Marilag Lubag's Blog

Stages of Learning

June 20, 2016
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I am good at singing, crocheting, writing poetry, doing hula hoop, and other things. I wasn’t born with these skills. It took hours and hours of practice and learning. You can be good too if you want.

Looking back, I realized that I went through three stages in order to learn the new skill. The fourth stage is still a work in progress but it’s part of learning too. The more you practice, the more you’ll become good at your craft. You start by having fun.

Multicolored scarf

It took me hundreds of hours to learn how to crochet and yet I still have a lot to learn.

Stage 1: Having fun

The key to learning is having fun. If you’re not having fun doing something, you wouldn’t want to do them again. Being good at something isn’t as important as having fun. If you’re having fun, then you’ll do the same activity repeatedly. I couldn’t hula hoop before the age of seven. Then, I was forced to join a hula hoop contest as a part of school festivities. I did so poorly that we were last in our grade level. That was when I decided that I want to learn. One day, while we were shopping at a mall, I bought myself one. Everyday I practiced. At first, it kept falling down my waist. After a lot of tries, I finally got the hang of it. I was having fun. I used to count how many rotations it would take before it falls down from my waist. Eventually, I tend to lose count so I started counting the minutes. I’ve learned how to do hula hoop with other parts of my body since then too.

Another example would be my crocheting. Back when I was in second or third grade, my classmates were crocheting. As I have a creative bent, I wanted to try it too. I was nine when I first held my crochet hook. At first, I couldn’t even make a slip knot. Eventually, my classmate took a pity on me and I learned how to do chains. My grandma showed me how to do a slip stitch. It was fun trying to make rows and rows of slip stitch. I didn’t know if it looks good but I was enjoying myself. I loved every moment of making fabric using a crochet hook and plenty of yarn.

Stage 2: Learning

The second stage of learning is getting yourself educated. Nowadays, all you need to do is to watch Youtube videos (which makes learning cheaper) but you can also pay an instructor or buy some books. During this stage, start learning the basics and practice. Once you’re confident with the basic skills, you can build on it and learn more things.

When I was trying to learn how to crochet, my mom bought me two crochet books. They were very small and very thin. I devoured it. Those were my only two crochet books for the first five years of my path to learning crochet.

It’s important not to get ahead of yourself during this phase. It’s better to learn the basics and do them well rather than learn too much too soon. You could overwhelm yourself. That’s what happened with me when I was learning how to write a novel. I tried to learn so much that eventually, I find myself in a writer’s block—something that shouldn’t have happened if I didn’t try to learn too much too soon. Since then, I’ve taken a long time to unblock myself. I’m still writing. However, it’s been a while since I finished a 50,000 word story.

My foray to novel writing could be crochet for you. It could be singing. Please do not make the same mistake I did and discourage yourself out of learning by learning too much too soon.

Stage 3: Sharing with others

The third stage is when you become so good at whatever it is you want to do that you’re now confident to show it to the world. Sometimes you get pushed into it. At other times, you would share it just to overcome your fears.

Back in grade school, I got into writing poetry. I just write and write and keep it in a notebook. One day, a classmate saw it, liked it, shared it with the teacher, and got it published in the school newspaper. Eventually, it gave me self-confidence to share more of my poems. I published a few more in the junior high newspaper. Then I went to college. I recited my some poem as part of the campaign to stop violence against women.

Stage 4: Becoming a professional

Once you become very good at it, you could start charging people. Sometimes, it’s your decision. Other times, it’s your friends who tell you to start charging. Either way, you’re now transitioning from making things as a hobby to becoming a professional.

Since my friends and family seem to like my crochet projects, I have decided to charge people everytime they requested something. I didn’t come into that decision on my own. Everytime someone sees me make something, they eventually ask me to make them something. I needed the money to buy the yarn. It also takes time away from the projects I enjoy making for myself. This is why I decided to charge people. Selling items require more than your skills—it requires your ability to sell your work. Sometimes, you might not want to get to this stage and keep on doing things because you’re having fun.

 

In my experience, the stages of learning can overlap. Still, you need to get to stage 1 first before you can get to stage 4. You need to give permission to have fun and do things even if you’re not “talented”. Play with words if you’re a writer—write even if things don’t make sense. Paint like a child. Have fun with making a mess. You need to hone your craft. Eventually, you’ll become good at it. So good that people will want what you’re offering. When you reach that point and you’re ready sell your work, you’ll be confident in what you’re offering.

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Step 1

March 31, 2016
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The hardest step we’ll ever had to take is the beginning. Often, people make excuses if they want something. For example, if someone dreams of writing a novel, they would dream about it but don’t start writing page one. If that was the case, our first step should be to start writing one paragraph. If we want to get to where we want, we need to start start somewhere.

The difference between a dream and a goal is if we’re actually doing something to get there. If we haven’t figured out how to get to our destination, the first step would be to start. We need to start walking. We would figure out what we need to do as we go along.

If we’re doing crochet, we should start with a slip knot. The chains and other stitches would follow. Whether we decide to make a blanket or a doily, there is a place we need to start first. The rest would come easier the more we practice.

The first step into any goal is to start somewhere. If we don’t start somewhere, we would only be dreaming—it’s not a goal. We would remain in step 0 and not move on to step 1. If we want to do something, we need to start. Once we start, everything gets easier.


Other People’s Opinions

March 16, 2016
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Sometimes, it’s not good to show our work when we’re not clear with what we truly want. I make things for people, only to have things changed because someone close to me would see one aspect of it that while I did consider, was not the major reason why I would be doing them. Then, I would follow what they want according to their vision instead of my own.

As often the case, it’s better to do what I want and then to show them the results later on. They often like the end results anyway. It’s not that I don’t value their opinion—I had other factors that they’re not considering. This is why it’s better to take a step back and to figure out what I want. Did what they tell me complement with my goal? Or would their opinion derail my plan completely? I have to make sure that I know what I want. This was one of reason I’m not showing people the things I’m making in the beginning. After all, they’re going to have a lot of opinion on how things should be done but I’m the one with the vision. My input is what matters the most.

Similarly, you need to be clear with your goals. Otherwise, other people would come in and tell you what they think. While they might offer valuable insights, the most important factor is what you want. After all, you’re the one creating them. If you’re not clear with what you want, whatever advice they tell you could hinder you instead of help you. If you want to make fuzzy socks, someone would tell you that they think it’s not practical which would cause you to buy a different yarn. If what they’re saying is different from what you want, you might create a completely different thing that do not align with your vision at all.

When you’re clear with what you want, only then can you compare it with other people’s advice. Since you’re the creator, you’re the most important factor of all. Don’t let people into talking you out of doing what you think is best.

What do you want? Would other people’s opinion hinder you or help you?


Don’t Mess with My Plans

March 15, 2016
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Sometimes, listening to other people how to do your craft would cause whatever plans you have to get derailed. Though they could offer invaluable advice, you have to see for yourself if what they’re telling you is something that would help you with your goal instead of going opposite what you want. Often, I would have an idea, only to have it changed because some people would see one aspect of it that’s not a factor for my decision. However, they’re not accounting for what I would consider to be very important at all.

An example would be me trying to make a blanket for my friend. I had the idea to make it lacy because I don’t have enough time. Then my grandma and my mom told me that it has a lot of holes and would not warm people up. I consider what they’re saying so I had to unravel my yarn and start over again. It’s a good thing that I had done it at the beginning of the project.

Later, my mom saw my blanket. She said to just buy my friend a gift because according to her, I don’t have time. That’s when I had to put my foot down. I told her that I let her talk me into changing my plans to begin with.

I’m not blaming my mom. I like creating my own design instead of using some pattern. Still, I was the one that had that vision. They couldn’t see what I see when I make that project. When I let people tell me what I should do, they often don’t factor how long it’s going to take me to do it. They just look at what they think looks good without even considering everything I was trying to accomplish. That’s why it’s sometimes better not to share my vision in the beginning. They’re going to derail your plans.

It’s better to show them what I did afterwards, when it’s all done. That way, they could see what you want them to see and they won’t have a hand in your creative process. After all, they can’t tell me I’m making a big mistake when something had already been completed. It’s better to show people the finished product, get their opinions afterwards, and then incorporate their opinions on the revision of my work. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad to take advice from other people. However, we need to be clear of what we want or other people would take that from me.


Back to the Basics

March 9, 2016
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The basic stitches in crochet builds into one another, creating a more complex design. The combination of chains, slip stitches, single crochet, double crochet, and treble crochet creates different shape that would eventually become a bag, a sweater, a top, and other things. If you’re a beginner, it’s better to use less combinations and develop your skill of reading a pattern. Often, one false step would result in a product that’s way different than what was written.

If you’re serious about your craft, you should start with something simple. Even if you’re no longer a beginner, simple is the way to go. A true master is able to create something exceptional—even if it involves very simple elements. In terms of crochet, my stitches are going to look a lot different than the beginners. Mine are even and had the right tightness. A beginner would look crooked and have uneven tension.

People often want to try more complex patterns when their skills are not on par with the pattern they pick. That’s like me trying to play a Bach when I don’t have the ability to do it—something I had done before. Not only did it not sound like Bach, I spent the entire two hours staring at the page trying to play the note but totally lost with what I am doing. Technically, I had managed to finish the piece. However, it’s not Bach at all as the notes are too far apart.

There is nothing wrong with simple. Simple allows us to develop our skillset before we have the ability to develop a more complex skillset. In fact, I prefer simple especially when learning a new technique. Simple is a way to get results without being frustrated about it. If you want to learn something, simple is the best way to do it.

What’s the basic elements of your craft?


Keep It Simple

March 8, 2016
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The beauty of using finger crochet was that it requires simple stitches but produce lacy effect. Whether it’s using a straight out single crochet design, or a double crochet, the stitches were so huge that it couldn’t help but create a lacy look when using a regular yarn.

My point is that we don’t need to use complex design in order to create something beautiful. Even when using only single crochet, we can create something that looks intricate. Simple doesn’t mean boring. It’s only boring if we don’t have the necessary skills to perform the task well. It allows us to practice and gives us ways to experiment without going overboard. The basic crochet stitches would look a lot different depending on what types of yarn we’re using as well as the hook size.

Another reason for me to use simple and basic crochet stitches was when using novelty yarns. You can’t use complicated stitches as the stitches is hard to see. It would be easy to miss stitches if you’re not careful. In addition, there’s no point of using complex stitches—the yarn would obscure the design. If someone had the gall to use a more complex stitches (as I had done when I first started using this yarn), the person would realize that it’s a useless exercise. The design won’t be easily seen.

Wedding Shawl in Fur

One of my obsessions–creating scarves and shawls using only novelty yarn

Basic design is not boring. What we need is to look at things a little bit differently. What if we construct a scarf using single crochet sideways instead of creating it from up to down? It would look unique instead of boring.

What do you think of simple designs?


The Best Ideas

March 7, 2016
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The best ideas are the simple ones. They are easy to execute and easy to follow up on. In addition, they require the less energy. The less complicated the idea, the more successful they can be.

Sometimes, people get so caught up in the moment that they would come up with a lot of complex ideas. However, their skills are not on par with what was on their mind. When it’s time for execution, it can cause disappointment because what was on their mind was clearly not what was seen on reality.

When I was eight or nine years old, I wanted to learn how to embroider. So, I decided to practice on one of my maroon handkerchiefs. Looking back, I think it’s a bad idea as the fabric already has an ornate design. Still, I was trying to make a really ornate design of an angel. I hand sewn white thread on maroon fabric. It looked like a child had done it. My stitches were very crooked and there were large gaps. My execution was expected—I was a child back then and this was my first embroidery project.

I should’ve started with daisies. Or even letters. It’s still going to look awful but it’s easier to execute. It’s a lot simpler than starting with an angel when my skill isn’t up to that level yet. Now, I could actually create more ornate designs. That angel would look better now if I did it today.

Simple ideas are not boring. The simplest ideas would look exceptional in the hands of the master. In fact, it showcases the skills of the master. A lot of people had complimented me with this particular scarf that I crocheted. They said that it looks simple but it’s beautiful. Same goes with my broomstick lace beanie. Both are very simple projects but they showcase my skill—something that I had been perfecting for 20 years.

We don’t need complex ideas in order to create something beautiful. Simple ones would do.


The Pie

March 4, 2016
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The battle to get better is with ourselves. The moment we find someone better at their craft than us, we often find ourselves so intimidated that we would throw our hard work out the window. We find ourselves giving up. While that reaction is understandable, we shouldn’t give up just because we think other people are better in their craft than us. When that happens, it’s better to retreat in our corner and perfect our craft, doing what we enjoy doing. After all, there is always a corner available for us in our craft.

Our weapon for insecurity is more practice. We can’t do our best if we compare ourselves to the person right next to us. We might see them as being better but we don’t know what kind of insecurity they’re battling themselves. If we only know what’s going on in their head, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be as insecure. They are fighting that invisible battle too.

We need to worry about our own projects. The good thing about crochet is that I’m either searching for a pattern or creating one myself. Some I like more than others but it’s a matter of personal taste. Similarly, just because we like one creation a particular artist doesn’t mean we’ll like thing they did. What matters is that we’re doing our best with our chosen craft. No matter how good you are, there would always be a place for you in your chosen art form.

We need to remember that there would always be people who are better than us and there would be others that are worse. We shouldn’t worry about how they perform. There is a space for everyone in our chosen medium. The key is to let go of our insecurities and do our best.

What are your own insecurities?


Away from Prying Eyes

March 1, 2016
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The best thing about being self-taught when it comes to learning my craft is that there’s no competition. I don’t have to compare myself with other people and I could just perform happily doing what I need to do, incorporating what I learned from other people and just be. It allows me to experiment without the fear of judgment even if they turn out horrible to the end.

Being self-taught allows me to practice away from prying eyes and with full confidence that I’m the best at what I do simply because I have nobody to compare myself with. Of course, by the time I show my finished product to others, I had practiced so much that I’ve actually become quite good at it. When people finally see my finished product, all they could think about was how good it was. They didn’t see the countless hours I spent perfecting and experimenting on my craft.

Practicing on my own lessens my performance anxiety as well. I could practice the way I wanted and the only people who would be affected are myself and people on my immediate surroundings like when a child wants to play the violin (the parents just have to grin and bear it). With enough practice, the child eventually becomes so good at it that they would be asked to play in front of others.

My point is, it’s easier to practice if we don’t compare ourselves with other people. In my case, I used to do a lot of scarves in mismatching colors and in no particular order. While I still make them, I had learned over the years to stick to one or two colors. At the very least, they’re complimentary.

When we’re just starting to learn our crafts, we need to practice on our own. It is easier to develop our skills when we don’t have other people to compare ourselves with. Eventually, we would be good at our craft and develop our own style. Practice makes perfect. It would also be easier when we don’t have to look over our shoulder to have somebody to compare ourselves to.


To Be a Professional

February 25, 2016
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It doesn’t take a genius to understand that we need to invest a lot if we are to develop our craft. It’s not easy to do what we want we don’t have the skillset to do it. It’s like not having the right tools for what we wanted to do.

We need to invest time and money in order to learn our craft. I had countless of crochet magazines and books—instructions that would show me how to do certain things such as Broomstick lace, Bruges lace, and fillet crochet. I take my time to practice so that I am able to do what I want in terms of such techniques. I start with simple projects first. Later on, I develop a more complex items—something that can be reflected with my improved skillset.

If you are serious about your craft, you need to do similar things. You need to practice such skill set and invest in books, lessons, and practice. Otherwise, you would not improve in terms of your medium. The goal is to be a better artist. It’s okay to produce work in subpar quality if you’re just starting. However, you should produce better work in the subsequent projects. After all, the more you practice, the better you get.

It takes time to develop our skills in order to succeed. Still, we often get impatient with the results. Real professional artists takes time to develop. They often start as terrible artists but with constant practice, they become masters. As a child, my crochet practice were too tight and curl. I’m able to follow a pattern but I would always wonder why they don’t measure the way it was specified. Later on, I realized that I’m not following the gauge.

I am able to create better items two years later. With constant practice, I am able to do double crochet evenly. Soon, I’m able to teach my classmates how it should be done. At this moment, I’m trying to decide whether or not to get a certificate of being a master in crochet. For now, I’m practicing my skills.

Being a competitive professional artist requires an investment of time and money. It’s like being a professional in some other fields. To become competitive at something, we need to push ourselves in order to learn the basics. It takes a decade to become a doctor. Similarly, it takes a lot of time and practice to become a competitive in our crafts. I don’t expect a beginner in crochet to produce the same materials I am able to produce overnight. It took me years of practice to master my skill. For that matter, don’t expect yourself to write with the same quality as that of J.K. Rowling or that of Stephen King if you just started writing. They had been writing since they were children while you just started very recently.

Take your time to learn your particular craft. If they’re not looking the way you want, keep practicing. The people you consider were good at their craft had put on more hours. Similarly, you need time in order to catch up.

What have you done to improve your skillset?


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