On Perfection

or the lack thereof

This morning, My Old Man gave Little Buddha his usual breakfast – a banana and Cheerios. But the banana had broken into two pieces. “Oh no!” Little Buddha said, when he saw it. Then he burst into tears. (We gave in and got him another one). I get it, little man, I really do. I have OCD, too. I know what it’s like to want things to be just so, and I know how devastating it is when they are not that way. Perfection is so elusive in real life – who can fault us for wanting it in small doses, wherever we can find it? Like an unbroken banana.

Or a piece of knitting.

One of the things I love about knitting, as opposed to the rest of life, is that you can go back and correct your mistakes. You get a Do Over as many times as you need.

This is also one of the things I hate about knitting. I don’t like to do things over. I like to do them once and have them done. Which leaves me in a quandary when confronted with a mistake. Leave it and live with it (i.e., let it drive me crazy)? Or, go back and fix it (i.e., lose all the time I’ve already put into it)?

Exhibit A.

I wish I knew how to draw on my pictures, like people with PhotoShop do. I have iPhoto and have no idea how to draw on pictures, so I can’t put the little arrows or circles in to show you what the problem here is. This is Sock #1 of the pair I’m making for my KH Sock Pal (“Fancy Silk Socks” from Knitting Vintage Socks). If you look at the lace pattern near the gusset, you can see – there is supposed to be a small stretch of stockinette – 3 sts – and then the lace pattern. But I have two small sets of stockinette – 3 sts, then a purl line, then 3 more sts.

This lace pattern is on a 12-round repeat. Once you get to the instep, you end up not doing a full repeat at the very end, but instead only doing 5 sts (instead of 8). For every round, the first 5 sts are: p1, k3, p1. Well, for every round except for one. On the 9th round, it’s p1, yo, sl1, k2tog, psso, yo, p1. Only I didn’t do that. I just kept doing p1, k3, p1 for those last 5 sts, including on round 9. Which means the edges of the sock are mismatched – on the right side of the sock, the pattern continues down the instep, but on the left side I just have this blank little stretch of stockinette.

I can’t give these to another knitter with this mistake in it (especially since I cannot let myself keep making this mistake down the rest of the foot, and I certainly can’t make myself make this same mistake with the next sock). I’m trying to figure out if there’s some way to repair without ripping back 24 rounds, by just dropping the 3 sts where the mistakes are, and letting them drop out 24 rounds down. But I’m not sure I can make that work, especially since I don’t have a crochet hook small enough for this fingering weight yarn. I suppose I can try it and if it doesn’t work, then I can rip. Gah. I’m really aggravated. I hate ripping fingering weight yarn and then trying to get it back on size 1 needles (did this once with this sock already, when I discovered I had not decreased the gusset sts down far enough). And I’m irritated that I made such a stupid and completely avoidable mistake. In my defense, I am home sick, with the double whammy of bronchitis and sinusitis, and in my weakened state probably shouldn’t be allowed to hold needles or decipher patterns.

Sickness cannot be my defense in this next bit of imperfection.

This is the Men’s Zippered Raglan from LMKG. Originally this was to be a Christmas gift for My Old Man, but too many other projects got in the way. Then it was going to be an anniversary gift, but I don’t think that’ll work either, because of a certain other project that is taking more time than it should (see above). This knit is going fine, except for the variegation of the yarn. You know how when you’re knitting with variegated yarn, some people advise you to alternate balls every row or so, since there are no dyelots and each skein can vary from the other? That seemed like too much fuss for me, so I didn’t bother. Now I’ve discovered that the beautiful jewel blue shade of this Malabrigo is streaked with major amounts of white in some of the skeins. So the bottom several inches of the sweater are exactly the color I wanted. Then you can see the field of white, where I started a new and very different skein (even my mom, a non-knitter, noticed and asked “How did you get the white stripe in there?”). After several rows, I got disgusted and put that skein away and tried a different one. It had less white but not as much blue as the first. Finished that skein and am now back to the one that has tons o’ white (perhaps you can see the white beginning at the point where I am in the sleeve now).

I know with variegated yarn you can’t have perfectionist expectations, at least not with how the color blips come out. Theoretically, I suppose I should’ve ripped and started varying the yarn once I realized how drastically different certain parts would look. But I’m just going to try to live with it. Maybe once the whole thing is done, I won’t notice?

Ha. Fat chance. To quote Little Buddha: “Oh no! Waaaaaah!”

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10 thoughts on “On Perfection

  1. I totally feel your pain! I recently found a mistake in the socks I was working on — knit a section where I should have purled — and had to rip back about 25 rows. Gah. I hate redoing things too. I try to just relax and enjoy the process, but that’s hard the second (or as is so often the case with me — the third or fourth) time around. 😉

    I have to say though that I think the sweater is looking beautiful! I like the color variations. It makes me think of clouds floating in a bright blue sky. Lovely!

  2. I think the sweater looks great! But, I am probably completely opposite of you. I call errors “quirks” or “my special touch”. I had read somewhere a while ago, that perfection is only for God. And (I think) Amish quilters usually make one mistake in a piece- on purpose! Because of that belief. Think about that and maybe that will help you either deal with it, or make another decision.

    I think the socks look great! I miscrossed a cable in my current sock, and only I can tell! I have showed 4 people, and none could see what I was telling them!

  3. Well, you probably could drop down and fix those stitches, as long as you give yourself plenty of time, a flat surface with plenty of light, and complete quiet. And as you say, in the worst case you just give up and rip back.

    I’m constantly, constantly feeling that tension between the desire for perfection and the desire not to have just wasted hours of knitting time. So I feel for you.

    By the way, I think the sweater looks really nice. I think you probably won’t notice it as much when you’re not spending hours looking at it with a critical eye. However, if you honestly think the recipient will never wear it, frog it now, before you get any further.

  4. Your sweater is beautiful,but I have to be honest with you here. I am also a perfectionist ( gosh I hate that word) but it is true and if you are as bad as I am you will never be happy unless you fix both items. I have tried to ignore things that I have knit wrong and never wore the item or just wound up frogging it after all that work. All and all it is up to you, just be brutally honest with yourself and follow your heart. Can you really live with it the way it is or not> That is a question that only you can answer because beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Hugs tight..=)

  5. Some times you want things to be perfect, and some time you want things to be done. Some things you can live with; some things you can’t. But each person’s times and things are different. I know what I would do, but that’s me. I agree with Louann. How will you feel about these things a year from now?

  6. I understand your pain, and I think that Dave worded it perfectly (no pun intended). I’ve left cables crossed the wrong way sometimes, then ripped back because I missed a decrease at others. I think the recipient really makes a difference too. You will make the decision you feel most comfortable.

  7. i am totally with you on this, i can’t stand even TINY things because you know what *I* can see them. and to gift to another knitter, i’m so with you, OCD blows, man. however, oddly enough, i also agree with staceyk and the amish/native american belief that everything made by hand should have a mistake…. funny that. in my sweater, on the first 3 edging stitches of the front, i left a purl that should have been knit after noticing it… but see, that affords me the right to fix anything else i want in the rest of the project and rip as much as i want!

    i am SO GLAD to see you making a sweater in malabrigo! mine is in malabrigo and then i saw your post about the voodoos pilling and i was seriously starting to perspire. i take it that means shaving it works out okay?

    good luck choosing with your sock. i know this will make nothing better, but i can’t see it and i think it’s beautiful. if you can figure it out, you can back out and reknit with just your needles, no crochet hook. don’t know if there’s a video at KH about it or anything, but it’s fairly easy, but you know what? when i do that, the tension then looks different to me and i wish i left the mistake. (sigh)

    i also think the sweater is coming out gorgeous. i can totally appreciate what you’re saying about the white, but it looks like a blue enough white that you can totally get away with it, IMO, and i love the clouds in the sky analogy. while i am a perfectionist that agrees with the 1 mistake thing, i also agree with louann and dave, the can you live with it is a great test.

    well, this was apparently a word-provoking post for me. i’m shutting up. 😉 know that i can fully sympathize and i’m sending warm knittilicious vibes!

  8. Earthchick, I can completely relate to your OCD and desire to not have to redo your knitting work. That said I’m hoping you can relate to my quandrdy…I am in the process of knitting my very first sweater, in Malabrigo Brown Berries. Much to my chagrin, I am short on yarn and cannot complete the last bit – one sleeve. By any chance do you have an extra skein, or could you let me know where to track one down please? My local retailer said they can’t get it. Would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

  9. Hi Joanna. I didn’t know how to contact you other than to leave another comment here. I hope you see it. I do have some Malabrigo Brown Berries! I have a skein and a half skein – how much do you think you need to complete the sleeve? You can email me at staceyduke(at)gmail(dot)com.

  10. Just in case the socks are for me, (what’s the chance of that?) I can’t see the mistake. Your socks are beautiful. =)

    I’m in the process of fixing some stitches that I did wrong on my socks, but if I didn’t fix it, I know that nobody would know…

    If they were for me, I would have left them they way they were…

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