In honor of “The Pi Day of the Century” (3/14/15) I want to share with you a story about how I developed the patience to do a big, big project in many, many small steps.
My daughter was engaged and I wanted to make an afghan as a wedding gift. I showed her a book of patterns and asked if she liked any of them. Her choice? The one with more than a thousand 2”x2” crocheted squares that had to be made one at a time, then sewn together. AAAAAKKKKK!!!! But it did look beautiful and I wanted to make her something very special.
Right away I could see that using crochet to make the blocks would take way too long and my hands would never allow that much twisting and turning. So I chose to knit the squares with a simple but interesting texture. I chose colors to complement her décor and started knitting. One little square at a time. Didn’t take very long, but there were SO MANY to make! At any point I could have stopped, but here’s the thing: I WANTED to make this beautiful gift for my daughter. And I also wanted to learn to “enjoy the process” and not be so fixated on the finish line.
There were benefits to knitting the afghan in tiny little blocks, especially how easy it was to carry the project around with me—just one skein, two needles and as many tiny squares as I could make at Starbucks while chatting. And that’s another benefit – I didn’t have to think very much while I knitted these, so it was perfect to do while chatting with friends, listening to speakers, watching TV, or at a concert.
I, of course, missed the deadline (the wedding) and their 1st anniversary. But I didn’t quit. If I kept going, I could do this, as long as I enjoyed the process and didn’t worry about the completion date.
So what does this have to do with the number Pi? The pattern said to take the different colored squares and sew them together “randomly”. Hmmm… I know that if I tried to make it “random” I would try to keep some sense of symmetry or balance, and it wouldn’t truly be random, so I asked my husband and a friend (who are both math-inclined) if they could think of a way to generate random numbers. My husband asked how many colors I had (10) and he and my friend said almost simultaneously, “You could use the digits of Pi!”
What a great idea! My daughter had recently developed a love of science and math and I knew she’d love this math connection, so I printed out the first 1000 or so digits of Pi and assigned a color to each number. Here’s the completed project:
This is a visual representation of the digits of Pi, starting from the top left corner, going across the rows. What I love about this visual randomness is the organic nature of the color distribution: there are CLUMPS and RUNS and things I would have tried to balance out if I’d tried to create randomness myself. My favorite part is the run of six 9s (orange squares) in the lower left part of the afghan.
So, here’s what I learned through embarking on (and FINISHING) this project:
- They say “A Journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Yes, but it also requires many, many more thousands of steps to complete it! Each step is, in itself, easy, but it takes a great deal of willingness and purpose to continue taking them.
- Make plans, but be willing to change them when necessary. Also, have checkpoints along the way so you can make changes before it’s too late. It would have been a good idea for me to try sewing a few of the squares together before I’d finished making over a thousand of them! I would have changed the design of each square a little bit to make them easier to sew together, but DANG, I wasn’t going to knit all 1110 over again!
- It’s okay to have seasons of progress and seasons of rest. Sometimes I’d let several weeks go by without working on my Pi afghan, but then I’d return to it with renewed energy. In the past I would have called myself a quitter, thus paralyzing myself with discouragement.
- Occasionally I’d put this project aside to work on a small short-term project instead. A little bit of “finished” can bring a lot of encouragement.
Now, when I visit my daughter and I snuggle into this marvelous afghan I feel the satisfaction of accomplishment, but I also remember the lessons I learned about facing big things a little bit at a time.