It’s time to embrace the mistakes in our knitting

Whenever I teach a beginners knitting class – and I teach a lot of them – I always start off by saying a few things. And one of those things is this:

You will make mistakes. All the time. Even after years of knitting.

And it’s the truth. I still, even now, after 30 years of knitting on and off, make mistakes. Quite often.

Knitflix and mistakes

It’s just so easily done; you get too involved in the reality show you’re watching, and blow past the point in your pattern where you should be doing something like turning your sock heel, or separating the sleeves of your top down sweater.

Or, you get too involved in the film you’re watching, and completely lose track of how many stitches you’ve cast on and have to count the whole blooming’ lot and then undo a few.

Or, you get way too involved in the detective thriller you’re watching and completely mess up the lace pattern you’re knitting and end up with a mismatching and badly aligned lace motif.

Happens all the time. Even when I’m re-knitting a pattern I’ve designed, I can easily make a mistake if I’m not paying enough attention.

Which is why I start my beginners sessions by saying that mistakes are inevitable, and you just have to accept that you’re going to make them. In fact, I’ve taken to referring to knitting as “an exercise in unlearning perfectionism”. Because if you’re determined to make every single thing you knit absolutely perfect, then you will never, ever finish a single project.

Mistakes to fix, and mistakes to not

The key thing to understand when it comes to getting more chilled out about messing up your knitting is that there’s a difference between little mistakes that you can leave, and big mistakes that you really do need to do something about.

Stitch count of your stocking stitch sweater body out by a couple at the end of a round? Leave it.

Accidentally done a round knitting without increases when you should’ve been doing a raglan increase round? Just do the increases on the next round. One extra round won’t kill (unless you’re knitting with mega chunky, in which case I’d argue you’ve to more problems than that round.)

Knitted a few stitches in the wrong colour on your fair isle sweater? Duplicate stitch over them. Or colour them in. Either works.

Yes, if you’ve done something that’s going to unravel, or leave a hole, or set your lace/colourwork/next part of the project out of whack then you probably should fix that. But even then, you don’t need to go crazy on the frogging. Thread a lifeline through the row before your mistake, and then rip back to that. Not sure what that is? Worry not; I’ll be doing a tutorial soon.

Letting go of the need to make your knitting perfect

This is the thing about handmade clothing, whether it’s knitting, or sewing, or handwoven fabric, or something else altogether. It’s all individual. That’s part of the joy of having a handmade wardrobe; your choice of yarn, and needles, and the way you work the stitches all mean that it’s not going to be exactly like anyone else’s.

Part of all hand knits being individual is that they’re going to have little bits to them that maybe aren’t absolutely super-duper spot on perfect. And that’s fine.

If your hand knit sweater was a person, you’d call that slightly odd bit a personality quirk. I, for example, am really rather messy and talk to myself a bit too much (too many years working from home with only a cat for company). The blue cabled sweater I’m wearing today has a slightly odd right angle at the bottom of the neckband because I got my decrease rate for the neckline a bit wrong. Both things are – whilst not necessarily ideal – perfectly acceptable, really.

And while my messy nature is fairly hard to hide, nobody’s really going to notice that slightly odd bit of sweater unless I point it out to them.

Which I will. The maker’s version of “thanks, it’s got pockets!” is “oh, but this bit’s a bit weird”.

But even then, nobody else is going to care about that slightly funky bit. After all, you made all the other bits that went just right, and chances are they’re going to be so blooming’ impressed by that fact that they will not care at all about that one flaw in amongst the thousands of perfectly executed stitches.

And neither should you.

Take a look at some of my imperfect knits

I recently recorded a podcast for my YouTube channel where I revisited some of my earliest knitting projects. Believe me, they’re full of mistakes that I didn’t fix. Mostly, because at the time, I didn’t know I made them.

Take a look at the video below, and take heart; I messed some of this stuff up really badly, and yet I am now a professional knitter. There’s definitely hope for all of us.

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