Pick up a dropped stitch.
These were the four steps of knitting my kind and patient roommate Ashley taught me.
I took up knitting as a distraction in the spring of 2013. I was anxious, stressed, and funemployed. I had just quit my first start-up after two and a half years. Being the type of person who always has a side project, I found my new-found funemployement to be anxiety provoking. My friend Caroline encouraged me to knit. I laughed. Me knit?! I had the craft IQ of a goldfish. But there are only so many times you can read The Economist and New Yorker from front to back. I was desperate for a side project.
Armed with a ball of grey wool yarn and bamboo knitting needles, I attacked my new project with gusto. Little did I know what was in store for me.
Like Democrats or Republicans in the United States knitting is bipartisan: either you fall into the English Method or the German/Continental Method. Ashley taught me the English Method, working with my right hand and keeping the left hand steady.
Slip knot, long tail cast on, under, over, through…easy, right?
WRONG. I FUCKED UP. Multiple times.
My first stitches were so tight that my needle could not move.
Concerned by how tightly I knit my yarn Ashley told me to give myself more leeway. She advised me to wrap more yarn around my right hand after each stitch for more space. My yarn had to breathe after all.
I joked that my tight stitches were the gateway into my anxious subconscious.
And maybe it was.
I was stitching my anxiety away.
My mind was so wrapped up in the recent turn of events, dubbing myself as a failure, and not having the next job lined up that I unwittingly transferred all my anxiety onto tightly wound stitches.
“Relax,” my friend Caroline said as she undid my last row of stitches.
Knitting helped me realize that my obstinate mind clung to the idea of binary success and failure. I thought each stitch was permanent. If I dropped a stitch then I was fucked. The perfectionist in me was freaking out. My rationale: everything only had one chance, one shot at a job, one shot at a relationship, one shot at a first impression. Living a life full of one shots was exhausting.
In knitting mistakes are forgivable. Drop stitches happen. Mistakes happen.
Ashley showed me with a crochet needle that you can indeed pick up a dropped stitch. She inserted the crochet hook front to back into the loop of the dropped stitch and pulled it to the front. “There, you see, it’s fine,” as she handed back my gnarly looking wool patch with a smile.
What matters is that we continue knitting regardless of our past mistakes.
My stitches start out bulky and ugly; sometimes I have to undue an entire row. Sometimes I get so frustrated that I want to quit. Overtime I find my flow and the stitching evens out. I mark my progress with each new row of stitches going from ugly to fugly to even to one day, beautiful.
What I learned in knitting transfers beyond sweaters, scarves, and mittens. We are knitting everyday with the tenuous fibers of life.
With each mistake, knitting taught me patience and forgiveness.
We all fuck up, drop a stitch, wind our yarn too tightly in life sometimes. We get so focused on the perfect next stitch, setting our sights on that beautiful infinity scarf from Pinterest that we forget to give ourselves some space after each stitch, each day. Knitting is forgiving; you can be forgiving to yourself too. It’s never too late to go back and fix your mistakes.
So now I am that girl who knits on the shuttle. And I am okay with that.
Bo Ren is a former internet kid, writer and product manager @ Facebook — live the examined life. Follow her at @bosefina