Have you ever noticed that if you compliment a knitter on their work they will often point out their mistakes or tell you how not perfect it is? My favorite is when a fellow knitter will tell me, “Don’t look too closely,” as I admire their work. Rarely do we just say, “Oh, thank you. Yes, I do love this shawl.” Why is this?
I started thinking about this last week when a good friend of mine — we’ve known each other since middle school and spent many a rad Friday night crocheting afghans in the mid-90s — commented on the pashmina Daybreak shawl I recently completed. I responded immediately by admitting that I was a little tight on the edges of the striped section so it curls a bit and how I was kind of embarrassed by that. She gave me a healthy dose of perspective with a “that’s what you’re worried about???” and an “I think it looks lovely.” She was absolutely right. It is lovely and I shouldn’t be worried about it curling a little bit. I should just enjoy this beautiful shawl that I made out of two sticks and a couple balls of (very luscious) string. Why was I so quick to focus on its fault? I have some theories.
First, there is the double-edged sword of knitting — the more skilled you get, the more critical you are of your work. I’ve been knitting for a little over a decade and have gained some mastery of the craft, and yet I am a million times harder on myself than I was when I began. I am more likely to cast-on multiple times to get the cast-on edge just right and to rip back to fix one stitch that is looks funny to me. Just this morning, I tore out a finished hat (ends woven in and everything) to correct one stitch. Yeah, that just happened. I can’t believe it either. But I digress on that bit of disbelief.
As a knitter my projects are also very personal. I spend hours of my life working on them and, of course, I want them to be perfect. I work hard not only on the project at hand, but on my general knitting skills so that each project is better than the last. Knitting, however, is a craft that takes what is on the inside of us and puts it out there. If we are tense, our stitches may be tight. If we are rushed, they may be sloppy. If we are focused and relaxed, they may be perfect. In this way, our stitches are a window into our lives. When we look at them, we see more than just a pattern and yarn. I see a bit of myself and the memories of where I was and what I was doing in each project — they always wind up woven into the fabric. A sweater isn’t just a sweater and a scarf not just a scarf — each FO is a little piece of me that has found its way into a tangible, physical entity that I display for anyone to see. For me, it can be very intimidating sometimes, especially when I know there are not quite perfect.
Ironically, most people will never see these imperfections. Most people will never be able to tell if I had a stressful day and cranked on my stitches. Most people will see a lovely shawl or pair of socks or whatever and stop there. When someone shows me their work, I prefer to focus on personal triumphs, on the sheer miracle that is any finished knitted object, and the beautiful item that’s been created. Seriously, 2 sticks + some string + a determined person = a piece of fabric made to specific dimensions… that’s incredible! In fact, take a moment right now to give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve completed a couple knitting projects. You are pretty awesome. It’s OK to admit that, we all understand and agree with you.
So. Where does that leave us? I think it’s about time for us to gaze at our lovely FOs and just stop there. Let the imperfections — because nothing can make any of us not see them — remind us that there is always room for improvement, but let’s not let them distort our perspective of the project at hand. The improvement and growth will come with practice & patience. We don’t need to point out all the things that could have gone better. We’ll get there. For today, for this project let’s think of these little delicacies as (im)perfections — yeah, you read that right. Just take the emphasis off the ‘im’ and enjoy your work. You deserve it.
Guilty, and Amen!
I am totally still a beginner and have a lot to learn about knitting, but I always point out mistakes because it’s kind of a badge of “I Made This.” Mistakes, to me, are a sign of the humanity of knitting and I love the little ones.