Ever start something new, confident as all get out that you’re going to ace it, and suddenly notice a flaw? We’ve all had projects that were humming along happily until that moment when an off kilter wallhanging or a thumb across the lens makes what seemed so perfect into something slightly less-so. And – now your inner perfectionist just won’t sit down. I remember distinctly when I wallpapered my first kitchen in blooming apples (don’t judge) and I was so on fire to get the job done that I allowed an air bubble here and there. What’s no big deal at 10:30pm (Wow, look, I can wallpaper!) is intolerable (That gigantic bubble is all anyone will ever see!) in the blazing light of day.
Laddering down is what it’s called in the knitter’s glossary when you have to rescue a flaw that becomes obvious in your work before it’s too late. Before you’ve worked so far past it that trying to unstitch the bad stitch is a risk not worth taking. Oh, there have been plenty of times when I’ve made mistakes on a project long after they could be fixed, and those are the times when I always remember what dear Lori (my lovely Knitting Yoda) says under such circumstances: If you can’t see it from a galloping horse, it isn’t really there.
But there will come a time, if you fall in love with yarn, when you’ll have to learn how to fix your mistakes or forgive them.
I’m on day 3 of it, this mystery pattern for which I am emailed daily clues, and I’m loving how this is coming along, but, wouldn’t you know it, this morning I saw a stitch about 10 rows down from where I was that looked really wonky. To have such an error this early on in a project does not bode well, but, with the clear definition of stitches that this bulky yarn will have, I knew the wonky stitch actually would be visible from a galloping horse if I left it there. The choices when you see a flaw like this are always the same:
- Pull out all your work until you’re back at the scene of the crime and redo it.
- Pretend you never saw it and shrug. What did the Shaker’s used to say? Only God is perfect. To avoid the sin of pride, they always left their flaws intact.
- Ladder down. Or, fuss, moan, & whine, and then ladder down.
Incidentally, I try never to talk about laddering down with new knitters – we just fix it for them. There is enough to learn at first! Best to get the rhythm and flow of working with yarn and sticks and build competence, that magical foundation for boldness, free of worry. Free of strategies that will come with practice. So, if you are newly trying your hand at putting knits and purls together, pretend I never brought it up. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. It’s actually really good news to learn that when it comes to yarn, things can always be fixed. Probably why I like it so.
There comes a time, however, if you get past scarfs and potholders, when you’ll have to learn to repair wayward stitches or change your standards. I’m feeling like that about 2015, too, and I couldn’t miss the lesson today as I picked down to the twisted stitch to set it straight. There were some pretty messed up days in my year. Days I cried over, and days I held friends as they unraveled. There were also triumphs, though, and days I was so glad for every strength building step of competence that God allowed, through which he made me strong and willing to succeed wildly. I’m losing the word regret from my vocabulary, and that is progress. You have no idea.
So, tonight I’m knitting, watching my work a little more carefully after the repair of the morning. And I’m feeling glad it happened, glad I didn’t miss it, glad it wasn’t traumatic (like it used to be when I was a new knitter), glad that I have learned my lessons well at the feet of Knitting Yodas. And I’m holding 2015 like this fledgling project – with self kindness, because unlike stitches, you can’t ladder back days.