Oh Mistake, you are so misunderstood. You are so feared. You are so under-rated.
Who has not been afraid to start something for fear of making a mistake?
Who has put off achieving a goal or dream for fear of failure?
Who has expected perfection right from the start? Without room for error?
What a shame…What a down right shame!
Have you heard the quote: “If you go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it, that is your passion.” Well, knitting is my passion.
Give me some yarn and a pair of needles over a fancy pair of shoes any day. I live to knit. When my boys were babies, as soon as nap time started, I would drop everything and grab my knitting. I still reach for my knitting at the end of the day, and sneak a few stitches here and there in quiet moments. The rhythmn of the needles and the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers does as much to calm my nerves as running a good six miles.
I bet I know what you are thinking. I bet you are thinking that I knit perfect projects every time. I bet you are picturing in your mind knit sweaters that look like they came off the rack at Gap. I just bet that is what you are imagining in your head.
At least I hope you are, because guess what, that’s pretty much the truth. No, seriously. Take a look:
Sure, that sounds pretty vain of me, wouldn’t you say? I mean, I should be modest and blush and twitter and lower my eyes when someone gives me a compliment and demure. But no, that’s not going to happen.
Because I earned it.
One mistake at a time.
I have earned my status as a kick-butt super knitter by making mistake after glorious mistake.
Yes, I said glorious. Because mistakes are awesome. And knitting taught me that.
When I first taught myself to knit 12 years ago, I was enthralled with the craft. It was, and still is, amazing to me that from a ball of yarn and two—or three or four– sticks, you can create something to be functional. It’s magic, I tell you, pure and simple. I couldn’t wait until I would be producing sweaters and mittens and blankets and booties.
But it didn’t happen quite as I had hoped. Soon, I discovered that you couldn’t just perform to the best of your ability. Perfect finished products didn’t just fall of needles. In fact, the products falling off me needles barely resembled anything useful at all.
It was depressing. It was demeaning. And it was dulling.
It was depressing because I thought I would never be able to do it.
It was demeaning because when I looked at other knitters and, seeing what they had accomplished, I felt like I was a failure.
And it was dulling because it took away the excitement and joy I had previously felt, and anxiety and stress filled their place.
I spent many hours looking at knitting blogs and magazines wondering if I could ever become good enough to create the works of art I was viewing. A horrible voice in the back of my mind told me I probably shouldn’t even try.
But I didn’t.
At first, I tried to just plow ahead and brazen my way through. I would figure out these mistakes by sheer force of will. That only resulted in ruined yarn and ruined self-esteem.
And then I tried something else. I turned to the internet, youtube, and any knitting book I could get my hands on. I researched the problems I was having and practiced and practiced and practiced. Soon, I was able to master my mistakes, but I still felt a sense of dread when they would occur.
I felt like an imposter, like I didn’t really belong. Because true knitters didn’t make mistakes. They were just born that way.
One day, I remember it clearly, I was working on a blue dress fit for a baby girl. The picture of the finished product I had printed off the internet was amazing. I remember feeling like maybe I could accomplish something half as good. Maybe.
But there were those darn mistakes again. And this time, there were ever so many. One after the other. It was as if I was reading french, only I actually understand french.
However, after literally a month of starting and stopping, tearing out and rewinding the yarn, I had an epiphany.
And this was the game changer for me.
I began to notice that I was able to look at the fabric I was creating and understand what I was doing. I didn’t need the pattern anymore. And I could see where I was about to make a mistake instead of just having the mistake occur without realizing it. I had finally learned to ‘speak’ knitting.
After that, I didn’t mind making a mistake. Because with each mistake, it gave me an opportunity to learn some more. And learn I did. All it took was becoming comfortable with making mistakes and seeing them for what they really were—a key to a better place, a door way to more.
Now, this is a lesson I love to share.
I became so confident with my mistakes that I became a knitting instructor. I would recognize with each student those same hunched shoulders and holding in of breath that I had adopted myself when I felt stressed out by making a mistake.
I would take the needles out of their hands, place it down on the table and look them in the eyes. I would tell them that I didn’t start out perfect either. I had made more mistakes than they had. But instead of turning back at each one, I had stepped forward.
A mistake was a chance to learn more. To try again. To become better. To be more. Without mistakes, we cannot understand what we are looking at.
And that is why being perfect cannot perfect us. There is no trying and learning without losing. There is no reaching for the stars if we are already there. It is the journey to the stars the teaches us to appreciate them and to understand them.
Life is a lot like knitting. It is completely mind boggling that a 3-D object can be created out of a really long line and two sticks. But you can. And in life, you can create lots of somethings out of pretty much nothing. It just takes a willingness to forgo perfection. To embrace imperfection.
It is in the imperfection that we learn and grow and begin to understand new things. It is by making mistakes that we become who we want to become. It is in the mistake that we seek out knowledge, knowledge that leads us closer to becoming more—more than we could have become if perfect knitting projects fell off our needles right from the start.
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.