There’s a wool shop keeper-as-midwife analogy that feels apt when I think about my role in delivering new knitters to the world through the shop. Almost as thrilling as the delivery, is the the knitter’s return to the shop with their completed knitting when they’re ready to show me how things worked out.
We hold the fabric together and I smile proudly inside and out at the journey taken by the knitter from her nervousness with the needles all those months ago, to this real, wearable, beautiful scarf/sweater/sock. There’s so much to talk about: the pattern that she mastered, her impression of the wool she worked with, how it fits, how excited she is about giving it away and of course what to knit next. It’s a conversation that I love. But in a classic knitterly way, what she really wants to start with is all the mistakes she’s made. It’s this stubbornly salty bit we have to get through before getting back to the sweet stuff.
I explain how to avoid the mistakes in the future but what I really feel like saying is, ‘Never mind about that. You made a thing!’
I don’t ask to see the flaws, and absolutely don’t care about them. I made my peace with being a non-perfectionist knitter decades ago. So how do I tell my new knitters that their precious cargo is all the more beautiful in my eyes for not being perfect? I decided to consult with 2 knitters that I have very good reason to trust on the topic:
Helen Reed (AKA The Wool Kitchen) explains that she calls mistakes in her finished garments, ‘knitting scars’. They are the trace of something healed that no longer hurts, but which unlike a machine-made thing, has a past. Do they matter? Renee Callahan (AKA East London Knit) tells us that if a rider atop a prancing pony couldn’t notice them, then neither should we pay them any heed. They tell a story that only the knitter can read – In my case, of that night when I should have put the knitting down and gone to bed, of the rainy holiday in the Mumbles when I hadn’t worked out about yarn dominance, of coming back to the shawl left in the middle of a row when I had to jump off the tube at Highbury because of a fire down the line..
Now I’m starting to realise that our salty ritual sharing of knitting flaws, much like the flaws themselves, is something which is part of the fabric here, and I just need to let it happen, and enjoy the sweet bit when we get there.