On the night before our Craftin' for CASA sale, I spent a couple of hours with students in the class organizing, pricing, and tagging our items. One of them showed up in quite a state. She was nearing the end of a headband, but something had gone wrong several rows back and she didn't know how to identify or fix it. "I've been crying about this for the past hour," she confessed. "Can you help?"
I could -- by doing something that my novice knitter students often regard as a source of dread. I took the needles out of the stitches and ripped back to before the mistake, then showed her where she went wrong. She resumed knitting, and in a few minutes, she was all done. Not only was it a crisis averted, but her relief revealed something larger. Going backwards, she now knew, was a way to go forward.
I spent most of the weekend working on yet another short-sleeve cardigan in beautiful Misti Alpaca Chunky, a yarn from my stash that has been tantalizing me for years. Yesterday I chugged through so much of the second half that I woke up today in an uncharacteristic state of anticipation. When I get close to the end of a sweater, I want to work on it every available second. It's like leaning toward the finish line.
And then I counted my stitches after dividing for the neckline and realized I was missing one. Much more counting ensued, along with looking back at the pattern. Gradually the problem became undeniable: I had neglected to do one set of increases back about a quarter-cardigan ago. I was not only one stitch short, I was two rows short. The left front was not going to match the right front. Two rows in a bulky weight is half an inch. I had to rip out almost all the work done yesterday and today.
After unravelling almost two 100 gram balls of yarn -- about 200 yards -- I put the knitting aside. The day's other project beckoned. I needed to start my next set of drapes, and I knew that the first step would take awhile. These were much longer pieces to cut squarely and accurately than the ones I used for the bedroom. I worked for two and half hours measuring, pressing, folding, cutting carefully and with much hesitation, then spreading one of the drapes and a lining piece out on the biggest chunk of floor space I could find to pin and trim. Two and a half hours on one curtain, and no sewing got done.
I'm not within sight of the end of either of these projects. On one I lost ground; on the other, I barely got through the preliminaries. You'd be hard pressed to call that progress. But I made great strides toward the cardigan I want, rather than the one I was zooming through yesterday heedless of my error. I have a pinned drape ready for the sewing machine next time I get a chance to sew (probably next weekend).
Projects like this don't spoil if they sit. They wait with infinite patience for you to pick them up again. Backwards or forwards, the work you do on them makes a difference. The sense of momentum is not within them, pulling you along; it's all your perception. That means that if you can change your point of view -- ripping out is a step toward the finished product, prep work is work and not just prep -- you can see progress in whatever you've done.