Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Rip-Out Artist

I laughed out loud when I read this comment on the Hat City post from charlene: " did make me feel a bit better to know that even you have to try, try again."

Oh, honey. Are you new here? Or am I guilty of giving a false impression of my knitting ability? Because I'd say I average two false starts on any given project, and rip back at least three times. If you have imagined me to be the sort of knitter who begins in confidence, proceeds with agility and ends with grace, kindly adjust your imagination. You're thinking Bullet Train when the reality is closer to mule train.

I'm a Zen Buddhist, and many studies have indicated that Zen meditation improves the clarity of one's mind. And I'm sure that's true, if you're good at it. However, I am not. My ass may be on that cushion, but my mind is dancing a jig in a field somewhere in the Alps with the Von Trapp Family Singers.

So I begin in haste, rush forward, and more often than not find I've made a hideous mistake and what was intended to be the sleeve of a sweater is too wide or too long or I switched from ribbing to stockinette and back again and or I meant to put in a little Aran braid and I didn't and...


This used to bother me. And it still does, in the moment, when I catch the error and wish I'd kept my mind on the knitting instead of daydreaming about a yarn crawl through Italy with Viggo Mortensen. (Hey, I need somebody to carry the bags.)

But it seems to me that half of becoming an expert knitter (a status to which I aspire, distant though it is) is knowing what to do when good knitting goes bad. I'm tolerably proud of some of my stuff, but no memory stands out more boldly the day I ripped back this sock. I'd finished the heel and was moving down the foot when I realized that around the ankle I'd neglected entirely to twist one of the cables.

I contemplated tinking back twenty rounds, plus the heel turn, plus the heel flap, and I felt sick. I contemplated leaving the whacking great mistake and hoping it would be covered by a shoe, and felt sicker. So I pulled out the needles–I was knitting on double-points–and ripped. An hour later, I had all the stitches back on the needle in the proper order, and I felt like Elizabeth Zimmermann had kissed me on the forehead. For the first time, I was the boss of my knitting.

I'm proud of that sock, and will be even prouder once I finish the mate, which has been sitting in my basket for two years.

Handspun-and-Noro Hat

Reader Mollie (no blog) ought to get a prize of some kind for guessing correctly, from nothing other than a shot of the yarn, what hat I planned to make from the merino handspun and the leftover Noro: Jared Flood's Turn A Square. It's a nifty variation on the typical striped beanie, and I must say I'm pleased with it so far.

Square Hat Progress

The colors in this shot are much truer. Several folks commented that the yarns seemed identical to those of the heathery Dubbelmossa, but that was a trick of the light (and poor exposure choices on my part). The merino is a very earthy, rich natural brown and the Noro is primarily shades of jade green and lapis lazuli.

The funny thing about knitting with the handspun is that the parts I spun last are at the center of the ball, and I'm knitting from the outside–so the further I go the better the yarn gets. The best spinning will be at the top of the hat. I wish I could say I'd planned that, but see "jumbled brain," above.

Thanks from Mary Ann

You can always count on knitters to help in a crisis, or at least offer a shoulder to cry on, and y'all stepped right up after the report of stolen and yarn and laces at Knitter's Niche. Mary Ann expressed her thanks via the comments–have a look (near the end, under the screen name "niche") in case you missed it.


Pat said...

I am so glad you posted this today because just last night I ripped a complete sock up to the ribbing. I knew I just wasn't going to be happy with it. I just sucked it up and did it.

Lynn said...

Sigh. I, too, am staring at 50+ rows plus a heel turn to rip back. Turns out that the gusset? That has looked too shallow? Really is.

And the socks are for my mom (last year's b'day present, third time's a charm) so they have to be perfect, no?

Phro5gg said...

First of all, thanks for getting the song "Mule Train" stuck in my head 1st thing in the morning. I will need some mental floss to get that out of there.

Second, thanks for talking about frogging. I know a lot of new knitters get intimidated and frustrated by their mistakes. I am sure that even EZ and Barbara Walker (Knitting GOdesses forgive me!) got frustrated at times. Its all part of being knitters and being human.

Donna Lee said...

It's easy to imagine that everyone else is a better knitter. When fo's are posted and they look perfect, we don't remember the ripping that went into them. I know that if I leave a mistake that I've noticed in, I'll regret it so I rip. And rip. And sometimes rip again until I am satisfied. For me, it's about the process and I want to be happy with the product when I am done.

Mel said...

*snigger* I just ripped out a sock toe twice because I was sure I had remembered the right number of stitches and just needed smaller needles. Last night I got my act together and started over at the beginning with 8 fewer stitches, as I should have done the first time around. I'm sure we all do it at least occasionally.

And if there are people out there who never err? They just deserve to be smacked. Mindfully and with loving-kindness, of course.

Kristen said...

I've been contemplating ripping back half of the backside of a sweater to correct a pattern mis-interpretation (possibly caused by too much daydreaming about Viggo also). It's actually starting to look like fun.

Rudee said...

The cabled socks should be finished. Better crack the whip with those slacker elves. It's time they earned their keep! The lonely sock is lovely and deserves a mate.

You are too modest. Yes, we all make mistakes, but I'm pretty certain you can call yourself expert. You've presented some incredible knitted eye candy as evidence-even if many have required do-overs or began with false starts. I think half the battle is the fixing-and the recognition that the fixing has to happen.

If only all things in live came with the option of a do-over.

Nancy K. said...

I never rip.

At least not very often.

I have a much simpler approach. I simply set the unfortunate knitting aside and start something else!

Needless to say, I have VERY few FO...

When you say 'rip', do you mean literally pull this stitches out, or 'tink back'? If you remove the needle and pull the stitches, how do you ever get them back on in the proper order? Nine times out of ten, when I try to tink, I end up losing stitches and making a worse mess resulting in more 'set aside projects. No wonder I keep having to buy needles!


~laurie said...

Darlink, can you let Mary Ann know that a pile of people on Ravelry are watching out too please?

BonnieJean said...

Yep...the more I knit, the more I rip. When I first learned (as a child) my teachers (my mom and grandmom) didn't make me rip as much as they should have, but I stayed interested and my projects improved over time.
Now, many, many years seems the more my skills improve (snort!) the more I rip!!! What a paradox! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks, "I should be able to do this! Am I losing ability, rather than gaining it?"
It sometimes feels that way, but I try to keep a positive outlook and think about how much I love the really tough patterns I am now not afraid to try even though I rip, rip, rip!

Jeanne said...

Rippage. I haz it.

I ripped out the first eight inches of the very first sweater I ever tried to knit (15 years of patiently sitting on the needles). Then I cast on the yarn and began the second first-ever sweater. So far, I'm eight inches into IT, after ripping it back twice to fix boo-boos.

Got any room on that cushion? I could use a little Zen...

no-blog-rachel said...

Ah, ripping. I'm very familiar with that. In fact I'm a bit suspicious of any project I didn't have to rip back at least once. What did I miss?

I had nearly completed Arianne (Chicknits) a few weeks ago and discovered a big mistake at the beginning. I'm not above fudging a little but if I'd left it as is, I'd never have worn it. So I frogged the entire thing - and just finished re-knitting late last night. It looks SO much better! And honestly, the ripping wasn't painful at all. I love my new sweater, so the extra time was worth it. Yay ripping!

Paul. said...

Thanks for making me feel a little better. Last night I gave myself a migraine after ripping out a scarf (a scarf, no less!) 3 times and it looks like I'll have to do it one more time, this time further down. All the while I was muttering to myself, " 'learn a new stitch,' he says...'make it interesting'...'he wants interesting; I'll give him interesting'...." (Who knew I had an Inner Gollum? I'd rather have an Inner Viggo, thank you very much.)

Wish me luck!

Riin said...

One could never become an expert knitter without a lot of ripping. One could only be a timid knitter. I wouldn't call myself an expert (the sweater I've been working on for over a year because I've ripped it out so many times and is now in a time-out because the sleeves have been naughty will attest to that) but at least I dare to try new things. They're not always good ideas, but hey, I won't know until I try, right?

I bet your sock is lonely...

Kat said...

Sorry, but I've booked Viggo Mortensen.

Kristen said...

"My ass may be on that cushion, but my mind is dancing a jig in a field somewhere in the Alps with the Von Trapp Family Singers." Honey, you just described me trying to relax in savasana at the end of a yoga session. I feel much better now. Thanks!

Gina said...

"daydreaming about a yarn crawl through Italy with Viggo Mortensen."

I read regularly, comment rarely, and snicker frequently, but this line made me laugh out loud. I hope you don't mind if I use it on some of my daydreaming 9th graders next month.

KellyD said...

I cant imagine not ripping out. Though I usually do it two years later. After I've tossed the offending object into a storage container to let it "age properly" for a while. Once it's done and I am not as attached to it, then i happily rip away. The bonus? Ooohhhh lookie! New yarn!!

Alwen said...

I think part of becoming an expert knitter must involve being able to admit when 1100 yards of yarn need to be unravelled. le sigh.

But I take heart when I read something like Meg Swansen's Knitting and she tells of ripping back! It's not just me, yay!

Anonymous said...

I like the "Turn a square hat also -looks like yours will be great

When I started to read about the mis cabled sock, I thought you were going to say that you duplicate stitched the mistake, as so eloquently described by the Yarn Harlot a while back. I'm impressed that you ripped.....
Margie in Maryland

TinkingBell said...

Ha! The joy of frogging!

As I've become a better knitter (everything is relative!) I am much more willing to frog, tink, rip and otherwise desecrate my work to get it right!

But I am also able to work out what really needs frogging! - I was knitting a bag which was to be felted and agonised momentarily about a twisted stitch some way back - then I realised 'This is going to be felted - no stitch definition - who will ever know or see?' I left the stitch and although I examined the felting - couldn't find it at all!

Katherine said...

I can't think of the last time I knit something straight through with no ripping. Well, maybe a sock or two. But anything at all complex is knitted at least twice over, lace, three times. I'm getting better at letting down just a section of lace, but it's often impossible.

And I'm not big on lifelines which has been my downfall a couple of times.

And take heart--it's not that difficult to get the stitches back on the needles, just takes some practice you'd rather not have.

Katherine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joy said...

Is there room for one more in the frog pond? I've got this sleeve cap I've just ripped for the 2nd (or is it the 3rd?) time ... thanks for the giggles!

Kathie said...

Ooh, I covet that hat. Awesome colors, and you just can't beat handspun.

Lis said...

ha! I have performed (what seem to me at least!) strange and repeated rip gyrations on my first sweater, Twist. Of course I have to pick cables on the sweater when I've never done them before and it only takes a second of inattention...

I'm not so good at ripping back the socks's so much easier to toss them aside for the moment and start another!

Anonymous said...

Phht. You must be a better Zen than you think, because your story about ripping back when you know something is wrong guilted me into ripping back a wonkyily-gauged hat that I was in a hurry to finish.
You must be a better Zen than you thought if all you want Viggo to do for you is carry your yarn bags.
I, however, am not Zen at all. Dibs.
PS The press had some power outage issues at Obama's speech yesterday.
Are you sure Dolores is in Wisconsin, and not in Springfield?

alice said...

Sigh... the image of yarn crawling through Italy with Viggo Mortensen makes me just verklempt. What can I say? I'll fight you for him.

And, yes, Zen meditation really helps my knitting.

=Tamar said...

Nancy K. - first run the smooth, thin cotton "afterthought lifeline" through the row _before_ the one with the mistake, _then_ rip. Then it's easy to get the stitches back on the needle. (Be sure to use cotton that's a different color.)

As I read it, it's ripping, not tinking.

Jane in Michigan said...

I always say that it's not a project until I've started it three times. A couple days ago I pulled the back of a hoodie (for DD) off the needles. I got up twelve inches, and discovered that what was bang on gauge four inches up had pulled in three to four inches (the whole piece, not just those top inches). Actually, that made a fourth start for this project; reaching my limit.

Chris said...

I knit, therefore I frog. I don't think I have one project that hasn't been frogged at some point. The worst was 8 inches of a mohair sleeve. Frightful then but beautiful now!

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I hope that the knitting conference security is tight... I'd hate for anybody ELSE to lose shawls, yarn or anything. I'm almost through turning the heel in my first Neatby Mermaid sock. Sure HOPE I don't have to frog: it's on 0's.

meezermeowmy said...

Your virtuosity with turning a phrase more than compensates for any errors in your knitting. (Or perhaps your knitting is only fodder for your prose?)

Thanks...a good time was had by all.

Allison said...

"daydreaming about a yarn crawl through Italy with Viggo Mortensen. (Hey, I need somebody to carry the bags.)"

Honey, if that's the best use of Viggo that you can think of, move over and let those with a more vivid/creative/lurid imagination into the daydream. Oh, but then the blog (or at least the daydream) would get censored, wouldn't it?

graybastian said...

Um, Franklin, if you're only using Viggo for carrying shopping bags, can I have him the rest of the time? What?! If it comes down to knitting or Viggo, I'll take Viggo every time. I do like the cablely sock, though.

Tina said...

Can I just say you crack me up! I read most all of your postings and am looking forward to your book! I will definitely book mark you to my favorites!

dale-harriet said...

Everyone's good at something - if there was an Olympic medal for Tinking and Frogging I'd be right on the team. On the other hand, when you're knittin' a Dr Who, (think 480,000 rows of garter stitch) there ought not be too much adjustment. Might I add -- there is one teetiny wee miniature ittybitty single-stitch's the "Amish Experience" so I don't have to put in an error. Also - Yes, Anonymous, I think Dolores still IS in Wisconsin; the last voice message I had was from a microbrewery in Egg Harbor...delightedly shrieking "I'm SHIPWRECKED!" Harry came on and explained that she's getting a good response from Fibertarians and I shouldn't worry. OY. I'm hoping to take her (and Harry) to a few quiet days in the UP (Michigan)to prepare for the Fibertarian Convention while everyone's attention is directed toward Obama....Franklin, *I* am asking: would you consider being on her ticket?

knititch said...

i like knitting because i am in controle in opposition to the controle i have work wise or relationship wise. and by being in controle i mean that i knit things and when i make mistakes i can decide to rip back and fix it for perfection or to continue as if nothing had happened. i love that. the ripping usually wins and i see it as a ongoing learning process.

your turn around hat is great. i love blues and browns together. very subtle.

bronchitikat said...

When it comes to 'shall I frog' I have two criteria: -
i) will it matter in the finished garment? If yes, rip.

ii) can anyone else (read DH) see it when they examine the garment? If no, continue.

Thus the Dashing mitts I'm currently knitting for our son will have the one cable twist the wrong way. Besides which, it'll remind him that his ol' Mum, though she loves him dearly, ain't perfect. As if he needed it.


Viggo is carrying MY bags, go find someone else, haha. Your post is really fitting considering I've ripped out a tunic I've been working on for the 8th time. Ahh one day I'll be good enough to graduate a tick above kindergarten knitter.

Henrietta Handy said...

You've been tagged! Come on and play! Details on at my blog

LindsayDayton said...

Here's a bit of frogging Zen for you all (I think I stole this from the prologue of some pattern book, but I don't remember which):

Don't ever be afraid to tear out knitting if it is unsatisfying to you. Practicing this regularly will save you the trouble of having to decide what you will make next.

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