Tangled Lessons


I've always done things the hard way. I was born like a piece of tangled yarn. The job is trying to untangle it, and I'll probably go on doing it for the rest of my life.
       The sentiment expressed by Karen Allen (probably best known for her role as a spirited sidekick to the hero in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) applies to me.    As a result of hard-headedness, grandiose aspirations, impulse-driven endeavors, and general ignorance and impatience, I can look back remorsefully on so many mistakes in my life . . . and in my knitting.  Of course, so much of life is maintaining a healthy perspective, and, as I get older, I try to view blunders with less regret and, instead, examine them for the lessons they have imparted. 

        I recently finished a lovely Trefoil Cardigan, a task that provided numerous unwelcome reminders of my shortcomings as a knitter and person.  When I steeked the center opening of the cardigan,  I found that the loose ends of the contrast yarns threatened to unravel.  (I don't have pictures of the escaping strands, as, at the time, I was too worried and preoccupied to pick up my camera.)  Lesson 1:  Superwash Wool is not “sticky” (its scales have been removed).  "Scaly" Shetland yarn is a Fair Isle and steeking staple for a reason.  Lesson 2: Read up on a skill before tackling it.  I ignored the instructions and didn't do research before choosing to use crochet to secure the steek.  I later had to resort to the sewing machine to tame unruly strands.  

This is the center with the crocheted reinforcement.    

Using scissors on one's knitwear can be intimidating.  

Troubles with the center opening encouraged
 me to secure the pocket steeks with a 
sewing maching before cutting.

     This sweater also taught me a lesson that is reinforced and forgotten each school year.  By April, a teacher's thinking is fuzzy, as each day she plods along, while the students become less motivated, are plagued with heightened emotion about impending final grades, and display increasing unruliness with each hour that brings them closer to summer break.  It is not the time of year to tackle challenging knitting projects.  

Notice how the top two buttons are too close together.  

 I decided to tear out the button band, remove the buttons, and fix my error.

I used fresh yarn to replace this curly frogged stuff.

      In the wee hours of the morning, I tore out and measured and marked and measured and marked.  I then carefully reknit the button band and reattached all 11 buttons.  But, when I was done, I realized that I had blindly ignored the big picture (see below). Ugh!  I have a retired teacher friend who, while sewing costumes for a springtime student play years ago, improperly attached a mermaid tail--inside out--to a costume body three times!  Her error makes perfect sense to me. 

Look at the misaligned yoke!

      With visions of cool winter days, where I proudly accept compliments on my homemade sweater, I once again tackled removing and reattaching the buttons.  Thankfully, the buttonholes were evenly spaced and didn't need reworking.

The final product may not be perfect, but I have also learned that perfectionism can be a curse!

      To celebrate finishing this item, several days ago I cast on a lovely lace shawl, a pattern I'd found in a past issue of Vogue Knitting.  I had purchased a skein of some divine cashmere, alpaca, and silk lace weight yarn at Loop in London back in 2013, and thought I'd better use this up.  (I don't want to  feel guilty buying more yarn on an upcoming trip to England this summer.)

       Of course, I dove right in and didn't realize that this pattern has bobbles, hundreds of bobbles!  While not a tragedy, working bobbles with lace-weight yarn requires slowing down and actually focusing--not an easy task with the end of the school year less than a month away (and 77 essays left to grade!).

This is the work-in-progress with its many tiny bobbles.

     This shawl is wonderfully soft and the intricate bobbled pattern is worthy of the fine yarn.  I worked another project with bobbles that taught me a lesson the hard way.  This dress was my first attempt at making a sweater. Knitting this garment was a process fraught with hurled expletives. But now I am the proud owner of a finely wrought garment crafted in rough, inexpensive, and rather dull-colored green yarn purchased at a big-box store.  Lesson:  Craftsmanship deserves quality.    

      Alas, I must remember that my knitting successes have been more frequent than my failures.  Such an attitude is conducive to maintaining a positive outlook regarding knitting and life. 

This is my classroom at the school where I started working last August, after 22 years of teaching in a different county--really a different country!  I have learned lots of lessons here!


  1. What a triumph of patience, skill and persistence, Liz! it's worth every moment of difficulty when you get a final result that's so gorgeous! And you'll enjoy wearing it all the more because of all the hard work and trouble you know went into making it, perhaps more than if you'd found it plain sailing all the way! Glad you're clearing the stash decks for summer replenishing! Hope all goes well with the end of your academic year. E xx

  2. Well I think it looks absolutely wonderful, despite the many mistakes along the way. And as someone said, it's not about the destination but about the journey - look at how many valuable lessons you have learned. I was interested to see your classroom - it's so tidy and clean compared to schools I've taught in. Also the way that the students sit individually at those desks with the handy storage racks underneath looks completely different to UK schools - we tend to have tables or rows. Roll on the summer holidays! Judy.

  3. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.


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