Unraveling: Notes to Self

Amy Hallberg Blog 2 Comments

In mid-December I finished knitting my vibrant, oversized origami shawl—wingspan twice as wide as my outstretched arms. Three different color ways—Surf, Lupine, and Pegasus—meander from one hue to the next. I luxuriated in all those interwoven violets, blues, and greens. And then I unraveled the end.

As the final stitch came into place, I hadn’t gotten that satisfied rush. The border didn’t fit.

I’d have to rework the final stretch unless I forever wanted to wear my shawl with regret. Or talk myself into liking it. Nope. I worked backwards, carefully unraveling—except! Stitches slipped off needles. Yarn pulled apart. Loops slipped away from me—fast!

Suddenly several inches were gone, back to the previous color, where I painstakingly gathered up stitches into a row.

As part of me panicked, another part offered these mantras:

What does this make possible? And: Meant to be comes to be. I know that’s true.

This shawl has been through two road trips, both followed by total—intentional—unravelings and pattern changes. Pegasus didn’t join the blend until this final iteration. What are a few lost inches on a journey of miles?

You may be thinking, “This woman is out of her mind. ” And that’s the point.

  • GETTING OUT OF MY HEAD: Like those colorways, I meander when I knit—or do artwork of any kind. It helps me explore fresh perspectives. Rosanne Bane calls this habit Process. In Around the Writer’s Block, she talks about the importance of mindless creative play—works we’re willing to destroy, games we don’t care if we win. Letting ourselves freeflow in one space helps us gather inspired ideas, heading off stale writing.
  • LETTING MYSELF REVISE: It’s easier to access our brilliance when we embrace surprises. We start with an idea. Challenges arrive with new information. Flashes of insights emerge. And we learn. If we grasp onto our first idea—we leave no room for growth.
  • HONORING THE JOURNEY: This part is huge. What if several inches—or my whole shawl—unravels? Or isn’t complete? Is that a comment on my worth as an artist? Why devalue myself for experiences that make me aware? We live in a world that grades us—A to F—every step of the way. That grading limits our joy. By letting ourselves be where we are—and honoring each stage—we enjoy mysteries as they unfold.

The revised shawl came together in less than a week—for the onset of Minnesota winter. I’ve wrapped myself in it since. Strangers comment on its wild, unwieldy beauty. But that shawl is uniquely me. And an expression of where I’ve been.

That’s what brings me joy.

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