Sunday, April 10, 2011

There are NO tears in Knitting!... Okay, maybe.

I don't know that I've ever been more frustrated... disappointed...  scared...  scarred...  damaged by a piece of knitting.  I really truly almost cried.  Here I share my pain so that you may avoid such for yourself.

I'm working on a big lacy project with fine lace weight yarn.  It is beautiful and delicate, luxorious even.  After having researched aggressively to get all the pattern corrections and rewrites and reworks by other knitters, I got my needles in the groove and made serious headway.  Yesterday I'd say I was 75% done, and excited that I could see the end and glorious future of this project, and then it happened.  I realized I made an error in the pattern, only about 4 rows back.

Well, I'm a relatively experienced knitter, and even proud to say I teach error correction.  I figured I'd just drop down and correct the stitches, pop back up, and doodlee-dee... carry on. 

NOPE.  I dropped down, wrestled with it, got it carried back up, discovered a problem, dropped down again, and again, and again, and again.  My poor husband heard more pirate verse than he's ever experienced in any locker room or bar.  Finally, in a fit of rage and self doubt, I pulled the needles.  Yes, that's right, took the whole thing off and threatened to frog back the whole project. 

My supportive husband has recently started knitting, and has learned much about frogging pain through that experience.  Two short months ago he might have said "So just rip it out - what's the big deal?"  Now he sits at the other end of the sofa and says "Really?!?  You're gonna rip that ALL out?  Isn't there some way to save it?"  I love that man.  He gets it.  But right now... well... it's one of those moments where even support hurts a little.  I started to frog it.  I ripped the whole thing back to the drop point.  Then... I decided (you may laugh pitifully) I could save it.  I tried to thread it back on the needles.   No good.  I pulled a tapestry needle out and thread it through the stitches I could catch (oh Dear God, why so many yarn overs?!?) and then, I told my husband I felt like crying.  And then he said the words... "There are NO tears in Knitting!"  I laughed for a second and then I gave up and walked away.  

So there it sits awaiting its next abuse.

And here I sit, a day later and a full roomful away, trying not to look in it's direction, embarrassed and ashamed. 

I suspect this happens to a lot of projects and fine knitters.

I am still full of self-doubt, and wondering What in All that is Soft and Holey I was thinking offering to teach a knitting rescue class.  If I can't handle this... who am I to teach it?

I am the perfect person to teach it, because I learned from it!  I have successfully rescued MANY projects, and honestly, this one isn't dead yet.  In fact, it lives to teach.

1) Stop while you are ahead!  Back in my earlier computer repair days my coworkers and I would face nasty problems with systems.  It would always be temping to work to the solution - hours past logical - hoping against hope that the golden solution would appear before dawn.  It doesn't, it won't.  That is Hollywood magic/lure.  Stop, walk away, and the solution will come to you like lightening.  Same with knitting.  Do not sit in weak lamp light, overtired, coffee'd and "keep trying".  Had I been in my right mind, and walked away from this earlier, I would have gotten it fixed lickity-split in the morning and I'd be holding a finished delight now, instead of typing.

2) Use good light. DUH!  I set myself up.  I was in the worst condition(s) possible for rescuing my work.  If you can't see, you can't stitch or rescue.  Why do you think police, fire and rescue all have those huge daylight spotlamps?  So they can see where the hell the bleeding is coming from!

3) Fatigue is NOT your friend.  My mother will laugh, but I have to use this here - I had Superman Syndrome*.  When you are tired, you often will misjudge and think you have the power and control you need.  Trust me, you don't.  Know thyself Knitter, and knit not when nodding.  Further, you'll have a rotten attitude and an even worse attitude in the morning when some know it all reminds you that you were too tired.

4) Perfection requires patience.  Don't try to fix anything in a hurry.  Again, think of rescue workers, or more to the point, Emergency Room staff.  Do you know why you sit for seemingly days in the ER waiting room?  Because these experienced professionals know it takes time to do it right.  (Yeah, laugh.  It's ok.  I often believe they want me to heal myself and go home too, but for the purposes of this article... )  If you have any kind of time constraint, you have already added unnecessary subliminal pressure.  Work repairs when you have NO time constraints or interruptions.  No, don't think "I can do this, I have an hour."  It will take two, three, four even depending on how big the project is and how much stress you allow yourself to begin to experience again.  Really.  Have you ever been out of the ER in under 7 hours for a stomach ache? 

5) Steady yourself before returning, and RETURN.  High words from someone that can't make eye contact with the yarn yet, but good words, and when I am steady, I will return.  This is the ICU of knitting.  The point where projects either are abandoned to the project graveyard, or are nursed back to a vibrant life.  Think of it in terms of the paramedic - you may be shocked and sickened by what you find, but you steady yourself and return to do the job.  Give yourself time, enough time to see clearly, get the sleep and right conditions, and then go back to it.  If you banish that project, bar the nurses from attending and hide it away, it will die.  Keep that project front and center, carefully observe it, research its illness and administer good medicine, foresaking all other temptations to work on something else and you will save it.

Yes, I may end up frogging the whole project.  Sometimes, that just can't be helped.  Sometimes it is even a good thing, clears the cobwebs of doubt and dismay.  You'll be amazed how much better you'll feel if the very next thing you do after winding that ball is casting the project back on and putting on a couple rows.

Yes, I may even shed a tear as I rip away at it.  Sometimes, that can't be helped either.  My husband likes to remind me that adversity makes the journey more memorable.  I suspect he's right, and if so, this will be what I'm mumbling about long from now through my dementia years.

Deep breath.


*Superman Syndrome was actually first observed in my brother, who after staying up late as child to watch the Superman movie was an utter monster of overtired attitude the next day.  Mother dubbed it, it stuck.  Use it at will.  It is a very apt name for this behavior. Adults are affected faster and often experience symptoms before even reaching the next day.