Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Embracing imperfection in knitting

It's not easy for me to say this because I am so very fond of visually balanced things - as opposed to other kinds of balance, like between work and play or sleeping and waking or healthy vs. treats - but:

There is a lot to be said for being okay with less than perfect knitting.

Normally when I'm working on something I'm very picky.  Even though I know those loose stitches in row 46 of that shawl about 13 stitches in from the side are going to not remotely matter to me when the shawl is bunched up and shoved carelessly onto my front hall shelf, or even when it's wrapped around my neck in a heap, they just really matter to me when the shawl is sitting on my lap for all the hours it will take to make it.

If I spot loose stitches so far away from where they happened that I should just Not Even Think About Ripping Out, I'll spent 20 minutes tugging at the neighbouring stitches to try to spread out the pain and make it blend in more.  But if I come upon a second mistake that means ripping back just a few rows?  I will totally rip all the way back to the loose stitches to try to do better.

(and promptly create a few more loose stitches while reknitting that section.)

This is why, I think, my little summer socklets have been such torture.

Look at them.  Curled up like the stripey legs of the Wicked Witch under Dorothy's house, after the ruby slippers were off.  Show your true colours there, kiddlies.

SO many things went wrong as I tried to improvise a pattern that matched my Mary Jane shoes perfectly.  Too many stitches, then too few, not enough border to keep the sides from rolling, the wrong number cast on for the foot, not one but three times (it's true), the closed-over part beginning a bit too close to my toes, then barely far enough away, and then I accidentally put in an extra stitch on the side borders on the second sock.

That last one really put me over the edge.  At that point, I thought:

nobody is going to care about this. 

Not even me.  I'm not releasing it as a pattern, and the whole point is that the socks be practically invisible inside the shoes, so why freak out?  Why not just - finish them.  So I can wear them already, because even though we are back to frigid windy greyness outside again I can bet you we will have another unexpected heatwave just about any ol' minute and I want to be ready.

So I finished them.

I didn't even let it bother me when I noticed I'd accidentally rolled the second ball backwards so the stripes run opposite each other, though I guess I'd better fix that before I knit actual socks with the remains of this yarn.

That's the nice thing about this pattern, in the end - it takes just about as much as I typically have left over from my Vesper socks.  I'd been hoarding those bits in case I ever needed to mend holes in the soles, but after three years of constant use even my original Vespers haven't the least hint of a weak spot, so I'm just gonna go for it.

With a contrasting heel colour to be on the safe side, because I don't think I could stand running out of yarn at a critical moment... and this time, I'm knitting both socks at once, because one pair of imbalanced socks is also about as much as I can stand.

Oh, and I'm doing a wider side border and adding a strap and I just spent two hours deciphering and typing up my notes so I don't mess up again this time.  You know what?  I'm probably not embracing imperfection nearly as much as I think I am.


susan said...

This is a big question with so many dimensions to it. I think I carry a lot of my mother in my head when I work with my hands and so correcting mistakes (and the way I do that) has, until recently, been about an unspoken dialogue with her. For example, my personal inclination is to be very pragmatic - catching loose stitches with cotton and needle on the reverse of knitting or overlocking an edge of a too big knitted garment and then treating it like sewing fabric. On the other hand, my mother (a much more perfect knitter than I will ever be) will always unravel. Finding your own knitting voice/hands is very interesting, which is, of course, why I enjoy your posts so much.

Mary Keenan said...

Ohhh, thanks so much Susan!

UmmRania said...

UHHH yeah! I am doing a triangle shawl for my Gma and I just counted last night and I have on one side of the center stitch 145 stiches and on the other side it was like 154! I mean thats a big difference, it was late and I wanted to get to bed, so sometime today I am going to have to spread out the edges and see what the heck happened, and then see if I have to rip back or cheat.....a lot!

Mary Keenan said...

Oh UmmRania, that is the WORST! and probably lace, right? so finding the problem will be a wide-awake job... hope it all went wrong in just a couple of rows not too far back!

UmmRania said...

No, thank God its just stockinette (the lace is just at the end, Its called the "princess lace shawl" or something like that, its a ton of stockinette. I couldnt see any big things so I just M1 a few times and K2 TOG on the other side, hmm strange, hopefully its not some mistake that is going to come out in blocking, because its for my Gma, and I havent seen her in about 9 years, and she is my favorite relative :(

Mary Keenan said...

Two words, UmmRania: 'Design Feature' ;^)