Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mistakes and how I make them, or... 10th time's the charm

Again I have insomnia, so instead of lying awake trying to force myself to sleep or getting up to play Candy Crush Saga (again), I decided to get a jump on my day and blog now.  Most of what I was ruminating on while not sleeping was what I would blog about, so I'm really doing myself a favor in getting it all out of my head now.  Fortunately I am not lonely, as I have a kitten purring on my desk, moving my papers around.

Recently I was talking to my mother (who is feeling better, by the way... she is SO ready to come home) about the Crochet-Along sweater and how I could have made two of them by now if I hadn't had to rip things apart so many times.  She said my problems have discouraged her, so I decided this blog would be about my mistakes on this sweater and the "damnable hooded cardigan" (different project I've ranted about before) and try to determine why I make mistakes and what I can do to minimize them.  Hopefully this will help my mother and you, too.

The "damnable hooded cardigan" is one I first blogged about in 2010.  You can read about it here, and I recommend doing so before reading further, so you can get a full picture of how this sweater got its nickname.  I was going to wait until the sweater was done to tell you more about my escapades, but this is a good a time as any, and I can finally throw away recycle this piece of paper I've had in my basket for over 2 and a half years.

Attempt #6: 37 rows of stockinette past the 18 of seed stitch
Now, if you read the post I mentioned above (this one here), you'll be awfully confused.  "Wait!" you'll say.  "You had success!"  Yes, dear reader, that is true.  I had success.  Then I screwed something up.  I don't remember what, but I couldn't fix it.  I asked someone for help, and she told me the sweater would be too small.  I took it all apart and started over.

Attempt #7: 4 rows of seed stitch
Yes, I screwed up again.  I did not document what happened, but I bet it was something stupid.

At this point I decided that the yarn was too thin for what I was doing and switched to a BouclĂ©, which is a bit thicker and has some loops.  It's also variegated, and I figured that would hide any number of mistakes.  Ha!

Attempt #8: 2nd row of seed stitch with new yarn
During the first row (after casting on), I thought I screwed up (I ended on a knit instead of a purl or some such thing), but I decided to keep going.  On the second row, I had the same problem.  I counted and found out that I had cast on 102 instead of 101, which threw everything off.  The one time I didn't recount after casting on!

Attempt #9: 8 rows of seed stitch
I thought I had dropped a stitch but didn't.  One of the drawbacks to a loopy, variegated yarn is that you can get confused.  I added a stitch when I shouldn't have, and at some point I realized my error and ripped it all out again.

Attempt #10: TRUE SUCCESS!
The tenth attempt at the back was, truly, a success.  I may have had some problems, but I was either able to fix them without too much cursing, or I was able to live with it.  I have finished both front panels and am working on the hood, which will take me forever (especially since I'm avoiding it at the moment).

There will be a picture of it when it's all done.  Right now it looks like a poncho with too many slits.

Now for the mistakes I've made on the Crochet-Along Colorfully Modern Cardigan.  I've mentioned that I've had to rip out due to chaining far too loosely (or too tightly) and because the pocket was going to end up too high.  There have probably been a few other things I've mentioned.  Oh, yeah, there was that morning at the car dealer where I thought I was supposed to decrease the armhole for 26 rows instead of until 26 stitches were left.

The newest screw-up was me crocheting the left front panel even for 10 inches after starting the armhole shaping like I did the back.  I totally missed the part of the directions where it said to start neck shaping at 5 1/2 inches.  So you know where I mentioned on Friday that I ripped out 4.5 rows so I could show you that knot in the skein?  Yeah, well, I should have looked at the directions again at that point.  I would have ripped out a few more rows and have saved myself a lot of time.

Fortunately it didn't take me all that long to rip out the (many) extra rows and to finish the panel.  All the decreasing for the neck shaping helped.  That panel is now done, including all the weaving in of ends and sewing the pocket on, and I am well into the other front panel.  I have my notes embedded in the pattern, and I'm sure there will be fewer problems, if any.

Now let's discuss the basic categories for my screw-ups, based on these two projects but with a few other examples:
  1. Inexperience.  The vast majority of my problems with the damnable hooded cardigan were due to me flat out not knowing what I was doing, and that's okay.  There's a learning curve with everything new, and I needed time, patience, and practice.  I'm not going to say that I'm never going to make a mistake again now that I have a lot more knitting and purling under my needles, but basic stitch errors are fewer and farther between.  Steve's happy about this because he doesn't get yarn thrown at him all the time anymore.

    For the Crochet-Along Cardigan, a bunch of people (including my mother and me) have had problems getting the ribbing right.  Ribs have been completely slanted, or just a few have gone astray, and sometimes the stitch count gets off.  After working with it for a while I developed a sense for what is supposed to go where, and I haven't had any more slanting ribs (which would either be a good name for a band or what we should have for dinner tonight).

    One of my first bead-stitched necklaces was a black and white twisted herringbone.  You may recognize it from the profile picture I used to have on my blog.  Of course, I can't find that picture now, but here's what it looked like when I had just a few inches done:

    I didn't tie off one of the thread ends enough, and it started to come apart.  Since then I make sure I do a lot of weaving or tie a few half-hitch knots so my project doesn't come undone, which is a colossal waste of time.
  2. Distractions.  A number of other mistakes can be chalked up to getting distracted.  When I knit while visiting my mother in the hospital in 2010, I had a lot of interruptions and frequently lost my place.  I learned how to recover from that by making sure the yarn was in the right place for the next stitch (behind for knit and in front for purl) and by pushing the loops all the way down the needles before I put the project down.  That took a little practice, but I'm pretty good at it now.  Other distractions include: telephone calls, e-mail, watching TV, cats jumping on the couch, and blinking.  Yes, I said blinking.  When I'm counting stitches, I can't blink unless I'm on a number divisible by 10.
  3. Design decisions.  I'm loathe to call this a mistake, but it's a cause of ripping things out, so I'm counting it.  In the Crochet-Along cardigan, I decided to have a shorter back panel than the pattern called for because I'm "vertically-challenged".  Because of that, I decided that the pocket needed to be added a number of rows before the pattern called for it.  I didn't determine that until after I had already added the pocket (and a bunch more rows) and decided that it would look rather goofy where it was supposed to be.  It'd have been nice if I'd determined that earlier, but now I know, and I've written notes for the other pocket and in case I make this sweater again.

    In beading recently I had to rip out a peyote bunny pattern I was making for a key twice because there wasn't enough of a color contrast.  I thought it was the background blue that was the problem, so I cut it apart and switched colors when I was halfway through the bunny.  With the new blue I knew from the first gray added that it still wasn't right, but I kept going until half the bunny was stitched.  I cut it apart again.  I kept the second blue (I liked it better) but switched grays, and I was much, much happier:

    The lesson learned here is that I need to trust my instincts.  I have wasted so much time trying to make something work when it just will not.  The second after I get that niggling feeling that something is too high or not enough of a contrast, I need to stop and figure it out.
  4. Inattention.  I was going to call this one "Carelessness", but that's so much more negative than I want to be at 2:30 am.  The "decrease for 26 rows instead of until 26 stitches" and "keep going for 10 inches and completely forget about neck shaping" types of problems fall under this category.  Sometimes it's due to being bleary-eyed because I'm frequently tired, but sometimes it's because I make assumptions.  Just because something was done this way on the back doesn't mean it's going to be the same way on the front.  Also, just because two knitting needles are the same color doesn't mean they're the same size.

    Since I developed Fibromyalgia, I've noticed that some days it's harder than others for me to pin down what the instructions say.  They call this "Fibro Fog" (here's a brief description of it on the National Fibromyalgia Research Association website).  In extreme cases it can interfere with driving safely and other areas of daily life, but where I find it most irritating is in coming up with the right words to say (I frequently ask, "What did I just say?" because what I was thinking didn't jive with what I just heard myself say) and in following instructions in a pattern.  Folks who have had chemotherapy (like my mother) have the same problem.  Things seem slippery, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't get it.

    The solution is to recognize when a mistake is caused by plain not paying attention or if it's because things just don't make sense.  If it's the former, I need to take some time and read the directions.  If it's the latter, I need to put it down and probably take a nap because I'll be useless for anything else.
  5. Miscellaneous.  There must be a catch-all, you know, because I'm sure there are other categories I'm just not thinking of right now.  Also, there are one-off mistakes that defy explanation.  I like to blame those on the cats, even if it's not their fault.
To sum up: unless you're perfect, there will be mistakes.  Knowing what your common types of mistakes are can help you avoid them, recover from them faster, and forgive yourself for them.  Now don't be afraid to crochet that sweater or knit that Airedale or finish that damnable hooded cardigan (me)!

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