10 December 2011

On Getting It Right

Husband's sweater is officially on hold.  Hopefully just for a little while.  At Thanksgiving, I held what I had done up to one of his favorite store-bought sweaters and discovered that the sleeves I have made (which I have done FOUR TIMES already) are about 2 inches narrower than the sleeves of the sweater he likes.  Meaning... he thinks they will probably be too tight, and he won't wear the sweater.  No amount of explaining to Husband that he chose a tight skinny sweater pattern and the sleeves are supposed to be like that will convince him that this sweater is actually turning out the way it should.  So more fitting is needed.  I may have to do the sleeves over again.  I may have to make him choose an entirely different pattern and start over completely.  We'll see when he comes home for Christmas and tries on the sleeves I've knit so far.

Seriously, at this rate, I'm just going to go to J. Crew and buy him more damn sweaters.  Sigh.  Can this marriage be saved?*

Not just regarding the sweater, I've been doing a lot of thinking about mistakes lately.  Specifically, about making mistakes when knitting.  I am the kind of knitter who will rip out inches and inches and inches of knitting -- hours and hours of work -- if I realize I've made even a tiny mistake somewhere down the line.  Some of my knitting friends give me a good-natured hard time for my insistence on perfection in knitting.  I don't mind their teasing, of course.  I have always believed the old adage that "a thing worth doing is worth doing well."

The Amish will purposefully knit a mistake into their sweaters (usually a twisted stitch in an underarm right next to a seam so no one can see it anyway, ahem) because only God can make a truly perfect thing.  So they deliberately put a mistake in their work.  The Persians do this with their rugs, too.  Surely there are other groups that do this as well.  And I guess I understand where they're coming from -- they consider it an act of reverence/deference to the Creator, in a way.  A kind of humility, to acknowledge and accept our own place in the created order.

I appreciate the devotion intended behind this practice, but I also find it a bit presumptuous to assume in the first place that one's work would be perfect without deliberately adding a "mistake."  And is it really a mistake if you put it there on purpose?

I generally assume, particularly with knitting, but also in life in general, that nothing I do will be perfect.  Maybe I absorbed just enough Wesleyan theology at that Methodist seminary I attended -- I like the idea of "striving toward perfection," even though we know we will never get there on our own.  God's grace both brings us closer to the perfection for which we strive and makes it okay that we never achieve said perfection. Still, the striving is ours.  That's what we do.  In knitting and in life.  So I do the best I can.  If there's something to do over -- particularly something as easy as fixing a knitting error -- I should do it.  A thing worth doing is worth doing well.  Perfect doesn't even enter into it.  Meticulous, maybe.  But never perfect.

*In case you were wondering, yes, I am turning in to my mother.  She used to say this all the time.  It's the title of a real-live column from one of those 70s homemaker magazines that used to pile up next to the couch.  McCall's or Family Circle or something.  They were "gruesome" stories of minor marriage disputes, and it was left to the reader to decide "Can this marriage be saved?"  I think the desired implication was that yes, a marriage can always be saved.  I'm not sure this is true in every case.  In my case, however, the answer is yes.  It was always yes in my mother's case, as well.  My parents have been married for something like 45 years.  I suspect they'll be fine.

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