When my son studied Tae Kwon Do, all through his grade school years, the grand master who owned and operated the school he attended had a favorite statement: “When you stop learning, you die.” I wholeheartedly agree with this belief, and it also fairly accurately defines my life and many of the choices I have made.
I enjoyed most of my academic years, though as my college days seemed to drag on and on, there was a period there where I wanted to expand my horizon in different directions. It didn’t take long to get past that hurdle, earning my bachelor’s degree, and stepping out into new stages of learning.
These days, I tend to dabble a bit, having a vast breadth of interests. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of friends in many walks of life who have graciously shared some of their knowledge with me, enriching my life in surprising ways. The years I spent participating in Shadowbox Live’s Patron Talent Shows stick out in my mind as I consider this. Stacey, Carrie, Jen and Stephanie gave me a number of vocal lessons, each year seeming to refine one aspect of my singing ability. Then, being able to step out onto the comedy stage in a lead role for a couple sketches (okay, the same sketch but on two different stages), this gave me the courage to audition for acting roles that would stretch my skills even further.
These days, I’ve been putting a lot more time into broadening my skills in the arena of fiber arts. No, this has nothing to do with food or Metamucil or some such products. I’m referring to crafts that use fiber. Specifically, I’m a rabid knitter – which you probably already realize – and an occasional crocheter. I’ve been known to dye yarn as well, to customize colors to my personal preferences. A couple weeks ago, I took a class that expanded my dyeing skills, learning how to dye self-striping yarn using a tool designed for this purpose. My first project was completed quickly, but since it’s intended to be used to knit up a gift, I can’t disclose the finished product at this point. Suffice it to say – it’s really cool!
At the same festival where I learned this dyeing technique, I also took my first class on spinning. This is the art of creating yarn using the raw material, called roving. I own a spinning wheel, though I have yet to confirm that it has all the necessary parts to work. And since I don’t know how to actually work the wheel, it has remained a decorative piece of furniture since it was given to me a couple years ago. The spinning class I took addressed the process of spinning using a drop spindle, which is a very portable tool (it fits in my purse). This is a work in progress, and I’ll have to put a LOT of time into working with the spindle to become even remotely proficient with it. But with each attempt, I approach my goal step by step.
This past weekend I attended another festival and took a couple more classes to further my education specifically in the area of knitting. The first class had to do with a technique called Short Rows which can be used in the knitting process to shape a garment nicely. The instructor provided reference instructions for several different methods of working short rows, too, which was a delightful eye-opener for me, helping me to understand the differences in the methods and to see which ones work most easily for me. This is bringing me one step closer to designing my own knitwear!
The second class I took in Pittsburgh provided guidance as well as an overwhelming sense of freedom. This class taught us how to fix mistakes in our knitting without having to simply rip out all the work (commonly known as frogging, since you rip-it! rip-it!). Fixing a mis-crossed cable or some glaring lacework error needn’t invoke a panic attack. This doesn’t mean the problem project won’t be hurled across the room in a flurry of frustration, but it can be addressed rather easily, once the rage wears off (minutes, hours, months later, if necessary).
And the last bit of news on my educational forays of late… I am taking a college course that is just-for-fun, something to do in snippets of down time this Spring. The class I am taking is also FREE. Harvard University, along with MIT and Berkeley are offering courses through the edX platform, and more schools will be coming on-board later this year. The class I am taking is called The Ancient Greek Hero, which presents a number of literary works, studied in the context of the setting of ancient Greece. I have already learned quite a bit from an historical perspective, which has me all-the-more intrigued given that I will be visiting several sites of ancient Greek city-states during my cruise in the Fall.
If you are interested in learning more about this online coursework, check out http://www.edx.org. There are several other courses that intrigue me, so I’ll be investigating them down the road. I learn so much on my job at work, so it’s nice that I can find ways to stretch my mind in new directions when I’m not working, too.