What do you need to fix and what can you leave alone?

So, about my Havra: I made a lot of progress while traveling! Aaaaaaaand…..after finishing the body of the shawl I found a row all the way back near the beginning where I knit the wrong side of the pattern for a stretch. It’s down at the little silver stitch marker (see the little purl ridge across the smooth twisted knit columns?) (well, they will look smoother once finished and blocked, of course – they’ve been sitting squished in a project bag).IMG_1827

This gives you a better idea of how far down the shawl it is:arrowWhile I’m sure my mistake created other errors in this row (pretty sure I have 4 garter stitches rather than 2 garter and 1 k2tog/ssk), what ends up being really obvious is the two garter stitches where I should have two twisted knit stitches.

So I actually ended up dropping a WHOLE LOT of stitches to reach the error, fixing the purl stitches, and working the twisted knit stitches back up again. Because it was going to drive me CRAZY if I didn’t.

But my perfectionism only goes so far, because I realized that the lefthand purled stitch in each column was right next to a yarnover column. And when I started to drop that purl stitch, I realized I was going to have a LOT of loose yarn flapping around, if I ended up dropping and trying to rework all those yarnovers. I didn’t trust my ability to rework all those yarnovers, and knew I’d blow a gasket if I cocked everything up somewhere about halfway up the column.

So in my mistake row, instead of each column starting with two nice twisted knit stitches, you have one purl stitch and one twisted knit. Annoyingly imperfect, but it’s a lot less obvious than 2 purls in a row. 

(This post is really making me wish I had a more sophisticated camera than what’s on my iPhone. Pardon the poor quality.)

The whole thing got me thinking about how many errors are tolerable in a finished project. I’m kind of a perfectionist/type A personality, and my preference would be to go back and fix all mistakes. I rip back a LOT. Sometimes this gets me in trouble, when I think I can fix something and I end up in a huge tangle. Here, I wanted to avoid the latter, and knew that if I ripped back the whole shawl to the error, I’d probably give up on the project entirely. So while I know the error is there, and you can see it if you look, which bugs me, I will live with it in this project. In other projects? I don’t know. How much imperfection do you put up with?

I read somewhere once that weavers of Muslim prayer mats always make one mistake, deliberately, to reflect their humanity and humility – to show that they, unlike God, are not perfect. I have no idea if this is actually true or some author’s conceit, but I like the idea. And I’m trying to think about my mistakes this way, rather than as failures.

Monday? Tomorrow? WHAT.

So… it’s Sunday night already? How did that happen?

The weekend was a bit of a wash because I had a big work thing on Friday that simply wore. me. out., and I mostly spent the weekend recovering. It’s depressing that something super mentally taxing, where you’re constantly “on,” focusing intently, ends up making you feel like you’ve been run over by a semi truck, when you don’t actually burn any more calories than normal or gain any fitness, because you haven’t actually been doing anything physical.

(Though, embarrassingly, when I woke up Saturday my legs were a wee bit sore from standing much of Friday – embarrassing because it brought home exactly how much I normally sit each day. I would really love to get a standing desk contraption, but I’m fairly picky about how my computer is set up, and I can’t find one that would meet my requirements without spending ~$600. I’m sick of sitting all day, but not yet that sick of sitting all day.)

In any case, we went out to dinner on Friday night, where this lovely beacon of G&T finally awaited me (sorry for the repeat from Instagram):

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And then I slept and slept and slept.

Saturday I exercised, and got a manicure/pedicure, and listened to the thunder and torrential rains that descended while I was in the salon. Then I picked up tamales for our dinner, and took a quick picture of the monsoon running through our arroyo before heading in to devour tamale deliciousness:

IMG_0851When I was approaching our parking lot, Don Julio, one of the three local feral cats we feed, saw me from the side of the road, and followed me home. He and Daisy, another of the ferals, practically chased me to the front of our apartment, where their food sat in its dish, soaked and turned to mush. Don Julio’s head and chest were wet, but the rest of him was dry; Daisy looked pretty much completely dry, so they weathered the monsoon. (It is entirely characteristic that Daisy seems to have done so more effectively than Don Julio.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen them come so close to me before, but the rain must have driven all the lizards and mice into their hidey-holes, and they clearly really wanted dinner.

(The third feral, Stripey, is friendly, and was sitting in our apartment in absolute comfort throughout the whole storm.)

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Different day, but pretty much what Stripey usually looks like when he’s inside.

I did experience one crafting triumph this weekend, though, because after ripping back yet more rows of my Talavera sweater, I finally figured out how to read the lace! So while I still make mistakes – usually skipping a yarnover, or failing to knit into it on the next row – I can now go back and put in the yarnover after the fact, and get back on track, rather than having to tink back for yonks. (I can’t remember if I’ve said that I’m holding laceweight double for this sweater, but I am, and so tinking is just that little bit more annoying.)

And excitingly, I have just about reached the point in the pattern where I divide for the underarms, which will feel like real progress. I think, though, that I’m going to add a couple more repeats to make it a little bit longer (it’s going to stretch with blocking, I realize, but inevitably when knitting gets longer, it also gets narrower, which for me will be Entirely Unnecessary and Counterproductive, so I hope to avoid that. And while the styling in the magazine is lovely, I don’t wear fit-and-flare dresses like the model in the photo shoot, so will be looking for it to hit a bit lower on the torso).

We won’t talk about the baby blanket… (I need to wind another skein and just haven’t felt like it!).

It was a relaxing weekend. I could really use another one.

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I cannot get enough of the red-orange-yellow gradients you get in the flowers here.

Relativity

My husband is from Canada, and one of the suprisingly many cultural differences between us that we discovered early in our marriage is how we evaluate skating skills.

I grew up in the northeast, and we had a pond in my backyard that froze every winter, so I grew up skating a number of times each year. I don’t think I ever took lessons, but I could get where I wanted on skates, and be confident that I wouldn’t fall over or crash into anything, so I figured I was a fairly decent skater.

My husband, on the other hand, considered himself a poor skater because he couldn’t do back crossovers.

I sometimes think knitters and non-knitters are like this about evaluating knitting skills: non-knitters are amazed that knitters can produce fabric out of string, while knitters aver that they’re not really that advanced because they struggle with purling five stitches together.

When I started knitting with purpose (rather than putzing around as I did when I was a kid), my first project was a hand puppet from a kit. My second project was also a kit – because I didn’t know how to choose my own yarn, needles, and pattern; a kit was so much simpler – and it was a beginner’s sock kit. Hey, I was a beginner – perfect.

This was back before Ravelry and easy access to patterns, and the instructions came in a little stapled xeroxed booklet. They were also excellent (I wish I still had them) and I followed them carefully, and created a perfectly good sock. I had no concept of gauge, so it was more like a really big house slipper, and I never made the second, because I think I knew I’d never wear these really big house slippers, but it was an honest to god sock.

At some point after this I went to the yarn shop where I bought the yarn for this scarf. The very nice lady there asked if she could help me, and I explained that I was looking for a beginner project. She asked what else I’d done, and I told her I’d knitted a sock.

She looked at me kind of funny. A sock? An actual sock?

Yes.

Continued side-eye (in the nicest possible way).

So maybe that wasn’t a typical beginning project?

The thing is, I absolutely was a beginner – I had no idea what I was doing. I could read and follow instructions, and I did, but I didn’t know why I was supposed to do anything the pattern said, and I didn’t have actual skills.

That was almost eight years ago now, yet I’m still not sure how to evaluate my knitting skills. On the one hand, sweaters require quite a few different knitting techniques, so I’ve learned some more techniques. On the other, a lot of sweaters just aren’t really that hard (especially the ones that I make, which tend to involve miles of stockinette). Lace – now, lace is hard. I knit lace at a pace of knit one, frog back two. I negative knit lace. (We won’t even talk about color work.) Yet I’ve seen people online who knit the most beautiful, complicated lace say they’re “not ready” to knit a sweater.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how good or bad I am at any of this – I enjoy it and that’s what’s important. But when I see patterns labeled things like “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced,” I have to admit I’m never really sure whether they’re Americans talking about skating or Canadians talking about skating.

IMG_0213Okay, this lace wasn’t very hard. But it’s a big yarn, in a swatch, where I didn’t have to worry about shaping anything at the same time or even keeping track for very long. It’s the turtle tracks lace found in Veronique Avery’s pattern Helene for Quince and Co.

Why I am bad at lace

I don’t know, actually. I like to think I have some reasonable knitting skills by now, but I’m terrible at lace.

I’ve cast on the Talavera sweater from the summer 2015 Pom Pom Quarterly – see?

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The yarn is Malabrigo Silkpaca Lace, held double, in the Zarzamora colorway. Not really sure at all what gauge I’m getting because this is a spur-of-the-moment, “I’ve had this yarn for ages and haven’t done anything with it and let’s see what happens” project, not a “I have a serious plan and have bought yarn with a purpose and seriously intend to have finished product X that actually looks like finished product X AND looks good on me” project. Am just really curious about how this might turn out.

And it’s absolutely not hard lace. It’s got yarnovers and some slipping and knitting two together and whatnot, but it’s not complicated. There’s nothing about any of the stitches that is hard.

And yet I keep ending up short stitches at the end of the row.

Usually it seems to be a yarnover that I missed the row before. At least once I managed to drop down a row and add it back in, correctly. At least once I’ve dropped down a row and added something back in, not at all correctly. Twice I ended up short one knit stitch, and I just cast on one extra and called it good. (When I did that twice on the same row of the pattern, I started to wonder, just a little, if maybe the pattern was actually wrong…and then I tried to work out the math of YOs and added stitches, and then I realized that I can’t math and the pattern was completely fine and that I had screwed something up somewhere along the line.)

I think this is getting better – I’m on the fourth repeat of the pattern, and I’m starting to be able to read the lace. I have figured out for some rows that certain things are supposed to happen in certain places and if they don’t I need to go back and figure out what I did wrong STAT. I think my problem is with the YOs that outline all the pretty little stockinette triangles – they’re not all quite the same YO done at the same time and I can’t keep them straight yet.

But it’s humbling. A sad amount of time spent on this project so far has been spent tinking back – because, of course, I haven’t been using lifelines, because the lace isn’t hard! The pattern is super straightforward! ARGH. (But honestly, I hate lifelines. They’re super practical and functional, but I hate threading them and I hate poking the needles back into the lifeline’s tiny loops. I may have to start using them anyway.)

I think I have to face the fact that what I’m actually reasonably skilled at is not knitting, writ large, but just fixing mistakes in the acres of stockinette to which I usually devote myself.

And also that there will be some wonky bits in the bottom of this sweater. But they’ll block right out, right?

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