30 January 2006

craftsmanship and knitting repair

In the past I've blithely assured myself that 'nobody will notice' various small mistakes in my knitting. Any mistake that I failed to notice after a row or two of knitting was destined to stay because I couldn't bear the thought of ripping back very far, and I had no idea how to fix things any other way. Last night, when I discovered an inadvertent split-stitch increase, a good 8 rows down, in Finch's romper leg, I almost let it slide. It wouldn't be at all noticeable once he was wearing them, I reasoned, and besides, I'm tired and I want to get it done. Mr DK, a private pilot, has spoken about a similar stubborness on the part of fellow-pilots known as get-there-itis. Fortunately for me, get-it-done-itis is unlikely to ever be deadly, but it does lead to amateurish finished objects.

I've (belatedly) come to the realization that it's foolish to balk at spending a little extra time fixing a mistake in a garment that takes many hours to finish. Besides, people will notice, particularly if they are also knitters, and they may judge you, or your craft, accordingly. A few years ago, while perusing the woefully tiny knitting section at my state fair, I heard a fellow fair-goer remark that she would never spend so much time making something you could get at the store 'for cheap'. Now, few of the objects on display were of the sort you could easily find at a retail chain, much less 'for cheap', but leaving aside the woman's ignorance and obvious lack of discernment, her point is well taken --- why, indeed, would anyone knit something that can be had 'for cheap' at the local Target? I don't want to produce the kind of knitwear one can find on a clearance rack at any old store, nor do I want to produce the kind of knitwear that languishes at the thrift store season after season.

I thought of these things while I stared at the ugly (and extremely visible in mercerized cotton!) mistake and was struck with the realization that I needn't rip out those 8 rows after all. I knit up to the first of the 3 stitches involved, and pulled gently to produce a run down to where they were the two stitches they were meant to be. Then I simply knitted them up again. I haven't the technical skill to explain how to do this, but Mary Thomas' knitting book explains the process quite clearly, which is where I got the idea several years ago. It's quite easy to do in stockinette stitch, and I did it once before to repair a 3-stitch cable that twisted the wrong way without undue agony. A crochet hook would have been helpful, but my double pointed needle was within arms-reach, so I used that instead. I discovered that this type of repair is a bit harder in mercerized cotton than in wool. The cotton is so slippy that the running strand loosens up, making your repairs obvious. My first response was to start again, tugging on the stitches as I made them, but this made little difference. I would've had to do this anyway, as I accidentally twisted one of the stitches the first time around, but I admit I was quite frustrated when the second time looked almost as loose and ugly as the first. The solution was simply to gently tug the running strand to the end of the row, for each row of repair -- the fabric will eventually absorb the slack.

I had to do this several times over before I was satisfied that the repair was invisible, but I finally had Mr. DK (precise to the point of fussiness) examine it, and he was unable to correctly locate the repair. He was, however, kind enough to point out that I should expect a mistake or two when I insist on knitting in a dark car. He believes that each and every task should command one's full attention, and that knitting in the dark, or while reading, watching television, talking, or driving is just plain foolish. I'm kidding! I never knit and drive! I have to admit though, that I'm sorely tempted at certain redlights. Tonight I took up the needles again so as to get the two legs united on one needle for tomorrow's errand running. I'll be watching my daughter's beautiful and incredibly long hair get hacked off for locks of love and then, if I survive the trauma, sitting in a waiting room with my bladder full for an ultrasound of the Finch. Finally, I'll be visiting my parents. Even Mr. DK admits the need to have something to distract while talking with my mother.

Dinner tonight: cream of roasted tomato soup, grilled havarti sandwiches

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