Sure, it’s not a pretty thing to say, but I it’s a fairly accurate description of the way life works. Sometimes I think I understand life a little too well. If I knew less about how things work, I think I could be naively-optimistic … even happy. But life does not work that way. You really can’t win. We try to get through each day one step at a time, one project at a time … but that’s just surviving and getting by. I would like to believe that it’s possible to do better than that … but what does it take? It seems like you can give it everything you’ve got … but even then, you’ll never really win. Ever wonder why?
1. “Good enough” is never really good enough
Take work for example – the reality is that you can do your job one of two ways – not good enough, or not fast enough. Your work is always one or the other … and most likely both, but it can’t be neither. If it’s good enough, you probably could have done it faster, and even if it’s done fast, it could always be better. When I am designing something for someone, they always want something amazing … they would like it to be perfect, but they also don’t want it to take time (and not just because they want it done soon, but because they don’t want to pay for time).
2. Doing things better takes additional time & effort, which is always in short supply
Making something nice generally takes time, and realistically I am not one of those people who is able to make masterpieces (even if I have all the time in the world). However, people also don’t want to feel like they are making an unreasonable request. Some try to be kind and understanding, by saying that it does not have to be perfect … but what they say and what they really want or expect are usually two different things. If I don’t want people to be disappointed, my only option is to put in extra work on my own time, under the guise of supposedly enjoying the work for its own sake. But it is important that the knowledge of such extra work be kept secret … which leads to the next problem.
3. Keeping other people happy means hiding your own problems (which is also problematic)
People do not want to be made to feel guilty, and making them feel that way would defeat the purpose of not wanting to disappoint them. So when you go the ‘extra mile’ for someone, you wouldn’t want them to actually know that you went out of your way for them. Likewise, in order to give people what they want, you may need to assist them in the belief that their requests and expectations are perfectly reasonable and “no trouble.” This is what they want to believe, and for a number of people is necessary to keep them feeling good about themselves. I realize that there are (unfortunately) many people in this world who really couldn’t care less about such things (i.e. how other people feel). In fact, it almost seems like it’s more common for people to draw attention to all the little difficulties that come along with doing their work. We all know people who like to go on and on about how hard their life and their job is (and how everyone else must have it so easy) … and what’s worse, some have no qualms about making you feel bad for asking anything of them, even if it’s what they’re paid to do. But these people are called jerks (and let’s face it, if you’re an awful person, you’re already a failure, so let’s not even go there).
4. There’s no pleasing people
So why even try to make people happy anyway? Well, I don’t know … I’m not sure it’s even fundamentally possible, but it seems like the right thing to do would be to at least try. So supposing you’re going try to help people … how easy is it to succeed at that? Unfortunately, people too often fall into one of the following categories: those who are impossible to please (nothing is ever good enough), people who think they want one thing but actually need something completely different, and people who need help but won’t actually let you help them. But sometimes people are happy with what you’ve done for them … right? Well, yes, but any “success” seems to always be negated by one of the other points I have already (or will soon) mention … or is marginalized by the realization that the person can’t actually tell the difference one way or the other (for example, between something done well and something done poorly).
5. Problems with the value of time and work
People want to believe that they themselves work hard, perhaps even harder than most. Everyone wants to feel like their time and work is of value and importance. Unfortunately, the true nature of ‘importance’ is that it is relative. I, like many, would like to believe that there exists ‘true value’ and ‘true happiness’ … that which is inherently so, without the comparison of one state to another … but life in practice is not so pretty. In reality, a person can really only feel ‘important’ when others of relative lesser importance exist. If you work too hard, you will tend to make others “look bad” … and by demanding higher respect for yourself, you necessarily imply that others deserve less. So while it’s probably not the “right” thing to do, I willingly allow & help people to believe that they work harder than I do (whether it be true or not). I also let them believe that I really had “nothing better to do” with my time anyway, and downplay in general the importance of my time and work. But these courses of action produce additional problems (as I said, you can’t win).
6. Concealing difficulties only leads to additional problems
If you have effectively concealed the fact that extra time and effort went into a project, people will get the wrong idea about the true nature of your talents and abilities. Supposing they are even satisfied with the quality of your work after all the extra effort … if they really believe that it was “no trouble,” quick and easy, then they will only expect that much more the next time around. Furthermore, even if the only person you are hurting is yourself, the practice itself is fundamentally deceptive. I don’t want to decieve anyone, and I would not have anyone belive that I am better than I actually am … but it is very difficult, if not impossible to ensure that people have an accurate understanding of your abilities, strengths and faults. For me it has always seemed like very few people ever get close to seeing me accurately – strengths, weaknesses and all (probably my fault, as I am not an open and expressive person by nature). People have a tendency to believe the worst in others, and I guess when that happens to me I’m not as concerned (it of course bothers me, but it is a lesser evil). I don’t like to defend myself, and if people think you are worse than you actually are, they are more likely to be pleasantly surprised later on (which is always better than going down in their estimation). Further, even if they are wrong in their facts, the practical bottom line is not necessarily wrong. Not expecting much from me may lead people to make better decisions that won’t lead to disappointment later on down the road. But this line of reasoning is also problematic.
7. Inaccuracies and the problems with trying to fix them
I don’t believe it is right to force ideas on others or try to presumptuously influence them towards certain ways of thinking … and while I usually don’t correct or manipulate people’s thinking when it comes to the negative views they have about me, I admit that I will try to make them think less of me when I feel their opinion is too high. I know this is not ideal … and then again, I question what would be best. The true ideal would be that everyone somehow saw the true person – good, bad & otherwise – but that’s unrealistic (and though I may be an idealist, I’m also a realist). So which is better – to leave each person completely to their own ideas … to knowingly not correct a person’s thinking, even when you know their ideas are founded on innacurate facts and misunderstandings? … or to attempt and correct their thinking? If it’s better to try and correct their thinking, it seems like the “right” thing would be to do so regardless of whether their thoughts are of an overly negative or postive nature … but again, this is liable to cause more problems.
8. Even with some level of success, the real value of work is questionable at best
As mentioned before, I would like to believe that there exists some work of inherent value and meaning … unfortunately, such things (if they exist) are almost certainly not in my field of work, and in today’s society seem to be of minimal importance. I believe that the things of real importance and value in life are such things as people’s intentions – their inner person, including thoughts, motives and ideals, the positive expression of these fundamental values, and meaningful interpersonal relationships. For me (as a person who interacts poorly on a social level), I am almost certain to failing in this respect. Further, as a graphic designer, I am not exactly in a position to have a major positive or meaningful impact on someone’s life on account of my work. After all, even if I were to design a really, really amazing poster … it’s still a just a stupid poster, right? For whatever reason, the things I make are apparently important enough for clients to feel justified in driving me to the breaking point … but without actually being important at all. Another unfortunate circumstance is that ‘effort’ really counts for very little in the world we live in. Ideally, I would like it to mean everything, but if I live in reality – in the world as we know it – I understand that the real measure of value is in results. There is some subjectivity to “success” … but in this world, as a general rule, monetary value paints the picture clearly enough. But of course money isn’t everything … another example of how what people say and how the world really works don’t match up. Pursue money or pursue philanthropy … you can’t really do both, so it’s inevitable that you will be a failure in some respect.
9. Success is elusive
Granted, I have a tendency toward pessimism and seeing the flaws in my own work, but having a critical eye does not mean you are blind to the bottom line. Naturally, even with unrelenting efforts, hits and misses are to be expected in life … and if you tally those up you’ll have a pretty good idea of where you stand. But if I accept the failures as just part of life, is it wrong to expect a few successes as well? If it’s natural for things to sometimes go wrong, even when *shouldn’t* have, what about the so called “happy accidents?” Why is it that these are practically non-existent? Honestly, I am not sure what to think about this … lately it has been recurring as one of my more mentally unsettling thoughts. I want, or need to believe that good things are possible … which as a person who is never 100% sure of anything, this has never really been a problem before … but lately life has seemed less of a random assortment of chance and probabilities .. and more like an entity – a beast with a will of its own. I suppose the argument could be made that I am not viewing things correctly – that it is proper to view some things as successes in relative terms. But is that what they are? Is “it could have been worse” something to celebrate? Should I be happy about something that I worked really hard at, didn’t turn out as well as it probably *should* have, but was still fairly “good”? When more went into something than I got back out of it, can that really be termed a “success”? Of course part of that problem goes back to the issue of concealing how much work went into it – I can’t expect others to evaluate whether something was truly worthwhile if I keep them in the dark. On a superficial level it may be worthwhile for them, but ultimately once I take into account everything I put in, it’s just sad.
10. Success is fleeting
This is just theoretical (as something I don’t really have personal experience with) … but you can judge for yourself on whether it rings true or not. Supposing there is something that could really be called a success … on life’s terms perhaps, however shallow. Is it ever enough? Success one day is gone the next. There is no resting on ones laurels. A good deed one day is quickly forgotten, as if it never happened. Tomorrow you may effectively erase forever all the good you have ever done in your life by one false move. Your hard work or kind actions are swallowed up by others who are likewise struggling to create value in their own lives. Is it hard to understand why people grasp at the few positive fruits in life and try to claim them as being on their own account? It’s wrong, but in a sad way that is more pitiful than anything.
My recently launched website www.papersharks.org is my latest project in an effort to raise awareness and support for shark conservation.
In the tradition of folding 1,000 origami cranes (千羽鶴) in the hopes of making one’s wish come true, I have designed origami patterns for folding paper sharks … naturally with the wish of saving sharks! As a personal project, I am folding 1,000 paper sharks (千羽鶴) and updating the site with my progress. I have also created downloadable patterns and tutorials, and a collection page where people can upload photos of their finished paper sharks to show their support for shark conservation. It’s still a work in progress, and I would like to expand parts of the site to include a gift shop, etc … but this is at least a start.
I realize that the whole idea is kinda lame, but hey, that’s what I’m all about I have been frustrated for a long time that the vast majority of shark conservation groups out there have nothing that people like me can do to help. I understand that more outspoken, social people can make a greater difference since they can directly influence others, but surely there is something that people like me can do as well. Granted, people like me may never make much of a difference, but even those of an “inferior” skillset can make *some* difference, especially when they join together.
So a couple months ago, after a recent failed attempt (I had contacted a shark conservation group to volunteer & ask whether there was anything someone like me could do to help … I never even received a response), it got me thinking about the types of things I’m good at, and I was reminded of a classic movie …
Lucky: “In a way, all of us have an El Guapo to face some day. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo, for others a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big dangerous guy who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the *actual* El Guapo.”
Villager: “We want to defend ourselves, but how?”
Ned: “By using the skills and the talents of the people of Santa Poco. This is not a town of weaklings! You can turn your skills against El Guapo. Now, what is it that this town really does well?”
Villagers: “Hmm … hmm, umm [long pause] …. We can sew!”
Yep … it’s something like that. So I have decided to fight my personal El Guapo (those who are driving sharks into extinction) by using what skills I have … even if they happen to be just as lame as sewing.
“Sew, very old one! Sew like the wind!!”
After conceiving the idea yesterday morning, and spending most of the rest of the day developing my pattern … I am now underway (2% completed, and I hope to be finished within 3-4 months). Details of project to follow …
The three factors that will be explained in this article (stitch mount, direction of yarn wrap, and needle direction) constitute the major differences in knitting methods. Other considerations, such as which hand the working yarn is held in (in the right for “English” or “throwing,” or in the left for “picking” or “Continental” style) are really just differences in style/technique, and while they are worth considering, they do not really affect how the actual stitch is manipulated.
Although Western (or “normal”) knitting and Eastern Uncrossed methods are primarily going to be considered here, there are other methods as well … notably “Combined” or “Combination” knitting. As you might expect, Combined knitting is a combination of both Western and Eastern methods (and although there is a lot of misinformation floating around that seems to indicate otherwise, Combination knitting and Eastern Uncrossed are not the same thing).
The pictures above show two swatches of stockinette – one knit using the Eastern Uncrossed method, and the other knit using the “normal” Western method. (As a side note, the naming for these is incredibly stupid, but it seems to be how people are describing it, so it’s what we’ll have to go with). As you probably noticed, the swatches look pretty much the same … and they are. One difference is that the yarn itself appears more tightly spun on the Western swatch, whereas it seems looser on the Eastern Uncrossed swatch. This has to do with two factors – the direction the yarn itself was spun (yarn can be spun with either an “S” or “Z” twist), and the direction that the yarn is wrapped in each method (more on that later).
Western knitting and Eastern Uncrossed are more or less opposites of each other, and both methods produce the same result. The “uncrossed” in Eastern Uncrossed is meant to indicate that, like normal Western knitting, the stitches are not twisted or “crossed,” (standard “Eastern” knitting purportedly produces a twisted stitch … though as another side note, this whole “East,” “West” business as it relates to actual geographic locations and people is vague at best). More on twisted stitches later …
Since most patterns are written assuming that all knitters use Western methods, Eastern Uncrossed and Combination knitters will need to modify patterns in order to knit them properly. This can be challenging at times, but I am hoping this information will help out ^_^
In order to understand the differences in knitting methods, we have to look at 3 factors …
1. Stitch Mount
This refers to how the loops sit or are “seated” on the needle. One side (or “leg”) of the loop will rest slightly more forward (towards the tip of the needle) … this is the “leading leg.” Sometimes it can be hard to see which leg is more forward, but if you pull slightly on the working yarn, the leading leg will move forward and be more obvious. The stitch mount is determined by the direction the yarn was wrapped when that stitch was made on the previous row (see #2 below).
EASTERN UNCROSSED: stitches are mounted with the leading leg in back
WESTERN: stitches are mounted with the leading leg in front
2. Direction of Yarn Wrap
This is closely related to stitch mount, as the direction you wrap the yarn will determine the stitch mount. If you wrap the yarn counter-clockwise, the resulting loop will be mounted with the leading leg in front (Western mount), and if you wrap it clockwise the loop will have the leading leg in back (Eastern Uncrossed mount). Note: when I refer to “clockwise” and “counter-clockwise,” I mean the direction the yarn is wrapped around the needle when looking straight at the tip.
EASTERN UNCROSSED: yarn is always wrapped clockwise
WESTERN: yarn is always wrapped counter-clockwise
3. Needle Direction
The final consideration is the direction the needle enters the loop … whether it enters through the front or back of the loop, and whether you approach the loop from the left or the right. In general, Western stitches are worked into the front of the loop, and Eastern Uncrossed stitches are worked into the back of the loop. The direction the needle is inserted (from the right or from the left) will vary depending on what kind of stitch you are making (knit stitch vs. purl, etc).
Purl stitches are the reverse of knit stitches, so for Western you would insert the needle from the right, and Eastern Uncrossed would go in from the left (still keeping in mind that Western stitches are worked into the front, and Eastern Uncrossed will be worked from behind).
EASTERN UNCROSSED: stitches are worked into the back loop, and the needle inserted from the right for knit stitches, and from the left for purl stitches
WESTERN: stitches are worked into the front loop, and the needle inserted from the left for knit stitches, and from the right for purl stitches
A variation in any of the preceding factors (within a given method) will usually result in a twisted stitch. For example, if in Western knitting you knit into the back loop instead of the front (keeping other factors for that method the same), then the result would be a twisted stitch.
However, twisted stitches are not really “bad”… sometimes they are used intentionally to create an interesting design. Although a stitch can become twisted by reversing the direction you wrap the yarn, the effect is not immediate, and changing your normal yarn-wrapping direction is pretty much never called for. Instead, a twisted stitch is worked by reversing the way you insert the needle … so for Western knitting, you will be instructed to Ktbl (knit through the back loop … much like a normal Eastern Uncrossed knit stitch). Eastern Uncrossed knitters who are modifying a pattern written for Western knitters can replace “Ktbl” with “Ktfl” (knit through the front loop … like a normal Western knit stitch). Likewise “Ptbl” (purl through the back loop) can be replaced with “Ptfl” (purl through the front loop).
Directional Decreases: SSK vs. K2TOG
In Western Knitting, a SSK (slip-slip-knit)* produces a left leaning decrease (\), and K2TOG (knit 2 together) produces a right leaning decrease (/) [when viewed from the right side of the fabric]. In Eastern Uncrossed, this is exactly the opposite – SSK leans right, and K2TOG leans left. The reason this is, is because Western SSK is basically the same thing as an Eastern Uncrossed K2TOG … the only difference is the direction you wrap the yarn (still always counter-clockwise for Western, and clockwise for Eastern Uncrossed). What you are actually doing when you slip the two loops is reversing the stitch mount … so in Western, the stitch mount now looks like it normally does in Eastern Uncrossed, and vice versa. Then the “knit” part of the SSK (and this has always bugged me) is always done the opposite of what would usually be done for either method.** So in Western, the last part of SSK is done by “knitting” the two loops together by going into the back loops from the right***, and into the front loops from the left for Eastern Uncrossed. So that is why the decreases for Western and Eastern Uncrossed slant opposite directions … what you are doing when you do a Western SSK is basically the same thing as an Eastern Uncrossed K2TOG, and a Western K2TOG is the same as an Eastern Uncrossed SSK.
*Note 1: In Western knitting you “slip” a stitch knit-wise (from the left, insert your needle as if to knit, but just slip it off onto the right needle). This flips the loop around, reversing the stitch mount. To do the same thing in Eastern Uncrossed, you need to “slip” your stitches purl-wise (insert your needle as if to purl, from the back-left, and slip it off onto the right needle)
**Note 2: The word “knit” is used both as a noun (as in a piece of material, or the physical stitch), and as a verb (to knit a stitch) … however, as a verb, it can get confusing. I have found it best not to think of it as an ironclad set of actions. As we have seen with slip-slip-“knit,” the “knit” is not actually performed the same way as your method’s normal “knit” stitch … however, the resulting stitch is “knit” in the sense that when you look at it, the loops that were on the left needle have flipped towards the back of the fabric (creating a horizontal bump on the backside). So try instead to think of “knit” as meaning “the thing you do to get the loop to flip towards the back,” and “purl” as “that thing you do to get the loop to flip towards the front” … and as you’ve already figured out, there is more than one way to get that job done.
***Note 3: Western knitters often take a shortcut when doing SSK … instead of moving the slipped stitches back onto the left needle, they move the left needle into the loops on the right. However, it’s essentially the same thing.
TIP: If you have a tendency to forget which direction SSK and K2TOG lean, just remember that for either method (Western or Eastern Uncrossed), the slant will lean the same direction as your right hand needle when you are making the stitch. Eastern Uncrossed K2TOG has the needle coming from the right and angling up towards the left, so this is the same angle that the slant will have (so long as you’re looking at the right side of the fabric). Western knitters will K2TOG by entering the loops from the left and have the needle angling up towards the right (when you’re coming from the left side you’ll probably have to exaggerate the direction you are holding needle in order to see this clearly), so a Western K2TOG will lean towards the right. As I mentioned before, the “knit” of SSK is always worked from the opposite direction from your “normal knit,” so the slant of SSK will lean the opposite direction.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the direction of the decrease does not always make a difference. In lace patterns, it will usually be necessary for Eastern Uncrossed knitters to swap SSK and K2TOG … however, sometimes you are decreasing just for the sake of making 2 stitches into 1 (and not to create a design) … and because K2TOG is generally faster and easier than SSK, it is generally preferred when the direction of the slant is not an issue.
Below is a table summarizing the basic differences between methods – Western (“normal”) knitting, Eastern Uncrossed, and Combined (or Combination) knitting.
|KNIT||leading leg in front; knit into front leg from left to right, wrapping yarn counter-clockwise||leading leg in back; knit into back leg from right to left, wrapping yarn clockwise||leading leg in back; knit into back leg from right to left, wrapping yarn counter-clockwise|
|PURL||leading leg in front; purl into front leg from right to left, wrapping yarn counter-clockwise||leading leg in back; purl into back leg from left to right, wrapping yarn clockwise||leading leg in front; purl into front leg from right to left, wrapping yarn clockwise|
|LEFT SLANT DEC (\)||SSK: slip 2 stitches knit-wise (reversing the stitch mount) and transfer back to the left needle, knit the stitches together through the back loops from right to left, wrapping yarn counter-clockwise||K2TOG: knit 2 together (through the back loops from right to left, wrapping yarn clockwise)||K2TOG: knit 2 together (through the back loops from right to left, wrapping yarn counter-clockwise)|
|RIGHT SLANT DEC (/)||K2TOG: knit 2 together (through the front loops from left to right), wrapping yarn counter-clockwise||SSK: slip 2 stitches purl-wise (reversing the stitch mount) and transfer back to the left needle, knit the stitches together through the front loops from left to right, wrapping yarn clockwise||SSK: slip 2 stitches (reverse the stitch mount), transfer back to the left needle, knit stitches together through front from left to right, wrapping yarn counter-clockwise|
Fall in the Pacific Northwest means that apples and fresh local cranberries are easy to come by, and I wanted to come up with a recipe that would use these ingredients in a simple, quick & easy way. I also wanted something nice and tart, which could be easily made as a single serving dish. The recipe I arrived at is an apple-cranberry crumble of sorts, with the oat topping reminiscent of a soft, crumbly oatmeal cookie.
makes 1-2 servings
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 Gala apple, chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh cranberries
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in maple syrup and olive oil. The mixture should form a loose clump (add a small amount of liquid if it seems too dry and does not hold together well). Chop apple into 1″ pieces. Place apple pieces and cranberries in an 8″ square baking dish. Pile oat mixture on top, and press to form a low mound over the fruit. Bake for 15 minutes (or until apple pieces are at desired tenderness and the cranberries have popped).
You can substitute oat flour with another flour of your choice. You can also try different apples varieties, such as honeycrisp or braeburn. Just make sure it is a variety suitable for baking and not too tart (the cranberries will give you plenty of that!). Avoid varieties like granny smith (too tart) and red delicious (don’t bake very well).