Monday, May 3, 2010


I crochet. I know, I know. It's an incredibly old-fashioned hobby and it makes me sound (and I suspect look) like someone's grandma. My mother taught me how to do it (along with embroidery and sewing) when I was a child and it stuck, unlike knitting which she tried to teach me repeatedly. I was a miserable failure. I cannot knit. But I can crochet.

Not only can I crochet, I like to crochet. I find it to be incredibly relaxing and almost zen-like in its therapeutic benefits. I can get lost in it. I think it's the repetition. The feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers. The movement of the hook in my hand. The sense of accomplishment as you work. You can see your progress growing around you. Row after row, your product gets longer, bigger, more complete. There is almost immediate gratification - it looks like something after only a couple of inches of work. You can see the potential of what it will become.

I've been working on a couple of different projects this winter. One was an afghan, a gift for Fran's 85th birthday. It's a nice colonial blue and it will look beautiful laying on the back of the sofa in her living room, her cream sofa with the blue stripes. The pattern is open and delicate. It came together smoothly, easily, quickly.

Then there's the other afghan that I've been working on. It, also, is a gift for a friend. It also came together smoothly and easily. The body of the afghan is a basic shell that is repeated over and over. Once you get the pattern down, you just repeat and repeat until the afghan reaches the proper size. I had the body completed. It measured 62 inches across and 68 inches tall -- about 5 inches taller than me.

The complexity of this particular pattern is in the border - the last 7or 8 rows. This is often the case in crochet. In this particular case, the first row of the border involves doing some math. You have to space out a number of stitches equally across the row - not work in every stitch. So, I did the math - counted my stitches, figured how to space them out and went to work. Success - first row across done. Then I had to turn and go down the side of the afghan - the height of it - and do the same thing.

I counted my stitches. There weren't enough. That couldn't be right. I counted again. I got the same number. I counted a third time - and it was during that third count that I discovered my mistake. The pattern calls for ending each row of the body with a double crochet and 2 chain stitches before turning to work your way back across. I started out that way - but at a certain point in the afghan I made a mistake. I wasn't thinking, or I wasn't paying attention. Or I had set it down for a few days and when I went back and picked it up again I thought I remembered the pattern and was too lazy to check it so I just went with my memory. Whatever the case, I switched from a double crochet at the end of the row to a single crochet at the end of the row. That difference meant that I was significantly short of stitches in length when the body was complete.

I considered my options. Could I simply add more rows? No. If I just
did that I wouldn't have enough yarn in the right dye lot to finish the project. Could I adjust the edging, reconfigure it, or simply do a different border from another pattern instead of this one? No. It's the border that makes this piece what it is - and even if I were to switch I'd run into a similar problem with the math and making the pattern work. No. There was only one option. Tear it out.

So I did. I tore the completed work out -- all the way back to where I made the original mistake -- 6 inches from the beginning of the afghan. That's right. 62 inches of work pulled out and wound up into balls. I can't begin to tell you how many hours of work that 62 inches represents but believe me when I say it is many. Then I started over, doing it correctly. A double crochet and 2 chain stitches at the end of each row before turning.

Some of you are probably thinking that I'm nuts - taking almost all of it out and starting over. Yes, it took time. Yes, it was frustrating. But the lesson was oh so valuable. How many times in life do I make a mistake and try to finagle a fix to it. I try to cover it up or re-configure things to make it work. I try to pretend it wasn't a mistake at all - that I actually meant to do it this way or that. I try to make it work and in the process I make it worse.

I'm not saying we always have to start over. Sometimes a mistake truly is minor - and it won't have a deep or lasting impact. It can be tweaked or maneuvered. It can be 'fixed' with a little bit of a change in direction or execution. But sometimes, the best course is to start fresh. Go back. Make it right. There's an old Turkish proverb that says "No matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn back." Once you do that you can go forward from there knowing that in the end, this time you've done it right.

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