Three weeks of knitting. Six movies. Two car-rides. Stitch after stitch. The cool soft wool sliding past my fingertips, adding physical sensation to a dozen conversations and meetings as I synced my busy hands with the nonstop whirring in my mind.
And there it was, a disappointing silhouette – hanging halfway down my chest. Too big, too square, with armholes set too far apart.
There was no denying it.
There is a term in knitting, called frogging. It involves ripping out your work and starting over.
“Maybe you could switch to a smaller needle, or put in some decreases,” my mother suggested. “There must be some way to salvage it.”
Or maybe she didn’t actually say any of that. Maybe it was the voice in my head of my mother that I’ve internalized. Frogging hurts her like a physical wound. She has to look away. All that hard work. All those good intentions. She’d rather try and fix the issue, shrink the sweater in the wash, stretch it back to a better shape. She could still love the final product, despite its sad little flaws, despite it turning out a disappointment. She might not wear it though. She’d stick it in adrawer and pull it out on occasion, admiring the beautiful wool. Forgiving herself. Or not. Perhaps her expectations aren’t as set in stone as mine. She’s ok with a change in plans.
From the moment I started knitting, I was already wearing the sweater I wanted. It was fitted but loose. It skimmed over my torso and ended at my hips, closer in the bust and not too tight on the beginning of my butt. It was perfect over jeans or a knit dress. It was warm enough for a chilly beach day or a cold rainy morning. It flattered me and made me feel young, adventurous, bohemian. It would go with me when I traveled, coming out of a suitcase on a European train with the ease of a diplomat ready to take on any situation.
From the moment I’d cast the stitches on, that sweater wasn’t just a sweater. It was a spell – an incantation to materialize a new best friend that raised my social capital and brought me luck.
Until I tried it on. Disappointment settled around my misshapen shoulders and spread across the drooping bust. No-one but myself to blame.
The lump filled me with self loathing and self consciousness. It said things like “Such a pretty face…” and “what a pity…” It made me think about how I would never be younger, thinner or likely to write a best selling novel. I could see myself wearing it while convalescing after a bad cold… hair unwashed, balled up tissues rolled in the sleeve, praying the doorbell would not ring, because nobody could see me in such a condition.
Why can’t I just say “Oh well!” like a normal person? Or have a little hope like my mother?
The half-knit sweater was already starting to unravel before I slipped it roughly over my head, taking no care not to prevent this from happening. I would rather burn my failures in a bonfire than have to experience a drawer full of disappointments fresh, again and again for years.
Once I make the decision, my ripping back is relentless. I’m a surgeon with a knife. I’m dissecting a patient because it’s necessary for the cure. Each and every time, with every half made, project that’s gone off the rails, I cannot get it done fast enough. I can only rest when the yarn is reincarnated as a brand new ball of hope and potential.
I’m sure there is a psychological profile that explains the difference between my mother and I. She admires my discipline. I admire her flexibility.
After three attempts (“No compromises!” I told myself) I finally finished my Malabrigo Sweater knit from yarn purchased in New Orleans. An entire season of Downton Abbey. Weekly business calls and an IEP meeting. I came quite close to a fourth frogging but my mother and a friend convinced me that I was starting to act a little crazy. Perfection was never going to happen. It was more than good enough. Time to cast off.
I love it, I truly do. I didn’t quite conjure a new best friend, and I’m not so sure about the social capital, but it is an excellent travel companion.