day retreat hosted at the incomparable Adamah Art Studio of Bethel Horizons. Many of us got to experience using a spinning wheel to turn raw wool into yarn for the very first time.
We all struggled, we all made a mess, we all got frustrated and we all laughed at ourselves. And as the afternoon light was slanting through the floor-to-ceiling windows falling on the hands and faces of this circle of friends, I had to marvel at it a little and think to myself: This is the most competent and experienced group of fiber artists that I know. How long has it been since any of us were true, rock-bottom, which-way-is-up beginners? What a privilege, to have this experience together.
Nothing about being a beginner is easy, but there is a lot about being a beginner that is beautiful. The gift of giving yourself time to stretch your brain and your hands, the gift to not be good at something and do it anyway. And in return, you get the gift of those ah-ha! lightbulb moments, when something slots into place and the world lights up around you because for the first time, you get it. You only ever get one first time for everything, so I encourage you to notice and honor first times when they come around.
In the spirit of celebrating new beginnings, I’m delighted to tell you that both of the spinning fiber photos above were taken by Sara S., who has just stepped into the role of Social Media Maven for The Sow’s Ear!
Sara has got an eye for color and composition that regularly blows me away and a sense of whimsy that is just delightful. Did you catch her recent series of posts about the Sow’s Ear Mannequins?
If you don’t already follow us on social media, this is going to be a wonderful time to start! Instagram // Facebook
Is learning to knit, or learning new knitting skills, something that’s calling out to you as the days grow shorter and the year winds down? We have a variety of classes and free knit-a-longs this autumn. Because all classes are virtual distance is no longer an obstacle — for anyone! I’m going to be teaching a couple sessions of my fingerless mitts class while I am actually in Bulgaria.
Click the link below for more information about each class, and we hope to see your smiling face via Zoom very soon…