The value of mistakes

So many times we complain about having made mistakes. They can certainly be infuriating. (Especially when we unravel a mistake only to repeat the exact same error five minutes later.)

But I’ve come to appreciate them at least a little because of how much I can learn from them.

For one thing, learning how to fix mistakes has taught me a lot about the underlying structure of knitting. Having to take something apart is useful for understanding more deeply how it’s put together.

For another, making mistakes is, I think, responsible for many of the knitting techniques that aren’t simple knit and purl. Once I realized that, I started paying more attention to my mistakes and deliberately repeating them. Sometimes I’ve then learned that knitters elsewhere were already using the same techniques deliberately.

Consider the beginning knitter. Their first rectangle gains and loses stitches by a variety of techniques. Odd things happen.

Here is a list of things I’ve done by accident—as both a beginner and a more experienced knitter—that all turn out to be actual techniques for accomplishing particular things. Many of these, though not all, are shown in the little swatch above. Note: I am certain this is not a complete list.

  • Yarn overs
  • Twisted stitches
  • Decreases
  • Slipped stitches
  • Knitting in the stitch below
  • Loop increases
  • Short rows
  • Dropped stitches
  • Elongated stitches
  • Splitting the yarn and knitting each half of the stitch (this is a genuine mistake if it’s only one strand of yarn. If using two strands, it can be used to make an invisible increase)
  • Pulling the yarn so the first stitch of the row wraps around the needle and looks like two stitches, so each half of the stitch is knit.

The next time you make a mistake, might I suggest stopping and looking at it to consider what you might learn from it? It won’t necessarily be any less frustrating, but it might not feel like such a waste of time.