After reading Gwen’s post from Thursday, I’m feeling very warm and fuzzy inside. One of the hard parts about our business ventures ending in an official way is that Gwen and I will not have scheduled time to talk every week, and that will be a loss to me. She really is the yin to my yang and I’m incredibly grateful all over again for our association. Now it is my turn to share some of my favorites from Gwen’s writing over the last 6 years of this blog.
Let me start with a post of hers that I have saved in the bookmarks bar of my browser: Doubting Your Awesomeness. My default setting, whether personally or professionally, is Self-Deprecation. Occasionally, that’s great, but a lot of the time, it’s not so great. Something I treasure from my friendship with Gwen is her example of the absolute necessity of valuing oneself and one’s work, rather than assuming it’s not up to snuff. I loved this very personal post of hers showing that all of us must choose to see the value in ourselves and our work without regard to anyone else.
Gwen teaches in a way that creates confidence, but she uses some unexpected techniques. She does little or no demonstration, nor does she touch her students’ knitting, and that is a big deal. What she has perfected is explaining clearly and concisely, then expecting students to use all the available learning styles (listening, reading, doing, writing, etc.) to internalize the process and make it organically theirs. It’s important that students not merely copy her style, but develop their own. This is one way we are the same, but I marvel at how she does it with only the words (her handouts are superlative), some drawings, and a few samples. This Technical Knitting Questions post capsulizes this concept for me. She answers questions with not just the why and how, but adds background, technical expertise and a down-to-earth approach that invites experimentation. This call to discovery combined with accountability and personal responsibility is a great formula for building confidence.
Along with her skill at building confidence, I enjoy basking in the glow of Gwen’s curiosity about knitting. She likes to know why, then tell you why. This post from our early days explains how Gwen makes decisions about how to follow patterns. Her “Gwen’s Rule for Gwen” is a great approach for anyone to adopt. She also tells how she adds to her own Knitting Bag of Tricks by actually studying knitting patterns. She knows her stuff, and I love that she isn’t afraid to learn from other authors and teachers.
She’s also not afraid to be inspired by and even steal from other design work. This post about her reading of Austin Kleon’s brilliant book, Steal like an Artist, remains fascinating to me because of how differently the two of us think (thank goodness). I’m always grateful for the balance. I’m also genuinely delighted by the things Gwen designs. I have grown to appreciate her explanation of her creativity as pragmatic and solution-oriented, but there is no doubt that she solves those design problems with innovation and an eye for beauty. Just look at her body of work–knitting any of her patterns will result in something gorgeous that speaks to the soul as well as the brain.
This recent post about Taking the Old and Making it New brings that point home. I absolutely love the analytical way she approaches something that to other eyes might be judged only on the appearance–old counterpane patterns. Then she considers, in her logical way, how to use, adapt and refresh and old technique. Mixed in with that vision, she also thinks of how the architecture will come together and be practical to knit. Fabulous.
So, there you have it: a few personal glimpses of my dear friend. I hope I’ve helped you see her a little bit the way I see her and to think of why you love her as a teacher, writer and designer. As I researched this post, I was drawn again and again to this portrait I made of Gwen a few years ago. I love the openness in her face and the genuineness in her smile. It gives some of the best insight of all into her mind, her heart and her character.