Not Every Mistake Needs Fixing

Not all mistakes have to be fixed

So I wasn’t always a blogger, a knitting teacher, or a (very) part-time knitwear designer. There was a time when I made things from yarn just to make them. There was the challenge of creating something by hand and there was the relaxation of a familiar, repetitive activity. I had fun. In among all that fun I also made mistakes. I missed increases and decreases. I overspun yarn and I underspun yarn. I sewed on crooked buttons. I might have gone through the backloop when I shouldn’t have.

And I didn’t really care. If the mistake was small, I found a way to fudge it. Like…

  • when I cast on 299 stitches and realize I am a stitch short at the end of Row 1. Rip out and start again? I don’t think so Scooter. That’s why the knitters of yore invented knit front&back. One little increase made and what do ya know? I got myself 300 stitches. On to Row 2!
  • when my underspun single untwists itself and breaks during the plying. Do I cut the remaining single and start again on a fresh bobbin? Don’t be ridiculous! Just pull the broken yarn back a few inches, tuck in the new end, smoosh it all down really good, and then chew on that spot with my teeth and get it nice and spitty (no, I’m not kidding). Then I’m back in business and making yarn.
  • when I chained 43 stitches and I would have bet money that was 40. Pull it back? Nope. Not me. While pulling back and chaining 40 measly stitches doesn’t take long, there is no guarantee that I’ll get it right the second time. Besides, that beginning slip knot is easy to pick out. Then I just need to undo the first three chains and… ta da! 40 chain stitches.
Here is an appliance with an electrical cord in Gone With The Wind… and nobody cared. GWTW held the record for highest grossing film for 25 years.

That was the way I did my yarn thing when I was a foot-loose and fancy-free amateur. Then a friend had a conflict and asked me to teach her knitting class for her. Then a shop owner advised me to submit the pattern I used to teach stranded knitting to a publisher. Then I needed to find an outlet for all things I wanted to say and I started writing on a blog.

So now that I do my yarn thing largely in front of an audience I treat my mistakes more seriously, right?

Nope. I still fudge and cheat and cover up. I still really don’t care much about mistakes. If I make a big mistake, one that I can’t fudge my way out of, then, yes I rip back. Or I get out my Susan Bates Handi tool, which I dearly love, and start performing surgery. But if its a little mistake, I do what I always did. I hide it as best as I can and keep going. 

In 1987 a college student discovered that Issac Newton had a mistake in his calculations. Newton used a constant of 10.5 when he should have used 11. Guess what? It didn’t change anything. The calculation works out (mostly), Newton’s theory is still valid, and they still make kids take calculus in college.

Its more fun that way. Even though I do the yarn thing semi-professionally these days I still want it to be fun. In fact, I insist that it remain fun. If playing with yarn stops being fun, I’m going to stop doing it.

But that won’t happen because I won’t allow it. I give myself permission to cover up small boo-boos because I know that sooner or later I’ll make a big honking mess that can’t be covered up. Like when I cross a cable to the left instead of the right. Yeah, that has to be fixed. When I make two complete, quite lovely, left front pieces for my cardigan (yes I’ve done that), one of them has to get ripped back and turned into a right front. There is just no getting around it. When I mindlessly spin up a bobbin of alpaca with lots and lots of twist because the previous project was cotton and I haven’t changed the wheel settings, then it has to get cut off with scissors and thrown away. I figure I have plenty of titanic foul ups to contend with so why sweat the small stuff?

For nearly 200 years map makers thought California was an island. Don’t ask me why. But it still got explored, settled by colonialists, fought over, and turned into the 31st state in 1850. And none of those map makers ever got fired.

There is of course the tradition of the intentional mistake. Its commonly talked about in weaving and quilting. The idea is that only The Creator is perfect. Humans are not. Neither are the things that humans make. So include a deliberate mistake in your work because it will remind you of your humanity and keep you humble.

But I’ve read in numerous places that Amish quilters say that’s a myth. They don’t call BS on those stories but that’s because they are Amish and don’t call BS on anything. They do tell interviewers and tourists that they make plenty of mistakes and don’t need to add any to stay humble.

Well me too! I make plenty of mistakes and I certainly don’t need to add any. I never feel the need to deliberately work a ssk when it should be a k2tog. I figure I probably did that two rows ago and just haven’t realized it yet.


But when I do realize it, I’ll just ignore it and keep going.  And for the few, the very few, who think this attitude disqualifies me from being a semi-professional player with yarn I have this to say:

I happen to think this laid back attitude makes me a better teacher. That could simply be a self-justification but I don’t think so. When I’m in a knitting class, I’m not just teaching students how to knit, or how to read a chart, or do short rows. I am doing that. But I’m also teaching them to find joy and some measure of peace in the craft. Yarn time is therapy time. And therapy doesn’t happen if I stop the very beginning knitter because she made a twisted stitch. Who cares if she made a twisted stitch? She just learned how to make a purl 5 minutes ago. I’ve been purling stitches for a lot longer than 5 minutes and I barely care about my own twisted stitches.

Here is the basis of my teaching philosophy and general outlook on life: the only way you will actually get better at something is to do that something a lot. Want to learn handspinning? Get a pound of fiber and spin. Want to get better at purling? Or half-double crochets? Or cables? Get some yarn and make a thousand of them. Practice. Guided instruction helps but that is all it does. It helps. Practice is what leads to improvement. So as a teacher, or blogger, or just a friend, I figure my job is to give some guided instruction when its needed. The rest of the time I try to not suck all the fun out of making things with yarn. If its not fun then you probably won’t practice.

So stop worrying over your mistakes and just keep going. I won’t promise that with practice you’ll stop making mistakes but you will make fewer and fewer. And you’ll have more fun. I think that’s the whole point.

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"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

24 Comments on "Not Every Mistake Needs Fixing"

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Thanks for all the inspiration!!! Love your blogs!!!!!!!


Re crossing a cable right instead of left, you can drop sts down to the miscross, correct, and back up, OR (my favorite way) just thread some of the yarn on a tapestry needle and “Swiss Darn” the crossing correctly, weave in ends, and keep knittin’.

Good grief! If I stopped in my sewing or crocheting EVERY SINGLE TIME I made a mistake somewhere, well, I’d probably never have a finished project. Due to my upbringing, learning to leave a mistake alone and just keep truckin’ has been a hard lesson to assimilate for me but over the years, I’m getting better and better about it. What? That mistake? That’s not a mistake, I totally meant to do that! (I’ve taken lessons from the cats in my life) Trying out knitting right now. Three quarters of the way through a skien of Caron’s. A however long… Read more »
I am SO happy to hear you say that !! I make mistakes too, and most of the time, they can be weazled past, and no one will ever notice them. As you said though, sometimes, like a wrong direction of a cable twist in a cable, it just HAS to be done. I totally agree, that worrying about little mistakes could certainly take a lot of the fun out of needlework, so, make a mental note of the error, and try to improve the next time the stitch is made. I think we’d all be having nervous breakdowns, if… Read more »

Bring a new momma has certainly improved my crochet! So much time to practice it now 🙂