The PhD blanket or Making it easier on yourself

As part of Operation Hygge, I decided that I wanted to make a blanket to cheer up our bedroom. Sticking to the make do and mend philosophy, I looked at the patterns I already have and went for a little dive in the yarn stash to see what I could make from the yarn I already had. And so I settled on this:

Debbie Abrahams Mosaic Blanket - source: Ravelry

Debbie Abrahams Mosaic Blanket – source: Ravelry

A gorgeous geometric bed-sized blanket and once I’d jigged around the colours a bit, I already had pretty much all the yarn I needed to complete it. So I duly started at the beginning of the year, trying to knit a square a day and have started to amass a little pile of squares.

Lots of knitted squares

Lots of knitted squares

As I was making them, the enormity of the task started to dawn on me. There are 117 squares in the blanket, not including all the stitching together, blocking, knitting the edging and the weaving in of thousands of tiny ends. Plus, as I’m using yarn that I already have rather than the lovely Rowan yarn that the pattern suggests, some of it is misbehaving and making things even harder. That bright petrol blue yarn you can just see the ends of in the pic above is a gorgeous colour but is cheap, nasty yarn that keeps splitting and getting tangled. There’s two different brands of bamboo yarn in there, both of which are lovely and soft but one is loads stretchier than the other so the squares are coming out different sizes. And I started to realise that this blanket project was in fact a metaphor for this final stage of my PhD: loads of things that need to be done and joined together to make one big thesis and many of those things are really bloody hard and make me want to cry and I am not working with perfect materials and it is going to take bloody ages.

And then I thought that the blanket was also like the PhD in that although it will be a real endurance task, it is all about doing one square/task at a time and at the end I will have a PhD/a cool blanket for my bed. And that was going to be the end of my post, feeling quite pleased with myself and my metaphor blanket.

Then the other day after a particularly stressful day, filled with lots of life conundrums I was chatting to a lovely friend who gave me the very wise advice of making things easy for myself and a little lightbulb went off in my head. Why am I knitting lots of little squares when I could just be knitting them in long strips? It’s still lots of work but it cuts out a lot of the annoying work and makes the knitting process much more pleasurable and so the weird knitted snake of squares came to life:

Finding the ease...

Finding the ease…

I’ve been hearing lots of people talking to me about moving with ease recently. Tara Stiles and Michael Taylor at Strala for one. I am pretty stubborn so I think it takes me hearing something several times and someone being blunt with me for it to sink in but when it does…yes, this year is going to be about finding the ease in everything, getting things done and looking forward to the way ahead. Now I just need to work out what the equivalent of knitting in one long strip is in PhD terms…wish me luck!

Knitting and yoga

Did anyone see this article in the Guardian today?

It talks about the way both knitting and yoga can benefit people by releasing tension, helping to calm the brain and generally having a meditative effect. I was really excited to see Tara Stiles in the article as I was lucky enough to take a class with her at Strala yoga when I was in New York last year and I loved it! From what I have read, some people in the yoga world have found her a bit controversial as she doesn’t use the traditional sanskrit names for poses etc but I think she’s actually doing a great job of making yoga accessible to everyone and highlighting that it should be fun and non-competitive, not about who’s the most bendy or has the most perfect body. I treated myself to her DVDs as a reward for passing my PhD review recently and hopefully when I have some spare pennies, I’ll be treating myself to one of these tanks:

Says it all!

Says it all!

I love both knitting and yoga and find that both definitely help with the stresses of PhD life. Having said that there are definitely times when knitting has the opposite effect and the secret knitting is proving to be one of those times. It’s a lace pattern which for non-knitters means doing lots of complicated stitches on very fine wool meaning that you can’t do anything else but concentrate completely on your needles, it takes aaaaages and mistakes are very easy to make! Still, hopefully it will all be worth it and turn out nicely in the end.

A sneaky peek...

A sneaky peek…

It looks just like a mess at the moment but I’m hoping that once it’s all knitted the magic of blocking will turn it into something beautiful. Blocking is basically wetting the lace and then pinning it out so that the lace pattern can stretch out a bit and you can see whether or not it’s what you thought you were knitting! It’s all a bit nerve wracking as the date it needs to be finished by is coming up very soon and I am nowhere near finished, argh! Now where did I put that yoga DVD? 🙂