Monday, March 1, 2010

Challenge and Compromise

Yesterday I finished participating in the 2010 Ravelympics as a member of the Crochet Liberation Front's Flaming Hooks team. My chosen challenge was to use Tunisian crochet and make a sweater from the Spice Market Tunic pattern. The rules for the competition involve starting a project no earlier than the Opening Ceremony for the real Olympics started, and finishing no later than midnight PST on the day they ended.

That is a lot of crochet in a short amount of time. Especially since I have a job to go to, other commitments to keep up with, and no previous experience doing Tunisian crochet. I worked crocheting sessions into spare moments, during long trips, over lunch, and put in a few marathon sessions when I had large chunks of free time. People would ask what I was doing, I'd explain it, then I'd get a variation on this next question:

"So, what happens if you don't finish?"

Maybe I read into it the wrong way, but it always sounded like they were wondering why I put so much effort into something that didn't have to be done. They saw me working towards an artificial deadline, with no real consequence for failing to finish on time. Nothing bad would happen, no penalty would be applied, it wouldn't go down on my permanent record as a black mark saying that in February of 2010 I failed to finish a sweater. Why, then, was I applying myself with such dedication, when no-one said that I had to?

I work hard for myself. My strongest motivations are internally sourced. I took on this challenge as a personal test. Could I do this thing? Finish? Crochet faster and better than I ever have before? Would I get a bright red sweater and a shiny blog badge or a half finished pile of frustration and tangles? The answer to those questions is what I would get out of it. The only bad consequence would be having to answer, "No, you can't pull this off" to myself.

And now I know I can. I could, I did, I'm done. There is a bright red sweater in my projects page on It is marked finished, in time, on the correct day. The stitch-work is even, the seams are neat, the pattern of tps and tss alternating on the front panel is perfect. I win.


But, here is the compromise mentioned in the title of the post: there are no sleeves. The pattern has sleeves. What happened? The sleeves are made last, after the front and back pieces are done. I had been crocheting for 8 hours (counting stitching time only) on Sunday before it started to become painful. Half an hour later, at 2.5 hours in to the first sleeve (and about halfway done with it) I decided that I could not continue with Tunisian crochet motions. My fingers, wrists, shoulders, and back were simply too worn out from the speed and the strain I was subjecting them to. [The yarn had already caused brush-burns on the fingers of my left hand as it wrapped over-under-over for tension. I had put bandages and cloth tape over the reddened skin to keep going in less pain.] My rational brain knew that the sleeves would not be finished yesterday. I acknowledged that my original goal could not be met and put down the hook.

A great thing about internal motivation is that
when you want to change direction, you only have to convince yourself. Also, in sewing patterns they often include two versions of a shirt or a dress in one envelope. There is a sleeved version and a sleeveless version. The only difference between the two is that you don't make the sleeves - there are no other changes to the bodice pattern pieces. So, leaving off the sleeves is a design decision. In this particular case it was encouraged by my situation.

In the end, I still win.

(P.S. Now I have a crazy idea brewing to add a skirt and sleeves made from fabric and trimmed with the yarn, and turn this into a dress. Later.)


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