Monday, February 19, 2007


One of my favorite books of all time is Cheaper by the Dozen, the based-on-true-life story of the Gilbreth family, who had 12 children and one parent who was a psychologist and the winner of a prestigious prize for engineering, and one who was a famous motion study scientist and engineer in his own right. It's just a delightful read, and now I'm off to find out if our library has this biography of Lillian Moller Gilbreth.

While the book is delightful, and no doubt had some influence on my decision to have lots of children and be intimately involved in their education, I've been musing a lot about efficiency lately. Well, to be honest, my complete lack of efficiency. Sure, I carry 10 dishes at a time from the dishwasher to our cabinet (cunningly located in another room -- thanks, Victorians!), but overall I'm not a motion study expert.

Take this project for an example.

It probably looks mostly done. Thanks, Jen, for the vote of confidence! No, the sweater for March is still in the mental planning stages. However, if this sweater is any indication of how my year is going, I might as well hang it up right now. This isn't complex knitting, by any stretch of the imagination. But that collar? That fourth iteration of the collar? It's still too tight for the boy's head. He gamely tries it on, tells me he likes the sweater, but can't get it over his head. Over and over and . . . and that arm? The first arm to be done? The one that seemed way too short but now is fine, even though the second one was purposely made longer, figuring I'd rip back the first one and lengthen it? Well, I'll be ripping it back anyhow because this

is what happens when you pick up the bar between stitches using double-pointed needles, create a whole new stitch line, and then drop that stitch when you think. . . "heeeyyyyy, this doesn't look right!" Taaa daaaa -- a lovely ladder. Oh well, had to redo anyhow. . .

And you know, while it would be nice not to make bonehead errors like repeatedly underestimating the non-pinheadness of my child, or not making dopey stitch errors, it's not horrible to be inefficient at knitting. I'd like more finished objects and less smacking of forehead, but that's the way it goes. Learning to be okay with my imperfections may be the work I'm presented right now.

Or maybe I'm being all philosophical because I've got some nasty repetitive stress injury that's exacerbated by knitting and my right hand goes numb and my left hand hurts so much that knitting fast isn't an option. Knitting at all is truly a luxury right now. I think the injury is stress from carrying an increasingly-heavy toddler, plus knitting, plus time at the keyboard, but rest and ice and ibuprofen are the paths to acceptance that I'm trying.

And while I like the idea of redoing sweaters as my children grow, making repeated errors on them renders me incapable of wanting to do anything on them ever again. Ask me about the socks that want darning. . .

In happy news, though, I just got some much-appreciated professional recognition and am now going to learn how to develop curriculum as well as teach it, and my spouse has gotten some very nice (and more lucrative) professional recognition, and our bedroom is sparkly clean.

Oh, and the kids and I and my brother in law and his kids and two neighbors just spent our first afternoon at the beach. Beautiful weather, happy wet children -- even though the water was so cold that my feet went numb and Thing 4 insisted on standing on my shoes instead of in the water or wet sand -- and a lovely interlude. Nothing efficient, nothing better.


Jacquie said...

I can totally empathise on the silly mistakes thing - I can't seem to get anything right at the moment either :(

I am glad you had a nice day on the beach to relax though.

Congrats on the professional recognition to both of you!

amanda j said...

You should read your own previous post! You are very efficient. And remember what you would tell your kids - we can learn from our mistakes (unless we rip them up and put them away forever!)

Helen said...

Actually, I think its the carrying of ten dishes at once that's injuring your wrists. Must stop that.

Help them, by having multiple projects -- one on small needles and one on larger needles. It really helps (honest -- I'm a woman with a matching pair of wrist braces -- switching off keeps the braces in the drawer and off my wrists).

As for lengthening sleeves -- have you ever seen the trick where you intentionally knit it too long, then take a tuck (inside for invisibility or outside for "visual interest") that you then undo as the arms grow?

Elizabeth said...

I think if I ever get around to making my bedroom sparkly clean, I will definitely feel myself to be very efficient. And then loll around in there for the rest of the day reading.

meredith said...

i am so concerned about the repetitive stress pain you are experiencing! i really hope you feel better soon. can we blame the cleaning chores and not the knitting? just to make ourselves feel better? congrats on the prof. recognition for you and your man.

Charity said...

Congratulations on the recognition for both you and the dh! It's always affirming to receive notice.

I'm sorry to hear of your strain, with all that goes on in your household, slowing down must be especially difficult.

I'm feeling like Elizabeth, above. I just rearranged and cleaned my bedroom, and now all I want to do is sit in it, reading and knitting, and ignore the rest of the house. :0)

Carol said...

I'll second the hint about going back and forth between something on small needles and something on larger needles. It helps me.
Good luck.

Montana said...

I think you are pretty efficient myself. Of course, because you are efficient, you will always see a need for improvement! LOL

Re: pain - look into a good massage workup for your arms and shoulders. I have a theory that lots of wrist & arm pain originates in the shoulders.

I think I have frogged more inches than I have knitted this month. Maybe it's something about February!