Ripping Out is Our Mulligan


I don’t mind ripping out my knitting. People around me seem to mind it more than I do. People around me seem to get anxious and agitated and kind of frustrated when I rip put my knitting. And I’m such a softie that from time to time I’ve hidden my ripping out to spare others the vexation.

But I do rip out. When I’m trying to come up with a new design, I rip put all the freaking time. I think every design I’ve actually managed to come up with went through at least three different versions before I found one I likes (or at least didn’t hate). In between all of those versions, the project reverted back to its basic string-like state.

I’ve been working on a two color shawl that uses the short row/mosaic technique I like to get big continuous sections of color. At first it looked like this…

… and then it looked like this.

I decided in the middle of one of my knitting lessons that the shawl wasn’t working. I didn’t like the start. Or the mosaic middle. I liked the overall shape, but that was about all I liked. I casually mentioned to my students that I “have just this moment decided I hate my shawl and I need to rip it all out”. I thought they would appreciate this display of vulnerability and self-criticism.

I was wrong. Quite wrong. There was much protest. So I pretended to cave, stuffed it all into my knit bag and ripped it out in the privacy of my own home where no one could see.

Then I started over and by the next day (or maybe it was two) I had this.

I liked the start and it has a simplicity that I think works. But I had ruined the shape which is the only thing I liked from version number one. About five minutes after I came to that conclusion my shawl was string again.

It really does not bother me. Ripping out because I’ve made a brain-fart level mistake can be frustrating. Ripping out because I haven’t figured out what I want to make is just part of my knitting life. I go into the “let’s design something new” process knowing that the first three, or five, or even twelve versions will be kind of sucky. Maybe other knitters can come up with something decent on their first try but not me.

I’m currently on version number three.

I’m liking it. Its got the right shape and the simplicity so I think I’ll be sticking with this version. But I make you no promises.

Ripping out is like our mulligan. Golfers love mulligans. (At least I think they do. I don’t play golf, have never played even a single round of golf. It seems to be huge waste of time I could spend knitting and a huge waste of money that I could spend on yarn. But I’ve googled golf mulligans and they sound like a widely appreciated thing.) We should think of ripping out like that. Its a do-over. And once you have re-knitted the yarn, or even just re-wound it into a cake, no one even has to know that you took a mulligan. Its like it never even happened. Really, its like cheating and getting away with it.

FYI, the week before I got distracted by the two color shawl, I was designing a rectangular wrap that I want to have shifting lace patterns. By designing I mean of course knitting something up, hating on it, ripping it out, and starting over. I didn’t take any pictures along the way. It didn’t really occur to me to bother with that and I kind of, sort of, lost track of how many different versions of this wrap I went through.

But I finally ended up with something I like. Its simple. (I would say that simplicity is my design aesthetic but I’m not really sophisticated enough to have an “aesthetic”. So I’ll just say that I’m simple minded.)

However, its wider than I wanted. Also I’m not very far along and I’ve already used up a whole skein. I only had two skiens and at this rate my wrap won’t be long enough to wrap.

I did give serious consideration to ripping it all out and casting on for something narrower but I squelched that urge and just went back to my yarn store and bought a third skein.

in progress knitted stole

And I expect some credit for that.

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

27 Comments on "Ripping Out is Our Mulligan"

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What Jenn? I liked the design of that first shawl. And i am absolutely enamored with your color choice. I hope you will reconsider. I was really looking forward to seeing the finished project. Wish I had your intuitive vision. ๐Ÿ™‚


Me too, Carla! that mosaic center piece looks like an awesome idea to me!


Me three. It strongly reminds me of an Escher design.

I needed to hear this today. I’ve spent the last several days working on a ooak design for a customer that I have finally concluded just sucks–and that’s ok. I started with a picture in my head, and a particular (ridiculously expensive) yarn I wanted to use. After starting and ripping, starting and ripping a gazillion times I have concluded that I can have that yarn or that design, but not both at the same time. It just isn’t ever going to be the right yarn for the project, no matter how much I will it to be so. I… Read more ยป

Jen, ripping out knitting is NOT a Mulligan. The knitter’s honesty and feeling for the yarn enables one to make the decision to rip out. Upon realizing that the knit product is less than fantastic, it is a brave and honorable thing to rip it out, and then move forward to knit it again into a better item. Why should beautiful yarn languish in a less than pleasing knit item. Onward and upward as we knit along!



“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Twain, Churchill, one of those types… I thank you for ripping when you decide to — an inspiring model. It *is* freeing. And I am of the “Hey, that ripped-out mosaic piece had something special!” camp. Selfishly I hope you decide, one day, to go back and explore that idea in another expression. This time, you have good pics, and it is not beyond the pale you might return to the original impulse. And thanks for being willing to talk about your design process. I imagine the daily life of those high-profile, highly-prolific designers… Read more ยป