My partially completed project

Patience is a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine. I’m impatient with anything that doesn’t move swiftly: queues, customer service, furniture assembly and meetings are at the top of my list. Waiting to be served I fidget or jingle keys, but when I catch myself, I offer a fake smile not to appear rude. Yet within me, a war is raging. I’ve learnt to stop, observe, and breathe. While this helps, it doesn’t stop the impatience rising the next time I am triggered.

It’s not a character trait I’m proud of. I worry that with the build up of pressure the cork with pop and the banshee will be released. The handful of people who have come face to face with this unbridled demon will attest to its horror. I’m impatient with almost everything, but most of all I am impatient with my own shortcomings. Yet there are situations where I act completely out of character and display the patience of Job.

Take a shamble of tangled wool for instance. Without the slightest hint of irritation, I search for the end of the yarn and slowly begin to trace the strand through one loop after another to set it free. I don’t tug or pull, display no frustration, just a clear focused mind to get the job done. I don’t profess to understand this inconsistency of my personality. I just see it as one of my more likeable quirks.  

I have learnt to unravel wool early. When a jumper became too small, my mother would unpick it. I had to sit, arms outstretched, shoulder width apart for the yarn to be wound around them. This helped to unkink the wool. I was told to stay still, keep the tension tight until the last strand was passed to me. I then laid the wool down carefully and began to roll it into balls, so my mother could knit me a new garment.

All this came to mind this morning when I was greeted with yarn from one end of the lounge to the other. I looked at the culprit but recognised it was my fault. I should have known. My dog finds wool irresistible, and in the past, I have found dismembered skeins winding through the kitchen and out the doggie door, as if attempting a futile escape.

I felt irritation rise as I picked up my latest project from the floor. Luckily, it was still attached to the mangled skein. It took some time to find the loose end. Slowly, I began to wind the wool over three middle fingers on my left hand. I wondered at that moment how many people would still know how to turn this mess into a ball, ready to start again. I prised the tightly wound strands from my fingers and began winding the wool vertically, making a small cross. Then, moving the fledgling ball a quarter of a turn to the left, I wound on more wool, moved the ball another quarter of a turn and repeated the process.  Eventually, a perfect sphere of wool emerged. This ball had to be passed through the many twisted loops it encountered, one after the other until it arrived back at the last stitch of a completed row ready for the real work to commence.

The secret to unravelling tangled wool is to loosen the knots one by one until there is space for the ball to pass through. This may sound easy but requires considerable patience. It occurred to me that this process is a template for unravelling any messy situation. The key is gentle prodding, teasing, and pulling at the knotty problem, this way and that, to allow enough space for a solution to emerge. Even the smallest gap allows the golden thread to pass through until the next blockage is encountered. Then, it is a matter of repeating the process until there is enough leeway for the resolution to be able to surface. Slowly but surely, the gentle art of unravelling creates the space to solve even the curliest of problems.

My half-completed blanket is now safe atop a chest of drawers. The crochet hook awaits my hands. This project is going to take longer than I expected. Much longer. Yet I don’t mind. I marvel at my inexplicable patience and wonder what I can learn from this experience. Maybe it is as simple this: Whatever unravels in my day has a thread I can follow. If I can find the patience to approach the task with an artisan’s sensibility, I don’t have tie myself into a Gordian knot.

8 thoughts on “Unravelled”

  1. It seems you were trained on your mother’s lap to unravel and hold still !!…It must be therapeutic to apply this patient skill to annoyances. It’s a metaphor but also a meditation.
    My banshee is too dominant to stick it.. !! enjoyable read Viki..


  2. I found this so fascinating! We reused wool to knit new garments. Now Australia is the second largest textile discarder in the world. Only second to the USA. People won’t even mend a sock these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Unravelling wool reminds me of a different time! No waste and re-use!
    For over 30 years I have gone to a seamstress who has repaired and resized all kinds of clothes and items. Recently, I took a favourite shirt with a frayed collar to her hoping that she could salvage it. Do you know what she did? She took the collar off and reversed it!
    Lovely times Viki!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must tell me the name of this wonderful woman! I have a couple of things that really need mending. Yes, they were very different times.


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