Tuesday, January 24, 2006

To Frog or Not to Frog?

When do you decide to frog? When do you decide to leave an error as is and continue on…

In the past several days, I’ve frogged more than in many months of knitting. Last summer, knitting the first lace shawl, in my online class, I frogged constantly. But since completing that, I tend to tink, stitch-by-stitch back to whatever error.

I think that when I ripped out the second lifeline in the lace shawl by too-forceful frogging I became just a tad skittish.

Three weeks ago, I began an on-line socks class, learning to knit socks toe-up (Mind you I’ve never knit socks before in any manner). I’ve frogged that sock 4 times. I’m hoping not to again. And today, into the 3rd repeat of 12 rows per repeat on the Traveling Vines Lace Scarf, I realized I’d failed to knit the 6 set-up rows. This is my second time knitting this scarf. The yarn I picked for it the first time was a wool sock yarn with acrylic. Lace and acrylic don’t mix. I learned that with the first lace shawl (the hard way).

In the second lace shawl, my beloved Queen of Hearts, I didn’t catch a major flaw in the knitting until it was blocking. I did not frog and reknit - it was more than half way down the width of the shawl and I would never have recovered emotionally. The “broken hearts” on one row of the Queen of Hearts shawl is a loving reminder of my own mended heart and imperfection.

Because this is such a lovely yarn that I’m using for the Traveling Vines Scarf (my prize from Wendy’s birthday contest), I decided I needed to do the pattern right this second time I cast on for it. So this time, I frogged it because I truly was seeking perfection in the lace.

I have always been a perfectionist. I consider that I still am. January is that month when all my perfectionist tendencies come tumbling forth: as an accountant there are many payroll-related tasks that make my perfectionism a gift to any employer or client I have. Then I usually have a large show where my “perfect” totes and bags are showcased. And of course, there is the New Year, the “perfect” time to set up goals to be “perfect!”

So what is it in me that makes me decide to frog or not?

Because it’s not just that I want my work to be perfect - I want the Navajo way of allowing a mistake in my craft so my soul can leave the work to become second nature now. But one mistake is not missing 6 set-up rows. One mistake is not having multiple holes along the reverse short rows of the toe of a sock.

For that matter one mistake on a W-2 is one too many - and the IRS would agree, as would SSA.

So maybe my knitting is like my accounting work. I can have an error in the
minor stuff, things that can be easily corrected without a major fuss, or that “a blind man on a galloping horse” won’t see (to quote friend Jane). But like the W-2’s, my lace knitting has to be as close to perfect as possible now. This is too big a deal to screw up. Yes the IRS will let me file a corrected W-2. And that blind man (like this partially blind knitter) may miss an odd little error in the lace.

But in art, which my lace is, I must reach for the unattainable: Perfection.

I’ll frog.

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