Friday, January 14, 2011

Afghan Lessons

Michele, Maxie, Willow on red couch
As aforementioned, I completed a 3 year project, my Bear Claw Afghan, a few days ago and have been curling up on the couch watching TV with it and my Papillons these last few evenings while the temperature is below freezing and everyone is staying indoors.  Monday and Wednesday night agility classes have been cancelled for 2 weeks due to the . . . . . . .

"40 degree rule" - if it hits 40 degrees by 6 p.m. (including wind chill factor), classes are cancelled for the evening.  I'm so bummed out!

Misplaced holes are the easiest
errors to find.

Having not much else to do last night, then, and still amazed with myself for completing such a difficult project (actually rated "intermediate" on the pattern, but very difficult for me), I decided to try and make peace with the mistakes I knew I had made in the knitting.  My afghan isn't perfect.  I almost started feeling bad about that, but then I remembered the rule we apply to our dogs in their agility training --

80% rule" - compare right performances to wrong ones and move on at 80% accuracy.  That's not really a good benchmark to set for knitting, typing, filling prescriptions, or any such skills that require endless repetition with small items, but what the hell, figuring percentages is good mental exercise. So I got out my calculator and the pattern and figured out how many stitches there were in the afghan.  Sounds anal but it was easy and more fun for me than the whole book of circle-a-word puzzles my husband was doing in the other chair.

Turns out, there are 68,064 stitches in my afghan!  Holding it up to the light, I counted no more than 18 errors, but I'm sure I missed a few, so let's make it a generous 50.  Divide 50/68,064 = .000735%.  I don't even know how to read that number.  John says it's about 7 thousandths of one percent.  Is that right? Is it thousandths, or hundredths?

68 thousand + opportunities to get it right!
 Whatever, I made up a new rule:

"7 hundredths of one percent rule" - when you get this degree of accuracy in your knitting, it's okay to feel good about your effort, and time to move on to a more advanced project.  And the truth is, I made a lot fewer mistakes toward the end.  Practice makes perfect.

Can I get better?  Oh, yes.  I held my errors down by tearing out my rows back to any error I found, unless I found it 6 rows down (3 hours work), in which case I left it.  BUT, BUT, BUT, there are knitters who can drill one stitch down for several rows, not undoing any rows, and reweave them all back up the line.  That's what I will learn to do before I commence another knitting project.  With all the YouTube videos out there, I'm sure I can find one that teaches how to do this, same as I learned on YouTube how to knit on flexibile needles in the first place.

Scallops on top, bear claws on underside.
In summary, nobody but the pickiest evaluators will ever notice these mistakes.  My afghan is custom made, soft, functional, warm, beautiful, long enough to cover me head to toe, matches my red couch, and no amount of money could buy it for me.  I had to make it to have it.  No matter which side is up, the pattern is pretty (on one side a bear claw, on the other side a scallop shape).  Both sides are UP, which can't be said of all knitting.
The whole time making it, I was also perfecting various skills -- patience, perseverance, focus, dexterity, pattern memorization, etc.  All of these help me build confidence in myself and apply to every other endeavor, including the goals I have set for me and my dogs in 2011 and beyond.

Upwards and onward!

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