On plateaus

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In the course of growth when pursuing a skill there come points of levelling off, those plateaus of ability, where our talents seems to rest. It’s not really what’s happening Our skill, be it with words, an instrument, making yarn, continues to improve, but we don’t notice it. We remember the early days; that heady rush as taking a bit if fiber and making it into slubby yarn, full of misbegotten messes; undertwist married to overtwist in a riot of thick and thin we were happy to not have break.¹

Each make, then each bobbin, getting better and better, until we were something like satisfied with our skill. We will never again learn with such exuberant speed.

For Christmas I got a loom. Not a big loom. A whopping 8″ working face (so, somewhat smaller than that in finished cloth).  I’ve been lusting, with quiet dread, after a loom since about a week after I finished the aforementioned lovely horror of a skein.  The dread is equal parts fear of the cost of looms, the size of looms, the complexities of weaving, and the time I shall again be a tyro: married to the greater fear of how much yarn they eat; to which I will enslave myself in the feeding.

But I get to have that rush again, the “look how good I’m getting” feeling.

Moreover, the new ways of thinking about yarn mean that the little things I’ve picked up; the subtle skills which have been slowly piling onto the greater skills, are suddenly evident. I’m thinking about color, in ways I didn’t notice I was thinking about color. I’m thinking about twist in ways I didn’t realise I was thinking about twist. I’m thinking about bulk, and woolen, and worsted, and what fibers to blend, and how to work out gradients, in way I didn’t realise I was.

I hadn’t plateaued at all. I was merely working my way up a slope which seemed flat… the way the Great Plains seem level, until you have reached the western face of The Rockies and are looking down from that great height.




¹I still have the first skein I spun up on the wheel… it’s a mess.  I hated it, when it was done. I hated it in a most peculiar way, because I was inordinately proud of the mess I never wanted anyone to see. I still look at it; run it through my hands to savor what I made, and to remind myself of where I’ve been. Also, as much to remind myself of where I am not, and can never be again.

It is, to borrow a loaded phrase,  “primitive” yarn. It is plainly the yarn of early days. It’s of a popular style (“chunky”).  If I were to sit at the wheel now and try to make, I can’t.  But there, inside it (for maybe six inches at at time) are some examples of the “better” yarn I make now, almost absentmindedly.

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