I’m a perfectionist. There’s no way around it. I like to do things right from the get go and then move on to something new. I don’t do well with errors or mistakes. They stump me. Which is why I’m tangled up in knots with knitting.
For my first project, I’m making a pair of fingerless mitts. All I need to know to complete the mitts are casting-on, knit and purl stitches, sewing, and binding off. These are knitting’s basics, and everything after that builds on these skills.
I know how to cast-on; most of the time I’ll use a Long-Tail cast-on. I certainly know how to knit. And I’ve grown to love to purl. The stockinette patterns is, to date, my favorite. I can combine the two, as the mitt’s instructions ask for, but – try as I might – I have not finished any of the attempts I’ve applied my hands and needles to. Something always goes wrong that makes me want to start over again.
While someone else might plod along and continue stitching, I pull the yarn and start over. I’ve started the mitts about six times already. I’ve gone through several balls of yarns, and last night I botched and started the mitts over again.
I thought about abandoning this project and starting up a different one. Maybe mitts are not to be part of my knitting repertoire. But, as the class goes, this is the most basic of assignments, so, what does it mean when I can’t finish a basic pair of mitts?
The errors I make are common ones: adding a loop without meaning to, decreasing the number of loops without wanting to; dropped stitches, glaring holes in the fabric, knots, frayed yarn, and inserting the needle the wrong way and ending up with a mess.
Knitting, thus, remains fun and a practice for self-reflection. With each row, I notice something about myself I try to work with in between each stitch.
When I began to knit, I wanted to have fun. I have my infinity blanket and practice pattern swatch to knit and try new things. On them, I hardly make any errors and knit along while listening to podcasts or partaking in conversations. Knitting those two projects is fun. The mitts, not so. They are becoming a chore perhaps because I want to knit perfectly. Every time I see a error, I get upset and wonder what I’m doing. Every time I end up with more stitches than what the pattern calls for, I feel like I haven’t made any progress.
I keep forgetting, at the moment, that part of what I’m trying to learn is to let go of this need to do things perfectly. I remind myself not to compare and expect to knit like others who have been at it for years. As I pull the yarn, I imagine myself to be the old woman of Lakota lore who wakes up every morning to find her knitting work undone, lest the world comes to an end the moment she knits her last stitch.
So I grunt and Argh at every mistake I make, but I try to learn something in the process. I’ve learned two diffrent types of casting-on to needles in addition to the Long-Tail. I’ve begun using circular knitting needles for my work and enjoy their compact size and efficacy. I’ve decided to start working on a shawl for my mother, in addition to the mitts, as a long term project. I’ve begun to develop my yarn-snob attitude and look down on synthetic fabrics from MegaCrafts stores.
Knitting, thus, remains fun and a practice for self-reflection. With each row, I notice something about myself I try to work with in between each stitch. Each row may be devoted to my wanting to knit perfectly, or to my frustration of not getting every stitch right. While knitting, I feel the real me slowly come out of his shell and assert himself. Last weekend, during a family lunch, I took up my knitting on the couch while the rest of the the men-folk watched a soccer game and no one said a word about it. Except my brother in law who asked, “What’s that you’re doing?” Knitting, I said. “But why,” he asked again. Because in all the years you’ve known me, haven’t I always done something crazy? I’m just taking it up a notch just to keep you on your toes. He nodded and said, “You certainly have.” And we left it at that.
I’m in the Argh! period of knitting, but that’s to be expected. I gave myself six months of trying to make something before deciding what to do about this new hobby of mine. So far, I’m pleased with my progress and I look forward to learning more. Of course I’d love to be knitting sweaters, scarves, and blankets for myself and other people, but I have to wait and practice enough to get to the point where I’m able to taken on such projects. That day will come, sooner or later. Until then, Argh! I’m starting them mitts again.