Resist. Been doing too much of that my entire life and have vowed to resist less, and say “yes” more.
But that’s a different kind of resist than what I have intentionally brought into my life recently. I recently completed a Shibori crochet project, which uses objects as obstacles (resists) to shrinking when the natural fibers are submerged in hot water. I used river rocks (the kind that can be purchased at Michael’s or other craft store) and plastic golf balls (found at Goodwill) to create obstacles to shrinkage. This resistance–this pushing back–creates something entirely different than the crocheted piece you started with. In the art of Shibori crochet, resistance is good.
Well, the project is done and it was a rewarding technique. Like all felted crochet projects, you don’t really know what you will end up with until the piece dries. Sometimes–rarely, in fact–there are no surprises. Often, there is a pleasant surprise: “Wow, that’s amazing.” And perhaps just as often, there is some disappointment: “What just happened?!” followed by the challenge of turning a mistake into something truly artistic. This project was in the second category. The outcome was better than I expected. But it also had an element of the third category–a mistake that needed to be salvaged.
The “mistake” was that the practice golf balls were a little too large for this project. A little too perfectly round. My felted “bubbles” seemed a little comical, like clown noses. Not the sophisticated result I was looking for. I experimented a bit by pushing on the middle of the yarn bubble to make an indentation. This seemed promising. It added another textural element, while “sophisticating” or refining the blatant bubble shape. Now, how to hold that indentation in place? After experimenting with some gray “pearl” beads (too small) and some rhinestone buttons (too heavy), I decided to make my own embellishments. These were roughly half-inch flowers crocheted on a small steel hook using slate blue metallic thread. The thread split easily, it slipped off the hook often and it didn’t have any stretch or give to it. However, after the first two or three were completed, I dominated and was able to make six flower embellishments without a having a nervous breakdown. These I stitched into the center of random bubbles along the length of the scarf.
Because the scarf still looked too “predictable” and was not evoking the watery flow I wanted, I pulled up lengthwise folds moving randomly from end to end to create ripples flowing around the rocks. Uneven edges were created on all four sides by this folding technique, but that effect didn’t trouble me since I’ve never seen a perfectly even river bank or creek bed. After delicately stitching these folds into place on the back side of the scarf, I was done. I submitted it for consideration in the Dayton Visual Arts Center annual art auction, and it was accepted. The Shibori technique is not seen that often in crocheted works, so I believe that was a large part of the appeal. I had looked at it for so long (it took many hours to complete), I wasn’t sure I even liked it any more!
As I worked with resistance on this project, my wandering mind started making connections to some real-life issues involving resistance and transformation.
In most cases, “resistance is futile,” as noted by the Borg in Star Trek. While this doesn’t work for Shibori crochet, it’s often a good strategy if you want to live a life of openness and adventure. But rather than become assimilated as the Borg desire, honor your resistance, learn from it, then use it to create your own reality. Most of the time, resistance is a sign that we should plunge head first into the hot water of life. (Note: There are obvious perils we should resist: excesses in all forms, intolerance, mean-girl thinking, endangering ourselves or others, doing anything preceded by the words “Watch this!” Don’t be stupid.)
True confession: My life is littered with resistance that I have not always overcome. Resisting an opportunity that might expand my mind. Resisting the overture that could open my heart. Resisting the need to say something compassionate. Resisting giving when that’s what is needed. Resisting again and again solidifies a hardness that needs to be softened. We all know that softening is often much more difficult than hardening.
OK, time to lighten up! I leave you with this quote from one of my favorite writers, Margaret Atwood (“The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus”)