Thursday, May 10, 2012

Learning Through Error and Error

I love my children.  Each of the four is an individual in their own right.  Three of the four have a learning characteristic I would change if I could, though.  Three of them seem biologically incapable of learning from someone else's mistakes.  They have to make every mistake themselves in order to learn it is a mistake. 

This is not what I would hope for - I would love to save them the skinned elbows and knees this learning style brings.  But giving it a bit more thought, I've realized just about every knitter I know learns the same way.  And in building skills as a knitter, mistakes are invaluable.

The only way to learn to pick up a dropped stitch is to do it.  Several times.  From the right and wrong side of the work.  Once you get that, you don't have to rip back when you discover a mistake in your knitting a few rows back.  Just drop the stitches above the error all the way down to the affected row, fix it, and pick the stitches back up again.  Most knitters only develop this skill out of necessity.  We learn it when we're in despair over having to rip back a project with really long rows or a very busy pattern, and we just can't face doing the ripping.  Then we pull out a book or a magazine or a web page, and start learning to pick up a stitch.

I learned (the hard way) that my gauge changes dramatically when the home team is losing the game I'm watching on TV.  I can handle movies and news casts, but watching the Yankees score on the Red Sox will tighten my gauge like nobodies business.  Good to know. 

Holding your cable needle to the wrong side from what the directions say will not result in the cable you're trying to make.  It will make something interesting, but not the original pattern.  Making your first stitch on each needle loose in the round will lead to unattractive ladders.  Making that same stitch very tight will make it hard to move your work along the needle.  No yarn is colorfast until proven to be so.  Ribbing knit in cotton is not very elastic.  Knitting needles labeled as the same size may measure very differently through a gauge finder, so they only match if they were bought together, or have been measured to match. 

I know that the list above won't teach most knitters anything.  Mistakes like these are much more instructive in the doing than in blog notes.  But if you've made these mistakes, too, then you've smiled and nodded several times reading this.  You know better now.  I'm cautiously excited to see what my next mistake is!   

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