Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning to Knit

Well, I managed to mess up several times so far in my first attempt at knitting and I have so much further to go! I had [daughter] Erica fix my mistakes twice, ripping back a few rows each time. But one time I messed up and wasn't planning on seeing her for several days, so I just ignored my mistake and merrily kept going. You can see it pretty easily—I forgot to do the increases in the middle—so my nice little row of holes going up the center has a slight break in it. Rick said I should make the same mistake every so often, just to be consistent, but Erica told me not to pay attention to him, to do it correctly from now on or else the shawl wouldn't shape up properly. I figured I ought to listen to her. She's been trying to get me to learn to knit for quite some time now, but I never listenined. Since I'm making shawl pins now, I thought it might actually be a good time to start, that maybe learning about different yarns and how they knit up might help when designing my shawl pins.

Leaving a mistake in your art is often done on purpose. Around the world, countless cultures have left these deliberate mistakes in their art. Turkish carpet weavers fear the evil eye (God's wrath) if they don't leave in an imperfection. Quilters have the humility block, since a perfect quilt is prideful (although there's some dispute over whether quilters of the past, specifically the Amish, actually made the mistake on purpose). And I think most of us are familiar with Navajo weavers who are said to intentionally leave a mistake in their weaving to prove they are not perfect. The Navajo say that's where God's spirit moves in and out of their weaving. Another explanation is that the mistake allows the weaver's Spirit a path of escape, since they put their soul into it as they go.
My recently sold EarthSea bowl.

If perfection is achieved what is there to strive for? Mistakes help you learn and lead to greater creativity. I read somewhere that what makes artwork beautiful is not its perfection, but the way the artist works his way out of a problem. The perfection of imperfection. I went to school for art and was always taught to rethink my way around a mistake since it's not really a mistake, but a path to another outcome, a different perspective on what was originally envisioned. An example is a recent gourd I did. I burned a line around it, then stood back and realized it was not straight by any stretch of the imagination. Rick looked over and said, well, I guess it'll be a practice gourd. But I was determined to create something even better than I had originally intended. I was pretty pleased with how it ultimately came out. I let the "mistake" lead me and enjoyed the process.

A simple shawl. My first attempt at knitting.
I'd like to say my knitting mistake was intentional, too, that I was showing my humility and that I would be creating something of far more beauty and creativity because of that mistake. But knitting is way too new for me and mistakes just keep happening whether I want them to or not. I'm still lucky if I remember to check if I'm on the knit or purl side. I have no clue if I'm keeping my stitches even. I thought I was, but Erica told me I went from loose to tight to loose and back to tight. Who knew? I'm basing success at this point on the fact that my shoulders, arms, and hands feel relaxed and that I'm not clenching my jaw. The shawl is getting larger, slowly but steadily. I'm certainly not fast, but at least I'm making progress. Erica has promised me more yarn when I finish. I hesitate to pick my next project, thinking it will deter me from finishing this one. It's too early to tell if knitting will actually help design shawl pins, though, but I'm sure it eventually will. Meanwhile, I hope this is wearable when I'm done. I'll keep you posted!