Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Lady's Failures

Have I ever told you the story about the first sweater I knit? I was about twenty-years-old, and though I had learned to knit many years earlier, I hadn't touched a set of needles with any degree of commitment since my childhood.

Well, it just so happened one evening while babysitting that I had some time to myself after the kids went to bed. I turned on the tube and picked up a copy of Redbook that their mom subscribed to.

In this copy of Redbook was a feature on Julia Roberts, who--incidentally--is an avid knitter. During the interview the celebrity talked about her hobby and how much she enjoyed it. Naturally coming from a famous movie star, the whole process sounded quite glamorous. And fortunately for me and other readers, Redbook included a pattern for a "Julia" pullover sweater that we could all try.
And that was enough for me to dust off my knitting needles, buy some cheap yarn, and attempt to understand the cryptic pattern jargon for the sweater.

I'm sure I did many, many things wrong. After all, other than the two basic stitches, I had no idea what I was doing. Nevertheless, after a few weeks of plugging away, I had the pieces of my Julia sweater.

Flush with excitement at the possibility of actually making a successfully knitted garment, I stitched the pieces together and then stood back to admire my work. Some of the stitches were a wee bit sloppy, but I was pleased that it generally looked like a sweater should. And so I prepared to put it on.

This is when I discovered the problem. It would not fit over my head. Not even close. I tried to stretch the yarn. I tried to tug and pull. My efforts were in vain. The sweater did not fit.

Concerned, I snatched up the pattern to see where I could have gone wrong. Did I misread a section? Did I follow the steps incorrectly?

Was it possible that my head was just freakishly large compared to the Southern celebrity?

The answer, I discovered after some research, was No on all counts. Turns out that the pattern had an error in it. Apparently even Julia Robert's head wasn't that small--and mine, in turn, was not grotesquely large.
Now here's why I'm telling you this story. Because Julia's sweater was my first knitting failure, but certainly not my last. For years I would find inspiration from a pattern, pick up some needles and yarn, and happily produce an entire sweater stitch-by-stitch only to discover that the finished garment would never fit a normally-shaped person.

Just yesterday, in fact, I started a new project. A cropped v-neck sweater that seems like a perfect fit for spring. And the yarn for this sweater? Well...I've been pulling it ever so gently, line by line, from a cardigan I made last summer that was a total failure.

The point I'm trying to make is that failure is part of being a lady. Now, obviously I've experienced some success--as evidenced by the photos above--but these finished sweaters don't tell the full story. Because what you don't see are the scrapped projects, the ill-fitting disasters. The failures.

I'm so glad that I didn't stop at Julia's sweater (I do still have it--by the way--as a keepsake of my first attempt). And when I knit, I am often reminded about what a failure I am...and how to keep going ahead anyway. One stitch at a time. Until I succeed.

As an aside--which of the above projects is your favorite? Although I love all of them, I think I wear the pink cardigan most often. What do you think? Post your thoughts--on failure or on your favorite--below!


  1. This is a little off topic, but there is a really interesting conversation about sewing happening right now over on Collette Patterns.

    Check it out at:

  2. I like them all, but I covet the pink, the lavender or the dress the most. Doesn't really give a definitive answer, does it?

  3. No, but that's alright! Thank you for your comment:)

  4. I LOVE the short sleeved pink or cream pictured last.

  5. You always have been partial to that pattern:) It was the First sweater I made that did actually work!

  6. oh my goodness! I love them ALL! And I am sooo envious. I even took a knitting class - I've wanted to learn so badly. I just canNOT keep track of my stitches... and I am so *easily* distracted. I'm a knitting failure. I've accepted it... but I still admire those who have the skills to churn out beauties like the ones you've crafted above. (I keep thinking I will try it again after the kids are grown and there aren't so many interruptions.)

  7. Well...knitting isn't the hobby for everyone... I've always liked repetitive tasks, and find knitting very calming. Other hobbies...however...not so much.

    Like scrapbooking, for instance.
    Or card making.
    Or going to the gym...

  8. Wow these are all so cool! My favorite would have to be the very ruffled wool dress but they are all AWESOME! The only sweater I have knitted for myself turned out really, really bad and I could only wear it while I was pregnant. Great job Steph!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin