On Knitting, and Doing Things Before You’re Good At Them

Julia:

I first learned to knit when I was around 8 years old. Mom signed me up for a knitting class with other homeschoolers and I learned the basics: knit, purl, cast-on, etc. At one point I made a mistake when we were knitting a doll. We were supposed to knit a stripe across the middle of her sweater, but I didn’t notice that I had passed the point where I was supposed to change my yarn color. The teacher scolded me and told me that because I hadn’t been paying attention, now I couldn’t fix it and my doll wasn’t going to have the stripe like everyone else’s doll.

I hated knitting for a little while after that. I felt like a failure. I felt like I shouldn’t knit at all, because clearly I was the worst one and there was no point trying.

I’m pretty pissed now, because as an adult who enjoys knitting — you can just un-knit the last row! It’s tedious and you might drop a stitch, but it’s not a big deal. At all. But as a kid it felt like such a big deal, and I didn’t want to knit anymore because I thought I wasn’t good at it. Also, I don’t know, does it even matter if my doll doesn’t have a stripe on her sweater? I don’t think that matters at all. I think that it would be good if I had been paying closer attention to what I was doing, but it definitely wasn’t worth crushing an 8-year-old girl’s self-esteem over.

I want to get rid of that mentality entirely. So what if you’re not good at something! You can still do it and enjoy it, and one day you will be good at it (but it’s okay even if you’re not). I’m still not that good at knitting, but I can still knit lots of things. I can make so many scarves. I can’t knit a fancy fisherman’s sweater with perfect cable knit swirls, but I can knit a scarf and a hat for my husband so he doesn’t get cold. I can knit a blanket. I can knit legwarmers for myself. I can literally make whatever I want, and I can learn how to make things that I don’t yet know how to make. That’s the beauty of learning a creative skill.

And that stupid teacher should be ashamed of herself, because she took something that should have been free-spirited and fun and beautifully creative, and she made it into me being terrible because I was 8 years old and didn’t follow instructions.

Anyway, my point is that if you’re not immediately good at something, that shouldn’t be an impetus to quit. It can still be fun if you’re bad at it, and the only way to get good is to keep trying. I know that sounds like the most basic thing, but for some of us (the neurotic, over-achieving, unsure-what-to-do-when-nobody-is-telling-us-what-to-do type) it’s a lesson we need to learn and revisit often. I am proud to report that I have been knitting my husband a scarf and I’m on my fourth iteration because double sided stockinette with worsted weight yarn is hard. But he’s going to have a warm soft scarf at some point, and I’m going to be very happy that I kept trying.