6 Knitting Lessons

April 2, 2017 · 7 comments

Lesson One: Look closer.

You might think the photo above is a pair of fancy hand warmers I finished knitting yesterday.

In fact, there are at least two additional ghost hand warmers in the photo. This is because, apparently, I’m an inattentive and easily confused knitter. I made a LOT of mistakes which resulted in much ripping out and do-overs, so I probably actually knit the equivalent of two whole pairs.

Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean that all the failures and frustrations and exhilarating learning moments aren’t there. They’re there. They’re woven directly back into the modest degree of success I achieved.

This is how it works in my life, too.

Lesson Two: It’s not necessary to fix every mistake.

This project involved at least four skills I had never tried before: magic loop knitting, cabling, creating a thumb gusset, and crafting a twisted rib stitch. (I’m probably forgetting one or two, but those four were the ones that uncorked the most colorful language.)

I had to train my fingers and hands to move in unfamiliar ways while trying to maintain a consistent tension on the yarn as it flowed through my fingers. At the same time, my linguistic processor was burning rubber, trying to learn this new language that would help me figure out what the pattern was telling me to do next. All this was against a landscape of inconsistently interlocking loops that was just beginning to make sense to my eyes.

Suffice it to say, mistakes were made [passive voice intentional].

Most of them demanded repair, like the several times I messed up on which direction the crossover on the cabling went, or when I forgot to move the yarn over top of the needle before switching direction on the magic loop and ended up with extra stitches (sort of) on the needles.

But many of my errors were simply because my fingers aren’t yet proficient at following the new neural pathways I am trying to build. I’m just learning. My fingers didn’t understand what “maintain proper tension when changing needles using the magic loop method” meant.

I’m like a little kid in knitting kindergarten, so I colored out of the lines sometimes.

In these cases I let my inner knitting kindegartener celebrate by embracing the tantalizing messiness of what it is to learn something brand new.

In the case above, it was just a flat out mistake that I could have fixed but noticed late in the game and decided, “Meh… It’s on the inside of the cuff. I can live with it.” I let my inner lazy adult make the call on that one.

And I learned that it’s often okay to live with small mistakes that no one else cares about or would even notice.

Lesson Three: Practice makes perfect, or at least good enough.

And it is very sweet when you figure something out that was impossible until suddenly it wasn’t.

Lessons Four and Five:
Don’t believe everything I read, and, I get what I pay for.

The pattern was wrong.

Let me repeat that in case you didn’t catch it the first time: THE FRIGGIN’ PATTERN WAS WRONG.

The instructions for the right hand were different than for the left, so I dove in with confidence that the people who publish knitting patterns have actually made the item under discussion according to the pattern they’re offering.


I tried twice up to a point well beyond where the thumb started, and both times, it became clear that I was creating a second left hand, albeit starting from a different door in. It was still, very decidedly, a left hand version emerging. And I still couldn’t believe it could be the pattern, and not me.

Called the store, left a message: “Could someone please let me know if I’m doing this wrong?” No response.

So, I ripped it out (again) to the cuff and knit the mirror image of the left glove on the theory that a) it might work, and b) if it didn’t, I was getting a LOT of knitting practice in for the amount of money I spent on the yarn.

It worked, and I learned that sometimes the directions actually are wrong, and that there often is a positive correlation between how much you pay for something and what the actual value of that thing is.

The pattern was free.

Lesson Six: Knit my problems.

I tried meditating, but all I could think of was my knitting.

But that’s okay, because evidently, knitting has benefits that are also found in meditation: calm, rhythmic mindlessness, with a very quiet yet lightly focused point–literally–of attention. There’s even a yoga-ish word for it: “knitasana.”

And knitasana is delightful. It somehow realigns, cools, and calms screaming neurons that have been burning way too hot for way too long and need a breather. When I knit, I find myself taking deep breaths without meaning to.

And this is all just terrific until I screw up, or life screws up around me, or in any case, my knitting becomes fecked.

Just like life: sailing along at a lovely quiet rhythm of sleeping, taking long walks, working at stuff you enjoy, cooking dinner and eating it with your best friend, and then… whammo! A stitch has been dropped or one row grew where I wasn’t expecting it and I don’t know why, but now I need to fix it. I move rapidly from reflective zen zone to alert problem solving.

The surprise here for me is that, if I let it, my “problem” becomes a moment to closely examine where I’ve been lately, and what I’ve done that lead to my current situation. It’s a creative process, really, a puzzle to solve, and one that leaves me a far more well-informed knitter than I was when everything was sliding along nicely like butter.

Just like life. Substitute “person” for “knitter” in the paragraph above and noodle on it for a bit.

P.S. Got back from a walk a few minutes ago with my new gloves on, and not one of the dogs we met objected to that little mistake on the inside cuff, or even seemed to notice.

Joan Fentiman April 4, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Once your project is completed, you have not only learned a new form of relaxation, but have become a fashion designer. All patterns are now copyrighted as no one could possibly duplicate this hugely complicated design. It is now a DIM, (did it myself) and to heck with those who thought they knew it all.

kathy April 4, 2017 at 8:52 pm

Hurray!! I’m actually tempted post the pattern (mine, that I had to create!) and do a video series of all the things you need to know to make them!

Sandi Fentiman April 3, 2017 at 6:02 pm

I don’t think I can do complicated patterns like that. I tried something easier a long while ago, and that was enough for me. You sure are patient doing that; more than I would be. Nice job!!!

kathy April 3, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Thanks, Sandi. I also learned there’s a fine line between “patient” and “off my rocker.”

Colleen Zuchetto April 2, 2017 at 9:18 pm

And that’s the beauty of knitting, or crochet, or quilting…..you have summed it up eloquently and accurately. Learning the skill, infused with patience, profanity and “fudge”. If it doesn’t go as planned, just “fudge it”. No one will know. Be proud, they are beautiful!

kathy April 3, 2017 at 7:05 pm

Thanks, Colleen! I pretty much “fudge” my way through most of m y life.

kathy April 3, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Haha… see what I did there, totally by accident? Gonna leave it as it sits as an exercise in humility.

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