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Saturday, November 20, 2010

In Which My Perfectionist Tendencies Pay Off

My name is Heather and I am a self-critical perfectionist. This can be good, as I constantly push myself to improve and excel. It's frequently bad, though, because I pressure myself, often unrealistically. I cripple myself from even tackling certain projects (ahem, writing) and frustrate myself over the minutia of the projects I do embrace (crafting). I've done a lot of growing with the whole self-acceptance thing. I'm still working on the performance-acceptance issues.

To wit: My best friend and my husband are constantly teasing me about the fact that I often spend more time un-knitting and re-knitting projects than actually producing permanent stitches. It's well-deserved. Sometimes a flaw might be noticeable only to the creator, but damn it--it bugs me, knowing it's there! If nothing else, I'm becoming quite adept at spot-frogging (probably not a term, but maybe I just coined it). And I'd much rather spend extra time on a piece I can take pride in, than to hand over something that I feel is shoddy work.


Letting go of that is HARD.

A week ago, I stopped in my favorite LYS (Natural Stitches! Have I not mentioned this place enough?) and found, in the orphan bin, a hank of kettle-dyed Malabrigo merino worsted. I love the idea of shade variation, but prefer a more random look than the pooling patterns one usually gets with machine-produced variegated dye lots. Kettle-dyed and tonal...I'm thinking that these are the way to go. I'd never tried Malabrigo before (cough-cough, price) but this skein was marked down and calling my name.

First and foremost: Holy Textiles, this yarn is wonderful! I'm a frugal person, but I am feeling myself shifting into Yarn Snob territory. YES it is worth paying more for quality. Not only will your finished product look, hang, wear, and feel better, but the process of working with better materials is a tactile joy. This yarn is soft and lofty, but not at all splitty. Even after frogging, it behaved the same as fresh-off-the-skein. It has a single ply with enough "tooth" to gently meld each stitch with its neighbors and yet not so much that it grabs at the needles. And ohhhhhhhh man is it soft. Love!

I took a break from my holiday gift-knitting and decided to make something for myself for a change. I only had the one skein, so I chose a hat. I wanted a beret, but not. I don't like the look (on me) of a traditional flat tam, or the jaunty assymetric slant of a beret. I wanted something with more fullness than a beanie and a little slouch, but not quite to Rasta proportions. I wanted, in short, this hat...or this one. (Yes, they're on the same actress. And yes I have opinions on that show, but let's stay on topic for now, m'kay?) I figured with my mad skilz at top-down, swatchless hat knitting, it should be no problem.

And...the anticlimax.


Oh, it's a hat all right, but it's not right. The fullness isn't wide enough to look anything more than "poorly fitted beanie", and the depth isn't helping either. The band is roomy, but the hat is long enough that the whole thing just stretches south. It would keep my head dry and nominally warm, but I was not loving it.

And what is the point of using uncharacteristically fancy yarn to make yourself a hat you'd never wear!?

Yup. I frogged it.

I don't usually let so much slack accumulate,
but it made for a more interesting visual story.
I regretted this. You bet your sweet stitch markers that got tangled. Ay!
As a concession to trying to let go of perfectionism, I only frogged back to the crown--even though there was a point where I changed the way I was doing my increases. (note to fellow knitters: if you get a small hole on a lifted increase, try knitting into the *back* of the lifted stitch. It produces an increase that looks more like a check mark than a V, but that can be pretty too...and I like using directional increases as part of the design. The holes just looked like sloppy work to me.) So there is an imperfection in this which I have determined to accept.

The rest of it, I redid. I kept absolutely no notes, but basically I added a few more increase rows, eliminated the rows between the decrease rows, made the band an inch or so smaller, and changed the ribbing to 2x2. Results?

Did I mention LOVE?
This, I will wear. Not because it's handy and functional. Not because I made it. But because it's a cute freaking hat that looks good on me and feels really awesome.


  1. Yay, totally worth the redo!! I ♥ it and look at that great big smile!!

    -T aka anonymous because logging in is too much work. LOL!

  2. See, your lovely hat could be this week's {this moment}, but then we would miss the great story behind it. I'm with you, by the way. Although a project doesn't need to be by definition perfect, it's worth a few re-dos to get it to your liking. Otherwise, the flaws you see will keep you from fully enjoying it, and then, what's the point?

  3. I'm a lazy perfectionist-which generally translates into- if its a BIG flaw and is really bugging me, I frog- otherwise- eh, I am the only one who even knows I messed it up- but it bothers me just enough that when someone compliments me on it, I will tell them its not perfect.

    I also just finished a beret style hat for myself. I wore it downtown this afternoon, and got stopped by someone who loved it, and wanted to know if I had made it myself. That was pretty cool.

  4. Whatever yarns I've used, I've never noticed there was a problem in frogging! One of the awesome things about knitting is it's easy to re-do. Unlike sewing which can only be redone to a point! (ask me how I know this, having just made a wool-underlined winter coat for my daughter out of LOVELY fabrics, not adding enough design ease in the pattern, and it's too small for her! d'oh!)

    I just now finished a pair of Monster booties; I upgraded to a larger size for a blog reader's toddler. Anyhoo I cut the yarn at the bind off with several live stitches left! (bush league mistake). Instead of panicking I just backed up a few stitches and spit-spliced to finish it off. Since there was no way to fix it "perfect" I did my best, and but I fixed it well enough no one could tell if they looked - and most importantly, the shoes look great and are totally sturdy.

    I always laugh at myself because no matter how experienced I get, I can make such remedial mistakes!

  5. I am so far from a perfectionist it is ridiculous. And yet I will frog-back anything I'm knitting if I am not happy (enough) with it.

    Love the 2nd version!

    Hate that sitcom. (Love the actress and the general vibe of the couple but hate, hate, hate all the 'fat jokes' and humiliation passing as humor.)

  6. @Kelly: I typically don't have a problem with yarn not frogging well (I love recycling thrifted sweaters!) except with the following caveat: cashmere, and cashmere-mohair blends. I've had a number of tearful experiences tearing out work in those fibers, so the combo of "soft and fluffy" and "not trapped in a firm ply/twist" of this yarn gave me pause. Thank goodness it behaved itself!!

    And man are you right about remedial mistakes. A month or so ago, when I posted that awesome shirt I made? The intention was to blog my "I should be well past making this kind of error" mistakes along the way. Seriously, I've been sewing forever...I should know better. But you work fast, you get careless...and stuff happens. It's a very good time to practice a little self-forgiveness, LOL!

  7. The more I wear this, the slouchier it's getting. And that's a good's even more attractive now than fresh off the needles. This is now known as my Love Hat. <3