A philosophy of tools

I find myself thinking about tools today, mainly because I got a new spindle (this one from Etsy seller Kate’s Cauldron).  The first spindle I bought, as I have mentioned, I got at the Renaissance Festival last year.  It’s not a bad little spindle, although it’s a little top-heavy, and spins better once it’s got fiber on it.  The new one caught my eye because it was pretty, and I love the spiral top.  It wasn’t that expensive, but I pushed it to the side initially (Do I need to start buying spindles already?) but I couldn’t get it out of my head.  So Jack bought it for me, because he likes to spoil me like that.

Anyway, I got it today, and I took it out of the box and put some fiber on it, and tried it out.  It spins beautifully.  It’s walnut, it’s about 20 grams, and it practically flies when you put a little twist on it.  I feel like I’m spinning both faster and finer than with my other spindle.

That’s what got me thinking about tools.  Knitting is a hobby that can be incredibly inexpensive, if you want it to be.  When I first got started, since I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it, I bought aluminum needles and (mostly acrylic) yarn from the thrift store, and cheap crappy acrylic from Michael’s and JoAnn’s.  As I became more proficient, I have slowly upgraded my tools – better needles, nicer yarn – and it really does make a difference.  Knitting with higher-quality yarn is a more pleasurable experience all by itself, because of the tactile nature of knitting.  Nicer yarn is softer, easier to knit – it even smells better.  And it seems counterintuitive – we’re talking about sticks, wrapping around string here, not exactly high-tech – but nicer needles are easier to knit with too.  I’ve talked about my Addi Turbos, which are slick and have a beautifully flexible cable and actually make me knit faster.  The Harmony wood needles I just picked up from Knit Picks are not only beautiful, but sharp and smooth, so they’re not quite as fast as nickel-plated (so I’m not afraid of dropping stitches) but they’re faster and stronger than bamboo.  I’m knitting my own fingerless gloves on a set of bamboo DPNs and I’m nervous about snapping them.  (I’m strong but they’re flexible, so fortunately it hasn’t happened yet.)

The spinning wheel I want is about mid-range as far as price goes.  When I first started thinking about buying a wheel, as an abstract idea before I took the spinning class, the ones I was looking at were as cheap as I could possibly manage.  I was even looking at homemade wheels out of PVC pipe and the like.  But the problem I kept running into was that I didn’t like the way they looked.  I can’t tell how they spin without actually spinning on them, but I also am not sure how much spinning I would want to do with a wheel that I don’t like the look of.  If it’s not attractive, I’d want to cover it up or put it away when I wasn’t using it, which means I would not only have to find space for it in my cozy one-bedroom apartment, but when I wanted to use it, I’d have to overcome my natural laziness to drag it out and set it up.  When I put things away, I’m much less likely to bring them out again.  Away is neat; not-away not only makes things messy but requires effort.  The wheel I want (the double-treadle Ashford Joy) is pretty enough to sit out in public, close to hand.  She’s also a delightful wheel to work with, and I’ve had several people recommend her as a wheel you can grow with.

I feel like every time I talk about what’s going on in my head, it comes back around to residue from abuse.  It’s not safe to want things, I don’t deserve nice things, I shouldn’t spend money on myself – these are all messages I’ve internalized because of emotional abuse, and they’re not only from Isabel but my father.  Growing up, wanting things meant disappointment, because I never got the things I genuinely wanted.  I stopped wanting things, because it was safer and easier.  It feels strange to be in a mental state where I still want something two weeks later, and I’m willing to be patient and hunt for a job and save my pennies and wait and hope because of something I want.

This is the way the inside of my head works:  I see something I like.  I feel something that approximates ‘I want that.’  I immediately start talking myself out of it: it’s too expensive, it isn’t worth what’s being charged for it, it isn’t as nice as I think it is, I don’t need it.  It never goes as far as ‘I don’t deserve to have nice things,’ but it’s more along the lines of ‘There are more important things to spend money on than me and this thing that I want.’  It generally doesn’t matter how badly I want it, either.  Usually, if I do break down and buy it for myself, I am wracked with buyer’s remorse.  Why did I buy this thing?  I don’t need it.  It was expensive.  I could have bought ______ thing instead.  What if I need that money later?  Et cetera.  The thing about money is that it represents potential in my head.  If I have it, I sit and think about all the things I could do with it.  When I actually do something with it, it removes that potential, and I’m left with all of the things I didn’t do.  Oddly, if someone buys it for me, I don’t have that problem.  (I have a problem asking for it, communicating that I want it, valuing myself enough to feel like I should get it – but once it belongs to me, I love it and cherish it.)

The only other thing that approaches the sheer level of potential that money has in my head is yarn.  A skein of yarn can turn into anything.  If you have multiple skeins, it could be even more things.  The potential of yarn doesn’t turn obsessive or pathological in my thoughts, but that may be related to the fact that I tend to buy yarn with a specific purpose in mind.  If I don’t have a specific purpose in mind when I buy it, it tends to sit in my stash in a state of potential.  Every so often, I’ll pick a ball of yarn out of my stash and go hunting through Ravelry for something to do with it.  I scour projects other people have made with the same yarn.  I look at patterns based on the weight, the fiber content, the amount of yarn.  Eventually, I put it back in my stash.  Everything I looked at had something wrong about it – I didn’t have the right needle size, for example, or I didn’t have enough of it, or I didn’t know who I would make it for.  Is this the same sort of thought process I have with unmarked money?  Maybe it is.  But I think this is a little healthier, because it can have a tangible resolution.  Once I make something, it’s made, and I don’t have knitter’s remorse.  When I cast something on, I fall more in love with what I am creating, and the act of creation, than I am with the potential represented by that skein.  My stash is manageable, and one of these days, I’ll figure out what to do with the skein of olive Manos Cotton Stria that I rescued from the thrift store.

~ by Amber on March 3, 2011.

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