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On Finding the Zen in Untangling Yarn

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Would you believe me if I told you that untangling yarn could be meditative?

No? Yeah, I wouldn't believe me either.

But bear with me a minute here.

When I was teaching crochet classes at Yarn Matters in Williamsburg, VA, I found myself untangling students' yarn occasionally while they worked and we talked, pausing to help them as needed. I discovered something then. Untangling my own yarn? Infuriating and a waste of time. Untangling my student's yarn? A helpful service! And remarkably less stressful.

I recently came home from a weekend away with the fam to find that my cat got bored while we were away for a whole 48 hours and decided to entertain himself with some of my yarn, which included tangling it up around the base of a chair so that I was forced to sit in the dining room floor for far longer than my back cared anything at all about until I managed to untangle it enough to unloop it from around the chair.

I considered cutting my losses and tossing the whole mess, but, stubbornly, I persisted.

Barely more than a week later, I came home from walking to the school bus stop to find that the beast had dug out a hidden cake of yarn from under a bag on my nightstand that had literally been hiding there for months and he just happened to decide, for whatever reason, that that day was the day to F*** with me.

I've been pretty busy lately. Planning lots of new things. Starting a new Facebook group to help grow and nurture the sort of community that I've been missing so much lately. (Thanks Army for making us move so much. And yes, thanks, COVID, too.) Working on magazine submissions and new designs and online classes and still trying to make time to paint and keep up with the housework (more or less) and oh, you know, keep my family fed and other such mundanities.

Maybe it's the Universe telling me to slow the F down. Maybe it's the Big Snooze lumbering in and trying to tell me I'm too big for my britches. Maybe it's my inner critic self-sabotaging my real life in the middle of a time when I don't really have the extra time for spending hours untangling yarn on the floor because I agreed to take on more responsibility and make commitments that I had no business doing.

Hogwash. Well, maybe not the Universe telling me to slow down. That one I believe. Because the truth is I was getting caught up in the rush of things and I needed to sit down in the floor and just breathe for a few moments.

Okay, so it took more like an hour to untangle that second mess of yarn. And I may or may not have still not finished untangling the first one from after the trip out of town...

But this time? This time I gave my cat a good cursing. Took a deep breath. And then I sat down and got to work.

My advice?

Take that big deep breath. Being stressed will only make it harder. It takes a gentle touch to untangle yarn without tying it in more knots.

Always pull gently. Don't ever force the yarn to go somewhere it doesn't seem to want to go. You have to give yourself over to the moment and feel your way through this.

If you get into a pickle and can't seem to sort it out? Put down that part and start working on the other end.

Only let the perpetrator of the crime witness the untangling at your own risk of sanity. They may or may not gloat, interfere, or glare at you indignantly for successfully making progress and not letting it stress you out.

Beware of passing that end through the loops. Once you start, you almost certainly will create additional loops that will not simply unravel themselves with gentle manipulation. Sometimes it can't be helped, though, so it becomes extra important to be gentle and patient so that you don't create tiny traps that become too small for you to fit the end/growing ball of yarn through!

If you start getting frustrated, walk away. Maybe remove the criminal from the vicinity and shut the door first, if you can... Whatever you do, don't get mad and start pulling harder on the yarn! You'll only create knots that are even harder to untangle. Just walk away and come back to it later with a new deep breath and a fresh infusion of patience.

When you succeed, don't gloat too much.

My jerk of a cat totally watched me the entire time I was working on untangling and then once it was down to simply finishing winding the rest of it up, he got up and sauntered away! Like he was bored now or maybe disappointed that I wasn't going to burn it all down or throw my hands up and present it to him like the hard earned winnings after a neatly executed mission.

In the end, I conquered my frustration, refueled my patience, AND I still have a skein of yarn to use one of these days! Sure, it's got a couple snagged spots in it now, but that's just part of its story now. It's one more time that every inch of that skein of yarn will have passed through my hands in its journey to becoming whatever it is meant to be.

And you know what? I kind of like thinking of it that way.


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