A Wee Yarn About Learning

Change is the result of all true learning Leo Buscaglia

After almost a year of An-Ethical-Yarn blogging, I’ve failed to write about yarn itself, so here goes. Craft runs in the family. As a child I learnt to knit, cross stitch and sew. My patient teachers were my mother and grandmother, who helped me to unravel mistakes and gather dropped stitches. In my twenties, Canadian ski resort living with 4pm sunsets lent itself to learning crochet, with a good friend imparting the art of crocheting hats (or toques as they are called in Canada). In recent years, dreary Scottish winter days were frequently filled with craft projects, an ideal way to connect with friends over tea and scones.

Last year, my mother gave me a Debbie Bliss knitting pattern for some bobble socks, accompanied with some soft, gorgeous, rainbow yarn. Volunteering life is extremely busy from dawn (birds loudly announce wake-up time) to dusk (people emerge to play and socialise in the cooler air). Many evenings are solitudinous and Netflix quickly becomes old. Time to start knitting.


I grudgingly persisted as quitting wasn’t an option. Then I reached the heel and was confronted with words like ‘gusset’ and ‘heel flap’. Er… what? Without childhood teachers to hand, I resorted to my next faithful helper – youtube – and slowly began to understand the pattern’s instructions. Finally, after months, I have finished ONE sock! Yes, one! What I’ll do with one sock in hot, sticky Thailand, I’m not sure, but I might as well start the next one. One sock down, I’m wiser and more practiced and have just realised that I was doing one particular stitch wrong on the whole way through the first sock!

Knitting this sock has been a learning experience for me: I’ve kept persevering and learnt new skills. On the scale of life’s challenges it’s definitely not the biggest I’ve dealt with. But now I’m onto the second one, I’m certain this one will be easier and probably better constructed than the first.

Our global society has many challenges which are similarly frustrating, difficult or seemingly insurmountable like eradicating poverty, combating climate change, creating more equal and safe communities, halting biodiversity loss. Solving these problems and others will not be easy. Learning, adaptation and innovation will be critical. We must continue to learn, not only as individuals, but also as communities, organisations, countries and regions. As with my knitting project, we may experience irritation while trying to grapple with new concepts, but also joy in producing something beautiful (even with obvious mistakes) and being able to apply our energy and knowledge to transform our world into a better place for all.

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