Lessons in Living a French Life

Bringing a touch of French culture to everyday life

Your Weekly Voilà: My life right now is a lot like my Aunt Helen's knitting bag 😊✨💕🇫🇷

"Knit on in confidence and hope through all crises." - Elizabeth Zimmerman
My Aunt Helen taught me how to knit when I was 8 years old. She knew I was ready because I couldn't keep my hands out of her knitting bag. I loved to pull out all the bits and bobs. Organize the pieces in different ways. I liked how the yarn felt in my hand. I'd arrange the skeins by color, moving them around to see what combinations I liked best. Then, I'd dig deeper into her bag only to find something different. I would adapt and change as new possibilities became available. I wanted to learn how to use all the tools of the trade. I was curious. I asked questions. How do you decipher the language that is a knitting pattern? What does this strange tool do? Most of all, I marveled at how by just looping a simple piece of yarn, you could create so many beautiful and useful things. For me, the process seemed like magic.

Looking back at the experience, my Aunt Helen's knitting bag is a fairly accurate analogy for my life at this moment. Yes, she taught me knitting basics: how to read patterns, use cable holders, and figure out the purpose for various types of needles. But 
my Aunt Helen also taught me a valuable life lesson:

In knitting, beginnings are important.

Time and time again, she told me for a sweater to fit properly after hours of dedication, the knitter had to give careful attention to each previous step. You have to select the correct yarn, prepare a sample to see if you have the right needle size, and calculate the number of stitches to meet the necessary measurements. There is a lot of planning involved before you actually begin to cast on the yarn. And that planning is important if you want to achieve your desired goal.

Each step plays an important part in how the final result will look and function.
When I knit, I never really know how the final piece will turnout. I prepare my sample, do my calculations and then cross my fingers and "hope" that it will all work out in the end. Yep. Knitting is a lot like my life right now.
Personally, I have a lot of beginnings in my very near future. My youngest is going to college so there is a big shift in relationships both with my son and my husband as we return to a life together without children. Tim and I are moving permanently to France next month and we have to find our home and navigate our way through the process of buying a property in a foreign country. There is a business to establish both in terms of completing another mountain of paperwork and the logistics of setting up an artist studio and structure the workshop offerings. I'm noting my aunt's words about the importance of preparedness. I've done my homework, researched, edited, triple checked requirements. I've planned for and met deadlines.

Yet, there is something else that years of knitting have taught me:

Even with careful planning, you must be patient, flexible, and adapt to whatever might come your way. Life does not often go as planned.

Dropped stitches. A difference in tension depending on the day. Trying to figure out where you were in a complex pattern and finding out several hours and rows later that it all looks slightly different. Knitting, while mostly therapeutic, can try one's patience. It is an art in manipulating yarn but it also requires adaptability. Elizabeth Zimmerman, a beloved master knitter who taught a generation to knit in the 1970s with her book, Knitting Without Tears, said, "Fudging is necessary and even encouraged in knitting." She stressed that we all have our own path and techniques to develop. In the end, no one really notices an imperfection. Let go of preconceived notions of what something is suppose to be and enjoy the journey of learning.
I have a shawl I started years ago that just won't seem to finish. I have ripped out rows and changed the pattern so many times that I have forgotten what it was suppose to look like in the first place. But I'll get it finished for the first snowfall this year. It will be soft, warm, and well loved. The decorative bowl holding my project is for sale. See Le Shop for details. 
My knitting analogy fits perfectly with my life's desire to live in France. You have to begin the process on the right foot in order to have a better chance in achieving your desired outcome. Plus, it requires a lot of patience when attempting to call France "home." Process and patience are the name of the game. I am no longer moved to tears when told I need to bring a particular piece of paper that was not on the first required list of documents and will inevitably require me to stand in another long line and whereby, most certainly an individual will flash me a look of distain and proclaim, "You don't need this." If you expect efficiency, do not - I repeat - do not move to France.  I'm still waiting to hear on my visa application that I filed in early February. Last I saw my dossier it was being stuffed into a large manila envelope, presumably heading to Paris for review. But you know the stereotype about Americans: Always optimistic. And I'm a knitter. I can rework just about anything and make it all come out in the end. Right now, I am drawing heavily on these two traits.
I will miss the sweet little knit shop just around the corner from our Berlin apartment. I have a collection of alpaca wool yarns just waiting to jump on the needles. Always a project in mind. Always something new to learn and try. 
Mastering the art of knitting. Who knew it would serve me so well as I navigate living abroad. Knitting's repetitive rhythmic movements can be calming, reducing stress, and encouraging mindfulness. I'm digging again into my aunt's knitting bag as I discovering how to put together different skills and techniques in order to be successful in my adopted culture. Even if you are not a knitter, Elizabeth Zimmerman's words of wisdom, "Knit on in confidence and hope through all crises," is sound advice. To have confidence that we have prepared well and hope that it all works out in the end. I'm ready for this new chapter. 
As you enjoy the last of your Sunday, take some time to do something that requires you to slow down.
À bientôt,

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