Wednesday, October 12, 2011


WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, DO YOU TINK OR FROG? Late Tuesday afternoons you can find me at my knitting group at the Brown Bag Deli just off the square. I meet with a wonderful group of women to knit and share patterns and yarn and needles, passing jokes and wisdom around the table. Sometimes we put two tables together. We have a lot of Susans.
 This week Sheree taught us some new knitting terms she learned. To “tink” is to carefully un-knit, one stitch at a time, keeping the work on your needles as you go. (“Tink” is “knit” spelled backwards.) To “frog” is to pull out whole rows at a time (rip it; rip it).
 It's fun to see what everyone is working on each week. Barb seems to create free form patterns, a stuffed giraffe for her grandson, a scarf she somehow knit around the corner, like a log cabin quilt pattern, instead of in straight rows. She's not sure where the pattern will lead her and she asks advice for the next block. Paula and Sheree have been making scarves lately, each with her own complicated style of lacy yarn-over design. Paula gave me her pattern, as well as some yarn she was tired of, and now I'm making one too—a pink wool-acrylic blend, which I think I will give to my niece. The Susans all seem to be making sweaters for babies and young children. I think on of them is making slippers: huge, bulky woolen ones to be felted down to a reasonable size.
I took a little poll, asking what everyone does about mistakes. Susan G. said, “It's scary when you start taking all the stitches off! One time I frogged it, but usually I tink it.”

Susan S. said she usually asks Sheree to fix it, but she also takes it to her husband, “and he will tink, but he can frog too.” Frogging can be scary, but it can also be exuberant. Unraveling several rows is satisfying, the pull lending a textured, almost musical, tension to the yarn, which comes out kinked like an old fashioned telephone cord if it has been locked in the stitches long enough.
Susan H. swears, and then she makes up her mind to embrace her fate. She leaves the mistake right there and calls it wabi-sabi. This reminds me of my pottery teacher. When someone's pot blew up in the kiln and spewed shrapnel into the rest of our pots, he'd say, “Look at these zen marks. Aren't they great?”

 We all know what Sheree does. She'll say, “Does this look like a mistake to you?” And we all say no, but she is not convinced and keeps asking. We each reassure her that it looks fine, but the next time we look, she is quietly frogging. When she doesn't know what to do she takes it town and hands it over to Bev, who can fix anything.

Our lovely Paula never makes mistakes. She was making fun of herself when she said this, but we really don't see mistakes in her careful work. She used to be very impulsive. Cuss! Rip! Now she thinks about it, analyzing where she went off track, but she still frogs it out. She and I both tried the same new modification of Granny's dishcloth, and she told me she started over about five times before she produced the lovely, lacy washcloth I saw and tried to emulate.
Me? I usually just keep knitting. My patterns may be irregular, but if the pattern is complex enough, I can pretend it's simply variation on a theme. The only exception is when I make the mistake not out of carelessness or dropped stitches, but because I haven't really learned the pattern. In that case I'll tink until I get back to where I know what I did wrong, and begin again.

Knit in Beauty; Tink in Peace; Blessed Be.

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