I learned to knit when I was a little girl. I learned to crochet at about the same time. I’ve only recently learned that it’s rare for a person to know how to do both. Apparently, most people find that the one they learn first becomes their favourite and they either never learn the other or simply quit pursuing it. I enjoyed both, I continued to do both and I taught my kids both. A ball of wool and a hook or pair of needles is pretty cheap amusement.
Not long ago I was talking with one of my clients about the term unravelling. She mentioned that she used to watch in awe as her grandmother would be crocheting an item, notice a mistake and then simply remove the hook and unravel the project until she reached the mistake. At that point the hook was easily reinserted and she could start anew. She loved the idea that mistakes did not have to be permanent; that they could be corrected with very little effort and with no waste of wool.
I was wishing that was the case with my knitting this year.
I’ve committed, to myself only, that I’ll complete one item for each of our kids, kids-in-law and little Benjamin before Christmas. This didn’t sound like a tough proposition in January when I had the whole year spread before me. But now the pages of the proverbial calendar are turning quickly and I have some rapid needle clicking to take on.
Since this project is a secret, I won’t divulge the details of each item. Suffice it to say item number one has been the toughest so far. The pattern is very intricate and involves some ‘cabling’. This means that at certain points a few stitches need to be transferred to a stitch holder to be kept while doing some other work in the background. Then the stiches are then reinserted into the body of the work. This happens in this pattern many times in each row, making progress slower than it might be if it were simply straight knitting or purling.
The detail of the work appeals to me. I like the finicky-ness of it all. And I especially love to see the beautiful pattern emerge.
You can imagine my horror when I went to lay my knitting down for the evening and noticed that one place where my held stitches were meant to go in front, they instead found themselves behind. If my horror wasn’t apparent to you in the last line, perhaps this will bring it to life. The mistake was not in the most recent row. In fact, I had made the mistake about one week earlier. Since I was knitting about three hours each day, that was about twenty or so hours ago.
I tried to pretend this one little mis-stitch would not matter. I took a picture of it and sent it to my sister Mary. ‘What do you think?’ I asked. ‘Yup. I can see it. You’ll know it’s there.’ Still not willing to admit what I would have to do to make this right, the next morning I found myself waiting at the door of the wonderful shop where I had bought the wool, Gina Browns.
‘Oh. This is beautiful work’, they said. And then added, ‘Yup. We can see it. You won’t be happy knowing all the work you put in and knowing it’s there.’
Still not willing to face all the work ahead of me, I queried if there was a way to correct it without taking the whole thing apart stitch by stitch. Their disappointed faces matched my own.
Knitting is not like crocheting. When knitting needs to be undone, it must be done so stitch by stitch, reversing the pattern. It takes almost as long to undo a pattern like the one I was making as it does to knit it in the first place. The only way to avoid this laborious process is to remove the entire project from the needles and then to start again. In the case of project number one for me, the mistake was not quite half-way back, so one-by-one was the way to go. About 15 hours to get it off. Then another twenty to get back to where I had been.
That project is finished now and I am well into project number three. All this time knitting has given me time to ponder; this pondering of course may well be what got me in the above pickle to begin with. Nonetheless, ponder I have. I’ve been thinking about how I approach certain things in my life. I think I can create two categories. I have my crocheting bits of life; these are the parts that I don’t panic about making a mistake in. Mistakes here can be easily remedied. While my focus does need to be on these projects, it does not require the same intense scrutiny needed in other places. When I think about it, a lot of my daily living can fit in this category; taking care of daily chores, having friends and family over for dinner, going on adventures, exercising, networking, dancing and even parts of my teaching and coaching.
The knitting pieces of my life are different. These are the bits I have built stitch by stitch. I am noticing that all of these knit pieces involve relationships. These are much harder and slower to build. Sometimes the stitches are put on a holder and move to the background for a while. A mistake made in one of them can easily be missed and when it is noticed, can take some time and care to repair. Knitted projects are also much harder to unravel. This gives me great peace realizing that unless I remove the entire project from the needles, with care, it can be mended. What I also know is that if I choose not to go back and put in the work to fix it, I will always know I have not given my best.
I prefer knitting to crocheting and relationships to things. I’m going to renew my effort to focus on each stitch of my relationships, to go back and see what projects I may have laid down for a while that need my attention, and in what projects I may have missed a stitch.
It’s a long cold winter without a nice knitted garment.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Am I knitting or crocheting?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you or your organization to figure out how to knit the relationships needed for success.