On Ripping Back…

I rejoin this blog at a turning point in my life. I have recently relocated to Guelph from Toronto to find a quieter life, tending to a garden, a good man and two neurotic cats. I have made new commitments to “get out there”  and “BE A LOCAL KNITTER”. And so I am doing what all artists have done before me-  I step out to explore the good life of living for one’s art and hope a livable income will follow.  It’s still feeling like a really romantic and wonderful notion only less than a week in, so let’s not ruin it by delving into this subject today…I want to talk about ripping back.  It happens to all knitters (some more often than others); That moment when you realize a detrimental mistake- misunderstanding, misjudgement, misplan, mismalipropism- has occurred and hours upon hours of work will be sacrificed to the frogging gods.  When I teach new knitters, as they struggle to get started I often hear the same comment, “Oh, you must must be such a good knitter that you never make mistakes!”  I tell them they better get used to it, because it really is a big part of the craft!  I would argue that an absolutely ESSENTIAL aspect to knitting is RIPPING BACK! The malleability of yarn is what makes it such a great medium-  most yarns can be knitted, ripped back, worn, redyed and knitted all over again.  I liken yarn to clay more than any other art medium.  It is the practical and frugal aspect of knitting that still remains even when knitting has become primarily a luxury activity.  Just think of the all the hours of knitting pleasure you get from that shawl you’ve ripped back to the start five times!

Ripping back can be EMPOWERING, giving the knitter an increased sense of mastery and control.  It is when we makes mistakes or unchangeable decisions that we learn the most.  When my knitting career was in it’s first bloom a few years ago, I was going through another turning point in my life.  I had just moved back to Toronto, had put my social work career on hold as I was struggling from some serious career burnout.  Knitting became the thing that I could be really good at ….Because all it took was trying over and over again.  Unlike in life, it is completely possible to start all over again in knitting!  And so, as I learned all these new technique and made mistakes, I built up my “knitting self esteem”.  At the time, all things outside of knitting seemed like so much effort.  I had my craft, which could be frustrating but was never insurmountable, even when the challenges of life seemed to be so.  Ripping back made me a great knitter, but it also gave me a place where I could always work to next level, unencumbered by other people and their demands.

Ripping back a project is never failure for the simple reason that it is one of the few decision in life we get make that is absolutely ours, for us and for our art.  Learn to rip back easily, accept it, embrace the opportunity for EASY change that YOU get to control, always. Let ripping back fortify us for the time in our lives that change may be unexpected or challenging.  I remember this today as major life change is on my own doorstep, yet the the clacking of my knitting needles and the occasional need to rip back remains constant.


“Be the Boss of your knitting.” Elizabeth Zimmerman

Today’s essential reading:
My new guidebook?  Robin Hunter’s “How to become a professional knitter”
How I learned to knit well: www.knittinghelp.com

Today’s Tip:

Ever had to rip back a few rows and need to take all the stitched off the needle?  Who hasn’t!  I often see knitters who will unravel their stitches to the actual row they want to begin on and then push the needle through each stitch haphazardly.  This often results in split and dropped stitches.  I suggest using a smaller gauge circular needle to pick up the stitches.  Rip back to a row BEFORE you want to restart and use the stitches on the top line to hold the stitches ready for remounting.  Then, pulling the yarn loop out of each stitch individually, remount them on the needle.  Remember to mount them with the leg forward that you are most accustomed to (right leg forward is most common for North American knitters) and if you don’t mount them correctly, to compensate by knitting through back of loop on the next row so they are not twisted.  VIDEO TO COME


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