Thursday, July 21, 2011


Some things simply aren't worth the effort. Fondue, for example. Sure, who doesn't like melted cheese or chocolate? But does that mean that you want to spend four hours trying to fill your stomach one tiny cube of food at a time, all the while wondering whether you'll accidentally set fire to yourself?

And, it must be acknowledged, reading James Joyce is also of dubious utility. Myself, I've been on the same page of Ulysses for the better part of a decade. To be fair, I do get some benefit from the book. Every time I feel confused by my daily existence I simply pick up Ulysses and, in the time it takes me to read a few lines, I realize at my life isn't so incomprehensible after all. At least not in comparison to Joyce's prose. Perspective is key.

Lately, I've been thinking of adding another item to this list: working with patterns containing errors. Let me explain.

Recently, I had a chance to consult with a friend who wanted to make a sweater for her husband. Now, setting aside the issue of the so-called boyfriend sweater curse and the potential application of said curse to the marital relationship, I thought this would be a fine idea. In fact, I thought it would be an excellent idea because she wanted to make the sweater from yarn spun by her mother-in-law. To get a sweater knit by one's wife from yarn spun by one's mother, I thought, would be pretty darn cool.

After some discussion of potential patterns and some estimation of the available yardage of the yarn, she picked out what appeared to be a good project: a sweater vest made in an interrupted rib.

Shortly after casting on the problems began. And they continued through the project. Some instructions seemed to make sense but led the knitter to results that differed from the results shown in the picture. Other instructions simply didn't make sense. My favorite example of the latter? Probably the part where the pattern suggested that the length from cast-on to the left and right shoulders, respectively, should be different by several inches.

[Note: it is possible that the pattern was intended for a Frankensteinian lab assistant, in which case this measurement would be accurate. Please, Igor, put down the pen and do not mail that hate letter.]

After a decent amount of struggle, the project was finished. Well, not quite. Because one error in the pattern had gone unnoticed until the sweater was about half-completed. The interrupted rib pattern was, at least for a small portion of the sweater with increases, more appropriately described as highly interrupted. And we did not have the intestinal fortitude to rip it out (which would have essentially required starting over) and fix the problem.

So is it finished? I don't know. Perfectionism too isn't always worth the effort. And while the knitter might ultimately decide it should be unraveled and begun again, the gift was given - and was received with great appreciation. Who knows, perhaps the flaw, like the rustic hand-spun from which it is made, will ultimately endear itself to the wearer. Not too perfect. Not too polished. But warm, made with care and given with love. And, just possibly, that is enough.


1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way about fondue, and have never, ever made it through a single book by Jane Austen.

    I'm sure the sweater was still loved by the person who received it in the end, but patterns with errors really get my hackles up, especially if I paid for them. I would bet, though, that the designer wouldn't mind a bit of constructive feedback!