"I'm great at making them."
The students in the Fixing Mistakes in Lace Knitting class, taught my St. Louis-based Brooke Nico, were introducing themselves as attendance was being taken. The student was not talking about making lace shawls, lace shrugs, or even lace dish cloths. She was talking about making mistakes.
The Winter Garden room at the New York Marriott Marquis collectively sighed and giggled at the same time, feeling the handshake of empathy as each and every one of them felt the same way. Taking a class in fixing mistakes is similar to an obsessive-compulsive disorder support group: each student admitted she was not perfect, and every other student in the Vogue Knitting LIVE-sponsored class instantly understood and approved.
Before class officially started, Nico was sharing a story about the day of the severe winter storm at the turn of the year, and the subsequent business at her yarn shop, the Kirkwood Knittery. As customers were calling their husbands while buying yarn, and telling them they were at the grocery store, Nico had the idea of going across to the grocery store and purchasing some bread and milk. She then offered a discount on her yarn to anyone who also purchased the bread and milk to take home, illustrating why knitters everywhere are drawn to their local yarn shops over the big-box retailers.
One of Nico's goals was to make fixing mistakes less frightening, and as this is a class she has taught several times in the past, she knew exactly when her students would feel frightened. Part of her appeal, right from the start of the class, is that she was one of them. Nico introduced herself by sharing how she is a self-taught knitter who appreciates that being self-taught actually forced her to learn to look at her knitting. She shared with the class that she simply does not believe in lifelines, which are strands of yarn designed to act as a safety net in case the knitter needs to rip back and start a section over again. Much to the surprise of the room, her lack of support for lifelines is not because she disagrees with them. "The minute I put a lifeline in," she told the class, "I'm going to make a mistake. I just am."
With all insecurities aside, students were asked to make three swatches of three patterns given as homework for the class. One student, a woman named Nancy who hails from New York, was fervently finishing her homework as the class started. When it came time for her to introduce herself, she told the class, "I tried starting the homework and ripped it out five times before class." While Nancy mentioned she was a new knitter, nobody in the class questioned her frustration, as even the thirty-year veterans in the room (and there were several) had experienced the same feelings on various projects over the years.
Students were asked to drop a few stitches on their swatch and let them unravel for a couple of rows, with the intention of picking them back up again. One of the two handouts the students received was a charted version of their homework. Says Nico, "Words, they tell you what to do. But charts actually tell you what to do and where to do it." The students, hailing from New Jersey and New York in addition to New Hampshire, Washington D.C., and Texas, all followed along on their charts as they nervously pulled out their stitches on purpose.
One student, a woman named Candace who also lives in New York, said she felt the class was a bit over her head. On her first successful pickup of a dropped yarnover from two rows below the needle, however, Candace exclaimed, "I did it!" Nico was standing in front of her when it happened, turned to look at Candace's work, and celebrated with her by doing a victory dance for the class.
"After every row, I look at my work and think, 'Wow! Look how pretty! I did this!'" Nico echoed the sentiment of what made the little support group that formed in her class truly click. If you make it through a row without making a mistake, or you fix a previously made mistake, then every stitch becomes a victory.
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