Can grappling with mistakes in your knitting help you to understand and cope with the more important ones you’ve made/are making in real life? Perhaps they can, if you allow those lessons to swarm up from your subconscious.
From the first day you embark on a new skill, like knitting, playing an instrument, or riding a bike, you make mistakes. As you become more proficient you make fewer mistakes, but mistakes will always happen, they’re called accidents—just ask my husband, who went ass-over-teakettle on his bike and broke his collarbone a few years ago. It wasn’t because he’s not a proficient cyclist! As a novice knitter, the mistakes seem huge and unmanageable, disheartening. You think, “I have to go back and do that AGAIN??” If you can get past that point, as in most disciplines, the mistakes become easier to manage.
As a musician, I’m used to these “accidents” (brass players call them “cacks”), but I’m not sure that has helped me as a knitter. Except when I remember the major difference between them: when I make a mistake in my knitting you don’t notice it from a great distance away! As you become more proficient at knitting, the act of “tinking” (or going back, stitch by stitch) or “frogging” (think of “rip-it, rip-it, rip-it”) to get back to where the mistake is doesn’t seem as daunting. As at least one of my lovely mentors at my LYS (local yarn store) has told me, “it’s all just knitting, and we love knitting, right?”
I’m learning to assess the mistake: can I fix it without undoing my knitting? If not, can I live with the mistake? Some mistakes are purely aesthetic, some are structural, so that’s another assessment that has to be made. For example, if you drop a stitch there’s no choice, you must fix it or your knitting will unravel. A no-brainer, except figuring out how (and for that there’s YouTube!). However, an aesthetic mistake can cause hours or days of philosphical soul-searching to resolve.
Let’s take an example from my own recent project called “Vertices Unite” by the aforementioned Stephen West. This is a gigantic shawl (made more so by my looser-than-desirable stitch gauge!) and I’ve already made a couple of aesthetic mistakes. The trouble with this particular project is that undoing the knitting is not as straightforward as I’m used to because the pattern calls for you to slip the first stitch of each row and pick up stitches as you go to attach sections together…anyway, not very complicated except when you’re having to tink or frog back. Then I find it hard. For that reason, and because the rows are so long, I’ve decided for those particular mistakes I’m going to turn a blind eye. Or, as my Mom used to say, “a man on a galloping horse would never notice!” Of course it’s a bummer that it’s not perfect, but isn’t that also a metaphor for life? Sometimes you have to look at the big picture with your eyes a little squinted, and then it looks fine!