Monday, May 28, 2012

right-minded ripping

I am working through a draft of my next (and last) book. It's a book about pattern drafting--about taking something from your closet or your dreams, and executing it. And as I use that word "execute," I am reminded that to execute is to both create and to destroy.

How fortuitous that that particular word came to mind. Because to create we may have to destroy.  The previous post quoted the principle at PIXAR which said to be wrong as fast as you can. That means
          1) make something
          2) *then destroy it
          3) to make something better:
          repeat from *.

Ripping is essential to knitting. And in the next book I acknowledge this necessity. I do this as kindly as I can, and with as much encouragement as I can, knowing our reluctance to pull out hours of work.

So I read that part of the book to a friend--who does a lot of carpentry--to make sure it had the right tone. And we had an ensuing conversation about what he called "right-mindedness" during a "tear out." Here are some of our conclusions.
  • If you are certain you know what the problem is, don't let the sun set before ripping. (Otherwise, you'll pack the piece away and "get to it sometime . . . .")
  • If you are not absolutely certain you know what the problem is, sit with it for a while . . . sleep on it . . . play with it . . . to see if you can't fix the problem in some creative way that does not involve a complete tear out. Do not pack it away and start on something new until you have done this. The result might be the piece telling you what it needs. (And no, I do not hear other voices. Knitting is my only inanimate object that speaks aloud.)
  • Rip in public--with dignity, with decorum, with sedate pride. It's a valuable lesson for others to see a knitter (who knows the lesson of patience better than most) pull out hours of work to get something right.
  • Rip in private, and curse if needed. (A young person raised in my household went off to university and called after the first month to say he'd been in a common room where someone behind him was swearing like crazy, so he turned around to see who was knitting.)
  • As you rip, remind yourself that the first thing you were going to do after this project was find more knitting: you just found it!


  1. This is exactly what I needed to hear today! You have put it so well, thank you. I always remind myself that it's better to rip out than to have a finished, unused thing that you look at and see only the things you wish you had changed.

  2. How lovely for you to write! And how wonderful when the right message appears at the right time! But isn't this how the universe works best!

    If you only knew how much I rip parts of EVERYTHING before you see what you see in print or on my body! It's not unusual for a new piece to be knit twice before it's done properly.

    That might be one of the reasons I immediately knit something a second time--for the satisfaction of getting it right, without ripping, the first time!

  3. Your last book?! Surely not. :(

    Beautifully put. I'm glad not to be the only one having hours of ripping good fun!

  4. Sally, I love the way you write. But I don't love the news that this is the last book...sigh.

    And I'm happy to see that someone else's knitting speaks to them. I find if I don't listen, things don't work out well. So glad to see you blogging again! Love it!


  5. Thanks for expressing this so well. The first time my husband saw me rip out half a sock he felt so bad for me; it took a while to convince him I was really all right with it because I learned exactly what had gone wrong and would re-knit the sock more confidently.

  6. By last book, maybe I mean "paper" book? I'm happy to step into the digital world!

    Yes, listen and learn. When we don't do the former, we don't do the latter. And we probably live with regret.

  7. Someone in my life called it "knitting backwards." Still knitting!

    But, oh, to rip out a sock is painful--only because it's more difficult to recover. Goodonya for doing so!

  8. So true, if you knit, you will be ripping out as well. I just always tell my students to smile and repeat "knitting is fun, knitting is fun" as they are ripping out and remind them that now they have the fun of knitting it again! :) Looking forward to the new book.

  9. It is so interesting to me that there are many different 'problems' that lead us to the decision to rip.
    It could be something as simple as not reading the pattern correctly, or as complex as unknown errata.

    I have to agree, it does boost my confidence when I re-knit correctly.

    Love your blog and I am looking forward to your next book release.

  10. Having read this, I will rethink my decision to abandon a mohair scarf. It's gorgeous mohair from South Africa, so fuzzy! Maybe, with great care, I can rescue the fibre and try to make something else with it.

    I've learned so much from reading your books and blog. Thanks, Sally!