Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Practice Makes Imperfect

"Can you knit three versions of a scarf?" the drama teacher asked a few weeks ago. "We need it for the play.  Can you make one that looks just started, another that is about halfway through, and another that is almost done?"

"Sure," I told him without hesitation.  Since I work at the school, too, I wondered if I could knit it and count it as work.  What do you think?  Maybe a row here or there?

"Can you make it look like a child is knitting it, you know, full of mistakes?" he went on to ask.

"Ummm," I replied.  I didn't see why not.  What permission, what freedom, what encouragement to knit without a care in the world!  The play is The Diary of Anne Frank; for Hanukkah, Anne gives her father a scarf she has knitted out of bits of yarn.  "Crudely knit, narrow in the center, huge on the ends," read the stage directions.  She knitted it in the dark, late at night, after writing in her diary.

I picked out big needles (size 15) and chunky yarn (Lion Brand Wool-Ease) that promises on the label, "Thick and Quick".  No problem.  I can knit these up in no time.

Except that it turns out I don't now how to make mistakes.  Well, not on purpose, anyway.  I tried a yarn over, but the hole it made wasn't very big.  I tried a triple yarn over, and knit a few rows before undoing it (slipping the yarned-over stitches each time), but that hole wasn't much bigger.  Ummm...

I could drop a stitch somewhere, but I'm worried about how far it will go, and whether a dropped stitch in one version can be exactly duplicated in the second and third version.  I can definitely make a narrow middle and huge ends, but I'm not sure it looks crudely knit.

I don't know if it's good thing or a bad thing to not be able to make convincing mistakes.  Perfection is appealing to me, but has generally proven unattainable.  I make mistakes every day - today I was late for a meeting, said the wrong thing at the wrong time in chapel, and ate more celebratory ice cream (someone got all A's on his report card!) than I meant to.  And while I may feel bad that I kept someone waiting, or embarrassed that I mislead four hundred people in prayer, or guilty that I ate so much dessert, the world has not ended.  In fact, it may be an easier place to live.  The meeting went well.  The students got to laugh with me when I discovered my mistake.  The ice cream was yummy and I'm proud of my son for his own hard work.

Maybe I'll go drop that stitch after all...knit a little loosely...make a nice big mistake!



Cathy said...

Three cheers for an imperfect but redeemable world!!!

mississippi artist said...

You should have asked me to do this. I would have made mistakes left and right, and certainly would not have to ponder and think about how to do it!