Learning – Stepping into Beginners Mind (March Post #13)

Slice of Life logoI started a new project today with lots of new learning. I decided to make my 94 year old mother a lap blanket. She had a knitted one she really liked but it disappeared somewhere in the Care Facility she is living in. I am sure some nice lady is using it.

So knitting is the new task. I learned to knit when I was a Camp Fire Girl (think kind of like- Girl Scouts) a very long time ago. I was not good at it but I know the basics – knit and purl. I can do this I told myself and off to the yarn store I went.

My friend a avid knitter sent me to a local yarn and fiber store.  O-Man I was out of my league before I got 5 steps into this place. It was beautiful with yarn and other fibers everywhere – projects to look at, patterns, books, whole wall of different types of needles. There was so much to take in that I was extremely happy when someone approached me and asked it they could help.

I named it right away – I am a beginner.  I have done a small amount of knitting a long time ago. She assured me right away it was a bit like riding a bike once you learn you just need a bit of practice and it will all come back.

She help me find a simple pattern – I did know how to tell which was easy and which was hard. I needed practice in reading the patterns. She explained about the weight in the yarns and which yarn would work well with my project. We choose colors -that part I could do. I was quite proud of myself. One step I could handle.

We needed to choose needles that would work – think size of needle but also a decision about metal needles over wooden, circular over straight needles. I was overwhelmed and now she wanted me to sit down so she could help me get started. I thanked her and said  I would start at home. I needed to get going.  Really I just couldn’t take in any more information at that time.

I had wondered what I have gotten myself into. Can I do this? Should I just quit?  I scheduled time with a knitting friend and she helped me cast on the 73 stitches (I think that is what they are called), she patiently helped me re-learn knitting and purling, reviewed how to read the pattern. She did some knitting- I watched, I did some knitting- she watched. Then I worked alone for awhile and she checked in on me.

Both woman provided support in steps, they shared tips of the craft that I would never have learned on my own, they gave me encouragement when I started to quit. They both asked me to check back in with them when I needed help or if I just wanted them to see if I was on the right track. They both smiled and made me feel like it was ok to be a beginner.

The learning of a craft felt like how learning to read and write should be.

  • Small steps
  • Small group or one on one
  • Encouragement
  • Work a little and then take a break
  •  Making some choices alone
  •  Getting tips of the trade from an expert
  • Having an expert guide to the side
  • Slow release of responsibility

It is all about how we learning. The same steps apply but some times our wider community forgets about how we really learn. They forget that large groups, pressure and to much to fast does not make for experts. It does not make for learning of any kind.

I was glad this week to be in beginners mind again. One day gathering supplies and materials I would need. One day practicing the steps. Now I will work on my own for a while. Next week I will check in with my friends to be sure I am on the right track.

It will take me a while to be an expert knitter. I won’t be making sweaters right away. But I will learn slowly, step by step just like our students learn to read and write in small groups with patiences, encouragement, time and an expert guide to the side.imgres

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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