The t-shirt

Image Details: The T-shirt, by pladys, via Flickr

CAVEAT: Not my T-Shirt/assets!

Ok, so it doesn’t quite have the same ring as Alcoholics Anonymous, but I think there are other people out there (yes, you, I’m talking to you, don’t look at the floor feeling a bit uncomfortable, you know who you are) who are tormented by this most terrible affliction: Knitting Perfectionism. I have had my own battles with this crippling condition recently and, rather pleasingly, I made a breakthrough with it last night – more on that later.

‘Perfectionism’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as ‘refusal to accept any standard short of perfection’, with ‘perfection’ being ‘the state or quality of being perfect’ or ‘the action of improving something until it is faultless’. Now, depending on your particular outlook, perfectionism can be a good thing, a bad thing, or indeed both at the same time. Trying your best to be that little bit better at something helps you to improve, and having a set standard or goal can be a great motivational tool. Conversely, striving for perfection can, at times, be frustrating, irritating and a barrier to achieving your goal if things don’t go to plan. It might even dissuade you from even trying something in the first place.

I consider myself to be a recovering knitting perfectionist. Abraham Lincoln said ‘whatever you are, be a good one’ and I take this on board. I like things to be done properly. So if I’m knitting, it has to be done properly. There is to be no half-arsedness in the knitting Chez Shinybees. If I know there is a mistake or a baggy stitch in a project, it haunts me. I can’t concentrate. The mistake gets bigger. Lack of concentration on the task in hand leads to more mistakes. The monster grows. I simply have to go back and fix it, even if it means ripping back 60 rows, or even ripping to the beginning. I suspect it may be a form of knitting OCD. On the other hand, I am usually quite proud of my finished objects.

So is knitting perfectionism a good or a bad thing? I’ve gathered a few thoughts here, feel free to add more in the comments if you are suitably inspired.

  • Knitting perfectionism makes me really determined to do whichever project I am doing absolutely right. And it usually is as near as it can be, even if I have to watch YouTube videos and re-knit something a million times. This also means that projects can take a long time. Increased accuracy = slower output = ever growing stash and queue list.
  • I like handmade because of the little errors or flaws which makes each piece unique. If it were all perfect and the same, life would be boring. Therefore, should I just forget the small errors and crack on with the next project? Or is there a level below which the standard is unacceptable?
  • Trying to make a project ‘just so’ leads to lazy knitting i.e. knitting things that are easy to get right, but are ultimately a bit boring. There are only so many almost-all-stocking stitch garments one can create without thinking ‘sod it’ and cracking out the sewing machine/gin/biscuit tin instead.
  • Oh but isn’t it nice petting something you have made (and others have commented on positively) and thinking ‘yes, I’m totally happy with that, it is pretty good actually’.
  • If you don’t jolly well get a shift on and finish that pattern, Christmas will have been and gone/Katie still won’t have her mittens that you’ve knitted but haven’t sewn up because you had a mare with said sewing up and didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good garment with bad finishing and it was her birthday in June and hiding them in a drawer in another hemisphere won’t make the problem go away/the baby will have started school, never mind grown out of the booties/the yarn will have actually fossilised (delete as applicable). Sensing any finished object guilt here?
  • Spot the deliberate glaring error. If I make it smaller than the other pictures, will you still be able to see it? Er - YES!

    So, I said I had made progress with my debilitating condition. Well I have. With not one, but two projects.

    The first is a bolero I did for the Babybee. The one with That Bloody Collar. There are 2 random holes in the back under said collar. I’ve no idea how I managed to get them in there, but at least they are symmetrical. I was busy worrying myself about the cosmic unbalance that is probably going on in a parallel universe due to said holes, which you can’t even see, as they are under the collar, when I noticed there was, in fact, an actual Glaring Error with said Bloody Collar. I stared in disbelief, mouth opening and closing like a little goldfish but no sound coming out. Abject. Horror. And then I thought, ‘Do you know what? I was enjoying that project till I did That Bloody Collar, and now I doubt I will ever knit it again, so I’ll be buggered if I am redoing it now. I just cast off all 200-odd stitches. So nerr!’ and promptly sewed on the button. I’ve included a picture of it. I do like this button.

    Button porn.

    The other is a project I started just last night, which is a Christmas present for my Mum. It is the Fishermen’s Friend scarf, and I promised her I would knit her a scarf for Christmas. Which means it has to be done by Christmas. Not next summer. Christmas. THIS YEAR. I’d only done about seven rows when I realised I’d done one of the cables the wrong way round because I was watching Man vs Food on TV. Schoolgirl. I know, I know, if I am going to cock up my knitting for a TV programme, it could at least be a reasonable one, but there you go. And I thought ‘You know what, I don’t care. These cables are a bit fiddly and it’s warm and my Mum will still love it even if there is a partially decapitated fish on her scarf.’ So I have left it. Is it polluting my aura? Sure is, but I want her to have that scarf at Christmas, I already have 5 wips on the go and I desperately need a tea cosy for my tea pot as this will prove I am Properly English when people come round.

    Mangled fish, third from left!

    So I have adopted a new knitting mantra. Sometimes good enough is good enough. I think Mr Lincoln should have said ‘Whatever you are, be a good enough one’. Either that, or he should have opened a branch of Knitting Perfectionists Anonymous. I’d like some thoughts as to how we might fashion ourselves a 12 step programme, because I know I’m not the only one out there….