Not all of these milk pitcher manoeuvres require practice. Many designs can be approached and developed very quickly. There is a direct relationship between the difficulty of a pattern and how long it takes to develop the motor memory for it. Motor memory makes a technique easy to perform, without the need to think about what you’re doing. The process of mapping a manoeuvre into your muscle memory comprises two steps: memory encoding and memory consolidation. Once a memory is encoded and consolidated, your motor memory can be engaged to easily repeat learned behaviour.
The first step in establishing a motor task, memory encoding, is fragile and easily interrupted without repetitive practice, or ‘maintenance rehearsal’. This rehearsal helps to maintain information in what’s known as your short-term memory, but does not place information in your long-term memory for retrieval later. Encoding allows you to shape what kind of information is stored in your long-term memory (Goldstein 2014).
The process by which a memory is locked away into long-term memory, no longer requiring attention, is consolidation. Through this process, memories and information that may be fragile or susceptible to loss are transformed into a more permanent state in long-term memory, where they are resistant to change or disruption (Frankland and Bontempi 2005). It emphasises the importance of performing the movement correctly right from the start, due to the fragility of memories before consolidation — ‘new memories are clear but fragile and old ones are faded but robust’ (Wixted 2004).
Just as a musician builds up the speed of scales and arpeggios slowly, over a period of months, it is advisable to initially learn simplified versions of patterns. For example, begin with tulip designs that have 2 (not 7) petals and rosettas that have 10 (not 20) petals.