Friday, July 18, 2008

Trust (Kn)issues

I remember knittng my first sock. I had purchased yarn at the Ross Farm in Nova Scotia. I found a Briggs and Little pattern. I was on vacation with my Aunt and I was a fairly new knitter.

I struggled a bit with casting on to 4 double-pointed needles so I cheated and knit back and forth a few rows before connecting to knit in the round. I'm not sure I had even knit in the round before.

I happily knit down the leg and then got the heel instructions. When I read through them I was completely blank. I could not at all envision what was going to happen. I had never slipped a stitch and had never done a short row. So, what's a knitter to do? I decided I would take it one instruction at a time and trust that it would all work out. Twenty years later, I still remember that feeling of awe when I finally had a heel. It seemed like magic! I had no idea how it worked, but there it was. It cemented by faith in "just do what the instructions say."

Of course, later I would find that not all patterns were so reliable. No matter how well you followed those instructions you weren't going to achieve the pictured outcome. After a frustrating time with a lace pattern that shall remain unnamed, I had to revise my pattern mantra to "just do what the instructions say and if it doesn't work out, check for errors."

This has served me fairly well in my knitting life. As a knitting teacher I have taught many of new knitter to follow this rule, particularly while they are learning and every pattern instruction seems like jibberish.

Now I'm writing my own patterns. Do I have the same faith? Apparently not! I started knitting the right sock for my Swirling Dervish and immediately started questioning the pattern I wrote. And I took very meticulous notes as I was designing/knitting the left sock. I was 12 rounds into the toe when it began. Suddenly I'm saying to myself, "This doesn't seem right. So few rounds and i'm almost done with the main toe shaping. Surely this toe is too tiny. I must have written something wrong." Next thing you know, I'm calculating the depth of the toe based on row gauge and trying to count the rows on the finished sock by hand. I considered spreading out the increases thinking I just hadn't noted that. I put down the sock for the evening and decided to come back to it the next day after thinking about it.

The next time I picked up the sock, I stared at it and thought about all my calculations. I was sure that something was wrong. Just as I was about to pull out the whole thing and start over I had an idea. Something so radical. I held up the toe I was knitting against the one on the finished sock. Imagine that! And, gee, guess what? They were a match. All those machinations for nothing.

Sheesh, I guess I have a trust issue. Only it's apparently not just about the knitting. It's about me.

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