Knitting Mistakes are Good for You!

Knitting mistakes are inevitable.  There are so many ways to make a mistake while knitting, there’s no point in trying to figure out how many different ways you can screw up.  So treat your mistakes as an opportunity.


Everyone has heard that mistakes should be treated as lessons.  But many knitters use mistakes as an excuse to put their knitting aside to deal with a different day.  Or never.

Thus, a UFO is born.

Sometimes we have really good reasons for not dealing with the mistake. 

  • We’re tired.
  • The kids are demanding attention.
  • We don’t have time to figure it out right now because we have to go to work, etc.

And on and on. 

Note that none of those excuses are long term excuses (unless you have a medical condition that leaves you tired all the time).  This means every time you put your knitting aside, you make an opening for your old friend procrastination to creep in.  Procrastination is rooted in perfectionism – you’re looking for the perfect time, or you want to be able to knit perfectly. 

Don’t listen to these messages!! 

There is a tradition among Navajo weavers that there must be a flaw in every piece that a weaver creates or the soul of the weaver will be trapped in the piece.  At first glance, this may sound like just a pretty tradition, but think about it.  How many people do you know that are unable to let go of something in their lives that they perceive as “perfect?”

Whether it’s the football player who can’t let go of his perfect game or the woman in search of the perfect look, the obsession with perfection is all around us. 

How often does perfection result in improved health?  Or an improved life?

Tech companies suggest a different approach that works just as well for knitters:

Continuous Improvement

Knitting gives us the opportunity to improve.  We can make our mistakes and, usually, almost always, the stakes are small.  It really is ok to make mistakes.  Knitters even have terminology to make light of our mistakes:

tink:  knit spelled backwards = undoing your knit stitches                                            

frogging:  ripping out all the stitches so you can begin again

toad:  trashed object abandoned in disgust (Gasp!  Why would you throw away perfectly good yarn!  Unless, it’s not good yarn…hmm.)

The whole premise behind knitting is NOT to take it seriously.  It’s can be a meditative experience.  It can tap into your sense of creativity.  It can improve your memory.  But if knitting makes you uptight or stressed, don’t do it!  That said, if you’re a rank beginner, do give yourself some time to learn the basics.

It’s ok if you take a really long time to improve.  It’s ok if your skill improves slowly, or very slowly.  There are no knitting police.  The only real goal of knitting is that you enjoy it. 

Slow Learning

I am a slow learner, especially when it comes to knitting.  I tend to start doing things and then, instead of learning the “right” way to do something, I just keep going.  Part of the problem, if it is one, is that I just don’t care about the finished piece that much.  Like many knitters, it’s all about the process for me.

Let me give you an example of my longest lasting mistake.  For decades, whenever I had to increase stitches I did it the exact same way every time.  No matter what the instructions said in the pattern, I knit into the front and back of a single stitch in order to turn it into 2 stitches.  I never bothered to check how it affected the project, I just did it.

Talk about stubborn!  Or maybe it was lazy.  I don’t know. 

For much of that time, I was convinced the way I increased stitches didn’t matter.  I never bothered to read anything that might have taught me otherwise and I didn’t look closely at why my projects never turned out the way the pattern suggested they should.  I just kept knitting.  I suppose the vast majority of these projects became toads.  Not something to brag about.  The only good news is that since I’m generally a slow knitter, and during those years, I was a very slow knitter, I didn’t produce all that many toads.

My Newest Mistake

(that I’ve discovered so far.)

Stranded floats. 

Maybe you’ve tried fair isle or stranded colorwork knitting.  Whenever you change colors, you have to carry the color yarn you’re not using behind your knitting.  Like increasing, I thought it didn’t matter how I carried the yarn.  Like increasing, I was wrong, again. 

The latest issue of Interweave Knits just arrived in my mailbox – yes, I like to get the hardcopy of knitting magazines.  “Parallel vs. Rotating Floats” by Roxanne Richardson discusses the various ways that you can carry yarn when your doing stranded colorwork. 

Surprise!  I’ve been doing it wrong.

Ms. Richardson provides lots of illustrations and photos showing what happens to your project with each of three ways of carrying yarn when colorwork knitting.  While the text of the article provides lots of information, the photos of the results of the various techniques were very convincing.  How you carry the floats matters.

This time, I’m happy to report that I wasn’t certain that how I was handling floats wouldn’t make any difference.  I didn’t do it quite the way patterns seemed to describe it, but I wasn’t certain.  My mind was at least a little bit more open.

This article has opened my eyes in a big way. I got it wrong and I’ll never get the ideal results as long as I keep handling yarn in stranded colorwork the way I’ve been doing it.  

After four plus decades, I’m still making mistakes and I’m still learning.  I’m still a beginning knitter.  And that’s a really good thing.

Another Health Benefit of Being a Still Beginning Knitter

A new study has come out showing that learning new skills, as happens when you learn a new hobby, will help older adults improve their memories.  The hobby mentioned in one article was quilting, but the conclusion from the study, summarized here, is that the act of learning new skills is what drives memory improvement.

My knitting site is called, because I have proven to myself over and over again that I am always learning as a knitter.  Every now and then, I become cautiously optimistic that I might have reached intermediate status as a knitter, then I discover that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. Again.

What this study tells me is that it’s better than ok that I am making such slow progress as a knitter.  Being an eternally beginning knitter is good for my brain!


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