Knitting Blog

Knit Picky: A Perfectionist’s Guide to Knitting

Why as knitters do we judge our knitting so harshly? We produce beautiful shawls, sweaters, socks, bags — and we still find things to nitpick about.

Woman Wearing Beautiful Knit Lace Shawl

Photo via Craftsy class New Directions in Lace

The nitpicky knitter

When I’m complimented on a knitted garment I’m wearing, the dialogue inevitably goes something like this:

Friend: That shawl is gorgeous! Did you make it?

Me: Yes, but it has a few spots where I forgot to do a yarn over. And I think I knitted it too tightly over on this side. Do you see that hole? I was distracted while watching TV and messed that part up.

Awkward.

This fall, the height of my knitted-garment-wearing time of the year, I’m proposing that we perfectionist knitters enjoy knitting and stop judging our work as if we’re being graded.

Here’s what I plan to do. I hope you’ll do it, too:

1. Make knitting fun again.

Invite some of your knitting friends over to work on projects together. Focus on friends instead of your projects. So what if you make a mistake?

2. Focus on what looks great.

Maybe you knitted a sweater and you grafted those shoulder seams perfectly, but the gauge in the sleeves is a little too tight. Instead of focusing on the sleeves, focus on the fact that you have all-star grafting skills (and if you really want to improve your skills with gauge, you can review how to measure your gauge in knitting before your next project).

3. Take compliments graciously.

When someone compliments your knitted garment or accessory, simply reply, “Thank you.” No need to give a laundry list of things you messed up. The person complimenting you is not going to use a magnifying glass to inspect your work. Neither should you.

Yellow, Green and Grey Domino Knit Garment

4. Let the creative juices flow.

Worrying too much about making a mistake can block your creativity. Try a free-form knitting technique, like domino knitting (pictured above), so that you’re not following a pattern. There is no wrong way to knit free-form, so if you make a mistake, it’s just part of the design. It’s also good practice for experimenting in your own knitting, possibly even veering away from patterns.

5. Remember why you started knitting.

Did you learn to knit so that you could have one more thing to worry about? Nah. You started knitting because it was fun and made you feel creative. Remember when you did a happy dance just because you did two rows of purl stitches without dropping any of them? Try to bring back some of those old feelings.

6. Try something new.

Sometimes reliving our beginner knitting moments means trying a brand new technique that definitely won’t be perfect the first time around.

Check out a few Craftsy classes to get inspired, like Brilliant Knit Beads with Betsy Hershberg, Entrelac Knitting with Gwen Bortner, or Explorations in Brioche Knitting with Nancy Marchant. You’ll get back in learning mode and forget all about that silly mistake you made on your knitted gloves.

Woman Wearing Pink Knit Scarf

Photo via Vogue Knitting

7. Learn from past mistakes.

The first time I saw a pattern that purposely used a dropped stitch as part of the design (like this Dropped Stitch Scarf by Vogue Knitting), I was floored. “But dropped stitches are meant to be fixed,” I thought with concern. Who would ever make them on purpose?

I like to think that at some point, a knitter accidentally discovered how beautiful a dropped stitch could be and incorporated it into a design. You can do the same. Remember your past mistakes and learn from them. You may even discover a great new design!

Are you a perfectionist knitter? Do you have tips for other picky knitters?

10 Comments

Lisa

I heartily agree ~ I am my own worst critic, no one else sees the mistake but I do, and I vow to never make another mistake, and always so. Where does perfectionism come from? Is it from the controlling mother? Is it from the ever-critical endless-loop inner tape of our faults? I’m with you- care but not too much, not so much that it ruins the joy of what you’ve made. If a mistake bothers us THAT much, give the garment/project to the Goodwill and start over!

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Diane

AMEN!!

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Cathie

Well said. I’m my own worse enemy in this respect. Loosen up & enjoy!

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Genevieve Wimp-McCann

Really good reminder to have fun, make beautiful knitwear & learn from my errors in judgement while I learn more & more advanced knitting. Thanks for the reminders. Blessings!

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Patricia Botkin

I am knitting a pair of mens boxers how do I get the leg of the boxers connected to the body?

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Kate

I agree with all you said but I find it difficult to follow. I have been knitting for many years but I do not seem to improve. I knit with a very friendly group; I patronize the best knit shop I have ever been lucky enough to find and I swear–everyone knits better than I! I will try to follow your advice though—and I most certainly will keep on knitting. It does bring me joy despite what I have said. Thanks for your Newsletter. You really give us information that is interesting and timely.

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Mary-Ann boyle

I agree. relax and enjoy the experience. Sometimes these mistakes make a lovely new pattern.

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MJ, the SKEINdinavian

PERFECTIONISM. Made a mistake and want to take yourself out behind the barn? BTDT. Critically beating ourselves up over our perfectionism is a waste of time!

Because I love knitting so, both process and end result, I have adopted a new attitude about mistakes. We all make them. Learn from them.

Yes, I will tink back, frog, or drop stitches and ladder to the mistake to correct it. I am successful on all but the most tedious ‘new’ stitch, until I truly understand the stitch.

THERE IS NO SATISFACTION LIKE THOSE SUCCESSES!!!

Recently, while knitting a large blanket, I found I had increased a stitch way back in the ‘field’. Naturally, it was going to affect the border design, where I realized my mistake. My perfectionism reared its ugly head!

Guess what? THEY ARE WRONG about some things. After laddering back and removing the offending stitch, the field had a gauge change that extended about three inches vertically. Though it took some time, I was able to move the yarn across enough stitches that it is barely perceptible.

Having changed my attitude about mistakes has given me new joy in knitting. I hope the ‘adjustment’ helps you, too!

Have a great day… KNITTING!

MJ, the SKEINdinavian

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Pam

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this past year was to use a “lifeline!” I had never heard of it before. I was knitting a sweater with a several-row pattern with lots of yo’s and ssk’s—you get the idea. Well, I kept messing up (while watching TV, of course!) and, with a pattern such as this, it is not the easiest thing to fix. I ripped out as far as the ribbing so many times and once all the way out, that I finally reached out to my friends on Ravelry.com in utter frustration. Here is where I learned about using a lifeline! Oh, what confidence it brings when you are doing a piece of work with a several-row pattern!

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Jenny Gibbs

I always say I purposely knit in at least one mistake so the recipient knows the gift was truly hand made!

Reply

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