Monday, 10 February 2014


Rudyard Kipling wrote in his oft quoted poem If,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same
This was to have been a post of triumph, that I had finished my Dad's Fair Isle sweater, that it fitted, that he loved it, a photo or two of the jumper, if not of him wearing it - he wants to get his hair cut first!  But... it is finished, it is photographed, it does not fit.  I have not blocked it properly (meaning that it is still a little tight all round) and the top of the arms is all wrong, big and puffy.

After four months of working more or less solidly on nothing else my first reaction was devastation.  That set back set off my tendency to catastrophize, triggering all of my worst, blackest thoughts of myself and my fear of failure and fear that I am a failure.  Inside my head has not been a pretty place this afternoon Everything felt overwhelming and hopeless and I simply could not see how I could ever sort it out or face trying to sort the jumper out.  I felt angry with the jumper and with myself, angry that I had wasted four months, that I had not been able to knit anything for me in that time (what a horrible selfish thought that one is), angry with the world.  At one point I even considered taking the scissors to the thing: not in a cutting a steek manner either.

It took most of the afternoon, good friends, some good Christian music, a nap and a particularly good edition of Just a Minute on radio 4 to help me to climb out of that particular sink-hole.  All of this came on a day that was not a particularly good day anyhow, I felt tired and headachy, the weather was vile again and life seemed dull again.  Now that I have calmed down I can see a way forward.  There is not actually that much that needs re-doing, just the two sleeve caps, which in the light of an entire jumper's worth of Fair Isle is fairly minor.  I think, upon reflection, that I am going to unpick the sleeve caps, having put life-lines into the arm stitches, knit down from the armholes in the traditional manner and then graft the sleeves back on again.  I have plenty of yarn left to do this with and hopefully it will not take too long.

And if that fails?  I'm going to dust myself off, pick myself up, take off the sleeves and knit ribbing around the armholes and he can have a tank top and lump it!

Meanwhile I will try to learn from my mistakes and try to be less afraid, sometimes this fear of failure leaves me completely frozen unable to try new things in case they go wrong.  Rational self knows that this is nonsense and that my first attempts to walk or talk or write did not always go right and needed lots of tries to get right, so why do I not see that this needs to be the case with learning new things as an adult?  Designing a Fair Isle jumper from scratch is a big undertaking, I could not expect to achieve it without making mistakes and wool is a fairly forgiving medium.  I have dealt with other things going wrong with it such as getting the v-neck in the wrong place, so why the melt-down today?  Mental health recovery seems to be a process of two steps forward, one step back, probably best to see today as a one step back and a learning experience.  One day I will be able to keep my head.


  1. It must be incredibly frustrating to think you've finally got there and have an annoying thing like that go wrong. Especially as those finishing touches are the least fun thing about knitting! But you've created an absolute work of art, honestly, I can't stop gazing in wonder at the picture. It shows immense skill. And all in the spirit of keeping some old traditions alive too. Hope you manage to sort it out quickly! Catherine xxx

  2. I'm so sorry this happened with your dad's Fair Isle sweater. I don't think there's a knitter on this planet who hasn't had that feeling of devastation when a project fails. A few years ago I knit my husband a sweater for Christmas. It was brown. He is big. As in 6'4" and well over 200 pounds. I spent the two months leading up to Christmas working on that sweater. Brown stitch after brown stitch. Boring as could be. The first time I washed it the ribbing at the bottom lost its stretchiness and the sweater hung on him like a flour sack. I still try not to think about it. :-)

  3. Oh poor, poor you! I'm so glad you were able to recover your balance and resist the temptation to slash the whole thing up. The sweater IS going to be great, once you make the changes. What's that saying, you only fail if you don't get back up again? Anyway, as you say "failure" is part of learning. Take care! xox