So for a spot of respite this week, I decided to swap these abstract threads for some real ones – threads that, with the help of the Bobbin Lace-Making Society, I could feasibly intertwine to create a thing of beauty.
An exquisite lace creation is like a first-class essay: it deftly weaves together all these various threads in a coherent manner, never stumbling, never veering off course, never going back on itself, and finishes off with a neat conclusion. While we agonise for hours on end in the library, trying to make sense of the subject at hand, the lace-making experience is one of comparative serenity.To begin with, if you follow the instructions then you won’t go wrong. There are no alternative theories to throw you off course; just a prescribed pattern that works every time. Running out of inspiration is never an issue either: you just pick up another bobbin, begin a new thread and carry on. There’s even a plentiful supply of shortbread to keep you going if you start to yawn while you yarn – this is strenuous work, after all.
Everyone needs an activity that allows us to switch off for a while, to help disentangle the various ideas spinning around in our minds. As I worked my way through half stitches, cloth stitches, twists (and for those feeling ambitious, the cloth stitch AND twist, an almighty amalgamation of the two), I could happily disengage my brain and let methodical movements take over…with only the occasional pinprick to remind me where I was going. And at the end of it all, I was left with a delightful bookmark, without the sweat and toil that goes into academic work. What had begun as a collection of diverse threads had come together to form a beautiful creation. If only essay-writing were that straightforward.
A word of warning, however: lace-making is addictive. Once you’ve started a pattern, you wouldn’t want to give up half way through it, would you? Nevertheless, I find it can complement work rather nicely. I’m currently occupied with a collection of bookmarks so that I won’t lose my place in any of the books I’m referring to in my current essay. I’m convinced that the peace of mind that results from my lace-making will be conducive to a more coherent piece of writing. And if the essay ever does become too mind-boggling, these bookmarks will serve as a neat little reminder of how best to unravel my confused thoughts: just do some more lace-making. Admittedly, I’ve only written two paragraphs so far – but we wouldn’t want it to become incoherent now, would we? It’s time to start another bookmark before I attempt the third, I reckon.