Meet James. A lovely new pattern by Amy Miller. Well written with a beautiful simple shape that is sure to become an extremely well worn part of my wardrobe. James is knit in 5ply and I found a stunning 5ply called Blue Sky Metalico in Silver which has meant a lovely lovely result. The classic formula of simple classic shape and beautiful yarn and right sizing = true love!
Anyway I wanted to introduce my version of James in response to a lovely commenter on my "Mistakes are how you learn" post from the other week. Katisma said that she kinda thought that people who make how I make, don't have to deal with mistakes.
The comment Katisma left on the other post was this
"Thank you! I think what you say is even more inspiring and strong in effect because it comes from one of those seemingly perfect professionals. Who we learners who may be new to doing crafts assume to get to goals without having to try out and naturally make mistakes, processes that don't work out at once."
Which is not true at all. Many mistakes are still made regularly. But it got me thinking some more about the nature of mistakes, how it changes as you learn to craft and how your expectations change, as does how you deal with mistakes.
So James. I found him a bit of a pain to knit really. Not because of the pattern but because of me. This project has followed me round over the last few months of The Craft Sessions preparation. Simple enough to knit, with little concentration required once you get past the beginning. And that was the problem. I knit about 10cm of the yoke and ALL the short rows TWICE. Hours and hours of knitting because I kept making mistakes.
Now these days I know how to fix mistakes and most mistakes are fixable. I drop the stitch down to where the mistake is, pick it all up and then knit on. I knit quite quickly and so if I do have to rip something out I just rip it out and redo it. Which means that I don't see mistakes as that much of a big deal anymore. A little disappointing but generally not that heart breaking. This was not that kind of mistake. Both times I knit the yoke it was the kind of mistake that either fixing was not possible OR you would have been left with a big scar on the fabric.
What this project did was humble me - again and again. Me and my cocky, I can fix mistakes attitude. It took me back to my feelings of frustration of being a beginner knitter. Both times I had spent hours and hours on the trickiest part and thought I had past it before realising the issue. It was demoralising. And I had forgotten quite what that felt like. It almost made me not want to start the jumper for the third time. And got me thinking about how it feels to be a beginner.
So good for me and for the lovely commenter. Because it has prompted me to state the obvious and offer a few possibly helpful thoughts.
Mistakes are much harder to deal with when you are a beginner.
And there is a few reasons for that. The main one is that you are not able to be confident that when you do it the second/third/fourth time that you will get the result that you want. It is a big leap of faith. It requires bravery and trust and stick-to-it-ness. And sometimes because there isn't the foundation knowledge yet embedded in your brain, you might not even be sure if you are making a mistake or not. The whole thing feels a bit uncertain. Again with the faith and the bravery.
The second thing is related to the first which is the barrier that is due to self doubt that comes up when you are learning. There is a tendancy to wonder if you have what it takes and to possibly think that other people have more natural ability. To this I would say that a lot of craft is simply about practice, like riding a bike, driving a car, cooking etc etc. Yes some people have a greater natural ability but with practice most people can do it really well.
Another big thing I think when you are beginning, is the time it takes to make something (because it takes a little longer) means that if you make a mistake it feels like you have wasted all of this time!! But the learning what you get out of that is so very important, even if it doesn't feel that way at the time. You end up knowing (really knowing) that there is joy in the process, even for those of you that think you are more product crafters than process crafters. Because if there was no joy in the process you would just go and purchase a quilt/jumper/soft toy. Am I right or am I right??
So I wanted to offer some encouragement to all you beginners out there and say that it all does get easier, the learning and even the mistake making. You make them less often and when you do make them you often know what to do to fix them. The emotional energy required to crack on in the face of mistakes decreases with time and experience and practice.
I also wanted to say don't worry if you don't understand half of what the person in the craft shop is talking about when you are buying supplies for your latest great idea (thanks Jen and Martine for reminding me about this issue). Get in there and make. Craft involves incremental learning. Learning that isn't often visible or earth shattering. The "ahhh" moments when you think "I get that now" come semi-regularly when you are just starting out and they are oh-so satisfying. That feeling is fun and I encourage you to really enjoy it at the beginning. Later on you have it but it is less frequent and probably less important.
And finally just in case you were thinking that having to knit the yoke three times wasn't really all that bad, let me tell you about what happened right at the end of the knitting. The sting in the tail so to speak. The final thing you needed to do in this pattern was to bind off the neckline loosely. I did it waaaay too loosely just in one weird bit. Which would be fine except that it is on the neckline, in the middle and off to one side, in the front. You may not have noticed in the pictures above but go back and have a look. It droops right in the part that people would look at on this super-simple-nothing-else-to-draw-their-attention jumper. Spare a thought for me as I had just finished a whole jumper in 5ply.... Anyway, so at this stage I am calling James finished even though he actually isn't. When I pull myself together emotionally I will get around to fixing it. It might take me a week or two. For the moment I am happy to wear it and trying to remember that noone will really notice the slightly more rolly neckline other than me, and now you. Shhhh!
Everyone makes mistakes.
Which takes me back full circle to "Mistakes are how you learn so embrace them". Something good for me to have felt again even if all I learnt was that I really need to concentrate while doing short rows and increases at the same time.....
BTW - James would be a great one for an adventurous beginner sweater knitter that is confident knitting, purling, increasing and decreasing and working with 5ply, but really wanted to practice their short rows. The lovely shaping in the neck of this pattern is due to many many short rows.
Have a go. The result is worth it!