What’s the biggest thing that holds you back from starting, from accomplishing, from finishing, from achieving? Fear. Fear is our biggest enemy and we all know it. But where does the fear come from? Sure, we are confronted, bombarded even in this day and age, by things that we are told are scary. But fear is still a choice. I know that sometimes I choose to take risks that might be unacceptable for some people, for example I’m quite happy to walk home in the dark, and the reason that I do that is because if I stop to become fearful, fear will overtake me. I’ve been on that very slippery slope before and I don’t want to go there again. I choose not to fear because fear is actually a greater burden, an unacceptable risk. For me.
Fear is still a big part of my life though. And I know that I generate that myself because my biggest fear is that of failing. I joke that I am a failed perfectionist. Chronic health conditions certainly temper how much organisation, control and mastery I have over my own life but to be completely honest, I’m not good at it. I can line CDs up alphabetically and organise my wardrobe by the rainbow but it’s a token effort, an attempt to stop the tide. The tide of chaos, the tide of life. I am overwhelmed. But I still expect an awful lot from myself. Too much sometimes.
When I start out to do something, I want it to be the best, I want perfection. I expect perfection only from myself. I am tolerant, indulgent even of others. It’s just like that mystical perfection that we crave for our bodies, it doesn’t exist, it isn’t attainable. I start over thinking the project, I get bogged down in details. I overwhelm myself with my standards.
The thing is though that if I let go of that fear, if I don’t give into that crazy perfection desire, I still end up with something pretty good. Something that perhaps people with different Minds to mine might feel pride in. (I am still assessing and debating my relationship with the dread Pride, I will keep you posted if and when I discover that there’s a balanced approach).
I have to find the confidence to work through the slump, as L.M Montgomery may well term it, and to continue on. Sometimes I give up too early. Worn out, disheartened, crushed. But as you know, self-confidence is not something that comes readily to me, I have long had too little self belief to find the motivation, the hope and the strength to go on when I start to fear that I have failed.
This is why this project has taken most of the year to come to fruition, although of course the Bad Patch didn’t really help either. It’s hard to keep on top of your projects when you can barely lift the needles. And when I could physically knit, there was often a real psychological block holding me back.
But this time, I conquered. I didn’t let the fear win, I didn’t let it make me give up. I fought through it. I put the project aside when it all seemed to be going disastrously wrong and came back to it when I was ready. Even when it didn’t turn out how I originally envisioned, I took a break then made my peace. I’d still made something worthwhile. Something that I hope will put a smile on a child’s face. And you don’t need perfection to do that.
Actually, when I look back, this project has all been about facing new challenges and allowing myself the time to grow into them.
It started nearly two years ago when my husband bought me some knitting books that I had had my eye on for quite a while, part of a series called Twenty to Make, it was the four on knitted food that this idiosyncratic knitter just had to have. You have met some of the patterns from those books when I made my Lunchbox back in the summer.
I loved the books, of course, but there was one major problem. A lot of the patterns required knitting in the round. I couldn’t knit in the round and was pretty sure that I never would be able. So I bookmarked the patterns that were achievable and forget about the others, albeit regretfully.
When I knitted Fruit and Fairy Cakes (those patterns were taken from various magazines instead) for a young friend of mine and they were rapturously received, I knew I had the perfect victim for further creations. But what could I make with my limited abilities?
Well, this spring, as my confidence started to grow a little, I learnt to knit in the round. In slow baby steps, of course. But there was something that I definitely knew that I wanted to make for my friend.
I cast on in March. I knitted during car journeys. I knitted during a chillier than expected day at the beach. And within a couple of months, I had a half-dozen ice cones ready for filling. But those cones also tell their own story of my growing confidence.
The first cone that I cast on, I couldn’t work with so few stitches on the needles so I had to start a few rows higher up and even the I couldn’t manage the stitch pattern as well, so the first cone also has a section of stocking stitch:
The second cone shows that at least I was learning. Yes, I still had to start on a higher row but this one has the stitch pattern:
After that, I pretty much had the beginnings sussed:
(That’s now a chocolate cone, in case you were wondering. They’re all high quality waffle cones which are my favourite. There is something classic about the golden polystyrene cone that comes with a Mr Whippy, a 99, but the waffle cone beats that hands down every time. Actually, I think I prefer the cone to the ice cream, if that’s not a little too weird. Although ice cream is a very good partner to the cone. If there’s just ice cream available then I sprinkle over corn flakes or some other breakfast cereal just to make it bearable. That might be completely weird. But it’s genetic, my father did the same. (I also used to save the end of my cone (the best bit) for him when we were out without him when I was little. That might make me utterly, irredeemably weird but also very generous and loving).)
The other problem that I had with the cone pattern was that in the image in the book it looks like the ice cream cone is finished with a possible ridge of garter stitch then smooth stocking stitch. I presume that this must be folded back on itself to make a ‘hem’, if you will, because stocking stitch always has the distinctive, curled rolling edge. That’s not a problem, the problem is that when I worked the pattern instructions, I ended up with something looking like moss/seed stitch (can’t remember which is which, the definition is a little shaky).
I wasn’t liking that too much so came up with Plan B. Only thing is, I’m till not sure whether Plan B is garter stitch or reverse stocking stitch because I was purling in the round.
By May, I was onto the ice cream itself. This is where I met the most problems. I tried the ice cream pattern in the book and really couldn’t get on with it. So then I reverted to the basic rectangle that made the fairy cakes. I had to make a few versions until I got it the right size but then I was off.
I can come up with plenty of ice cream flavours, imagination is not something that I’m short of but there’s always the Internet for far too much inspiration too. The limiting thing is the way yarn colours behave (they don’t segue in a natural way) and that there only so many colours in my stash.
I wanted to make lots of different flavours that could be fitted into the cones according to a child’s, or their customer’s, taste. I love mix and match in toys, I don’t like things being rigid and prescriptive. And there I ran into another problem.
Knitted ice cream doesn’t stay cooperatively in the cone. (It’s possible that there are various experiences to suggest that real ice cream doesn’t always stay happily in the cone either).
I was miserable.
I had failed.
My ice cream wouldn’t work.
I was miserable some more.
I decided that I would distract myself by knitting up the bag.
I had big plans for that bag.
Patchwork. It is apparently possible to knit all the different colours together using intarsia rather than making lots of squares (ish) and sewing them together. I hate sewing.
I say apparently because I never got there. Too many tangles and not enough space, energy or patience. (This was at the height of baby bird raising too, remember, my knitting and me had been relegated to the bedroom).
I was miserable.
Now my bag had failed too.
I finally picked myself up again.
Eventually I went for Plan B in the bag department too. Stripes.
But I did cleverly design a gusset for my bag.
And then sewed it up the wrong way.
(Hey, what can I say? I’ve been Tired this year).
I also decided to go into a little appliqué work and stitch letters on my bag. (Well, I had done knitted motifs on the previous two bags, it was time for a change).
Did I mention that I can’t sew?
I can, however, create giant letters in a word processing program and print them then use my persuasive powers to get husband to cut them out accurately both in the paper and in the felt. This is very fiddly job, if you thought wallpaper was the way to damage a relationship then I suggest you think again. Felt letters are a definite make or break for any relationship. I think we’ve survived.
There are some cracking words in English but one thing that the language really isn’t any good at is shop names. I went overseas to find the wording for my storage bag, choosing a language that reflects the receiving family’s own cultural links and my own (literally) sweet memories.
I did that stitching myself, all by myself-some.
I was feeling better.
It was time to start making decisions about those ice creams.
They were going to have be sewn into the cones.
And I was only going to have half a dozen, the other flavours will have to wait for another time.
I lined the cones with upcycled thin plastic and then stitched the ice creams down.
Six different flavours in two types of cones. I think it may even be vegan friendly ice cream but it’s not entirely natural, I did make them from 100% acrylic after all.
Málaga Ice Cream in Chocolate Cone, Stracciatella Ice Cream in Waffle Cone, Chocolate Chip Ice Cream in Waffle Cone
Strawberry Ice Cream in Waffle Cone, Lemon Sorbet in Waffle Cone, Mint Choc Chip in Chocolate Cone
And the title of this post? My father always called ice cream ‘scream’ in honour of his little refrain, We All Scream for Ice Cream. We never knew where he’d got the expression from until very recently. I found a little beach hut with the same slogan scrawled on its front. This was clearly not just something in my father’s head. I took to the internet and we finally found its origin.
Do you scream for ice cream?
(And my sincere but unrepentant apologies for another humongous post on knitting, sometimes even small things require epic journeys. Thank you for travelling with me on this one).