The Glory of Great Mistakes and Greater Influences

Contributed by Timothy Harshbarger

Who knew knitting would lead to so many bad influences and so much good folly? After four months of knitting, I still feel like quite the novice. So far, the only thing I’ve completed is what I am calling the misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes.

My friend Stacy, the bad influence who got me into knitting in the first place, and I went to a yarn store where we both bought lots of … well … yarn. I picked up a bunch of small skeins of cotton blend to make dishcloths, and the first skein I happened to grab when I got home and broke out the needles was bright pink, a fact I discovered when the guys were over talking and drinking beer—while I worked on my dishcloth. They all stepped up to their man-friend duty and informed me of the color. Fortunately, I think I carried it off manfully myself.

But I was talking about bad influences. After the misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes, I started on a scarf. I was doing really well until I snapped the yarn while sitting out front waiting for my ride to work. I am undaunted, though because my knitting list, a passel of bad influences, has helped me believe that I may theoretically have either a very thick woolen dishcloth or the world’s smallest, squarest scarf, or I can always try to pass it off as a coaster with a little salesmanship.

It’s like this. I realized, when I finished with the dishcloth, that I had two choices. I could decide that I had done a bad job of it, or I could change the name of the project, thus encouraging myself in turning it into a success. I pause here to reiterate that both my friend Stacy and my knitting list are the reason I am turning out this way.

My conversations with Stacy usually start out like:

Me: I really messed up. Can you tell me where I went wrong so I won’t do it again?

Stacy: Let me take a look at it?

Stacy takes the fabric from me and checks it over.

Stacy: Tim, you discovered the yarn over.

Me: I did? Goodness, I am just a creative genius and don’t know it. Now if I could only make mistakes on purpose.

Stacy: You are doing better all the time. Here’s what you did to create the yarn over ….

And she goes on to tell me all about yarn overs, how to make one (on purpose,) what I might use them for, and we finally discuss how to fix the mistake. Thus she encourages me to make as many mistakes as I possibly can so I can learn all sorts of new things. Such a bad influence.

Then there is my knitting list, with all their talk about the yarn sometimes telling you what it wants to be, their seditious nonsense about making patterns your own, and blasphemy of blasphemies, their outright support of making mistakes. They are happiest when I take chances and experiment. True instigators.

They all make knitting just too enjoyable, too risky, and too exciting, and I really want to be daredevil enough to do some fancier things, though topping a misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes will take some skill indeed. I’m looking forward to the first time I give a finished project to someone, and I know I’ll do it with so many knitters to lead me astray.

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