Do you ever have those times when you finish a major project, step back, take a look, and see a bunch of mistakes?




Because I sure do. All the time. I see the unevenly planted flowers in my yard, the misfolded shirt in the otherwise perfect stack of laundry, the twisted stitch in the sweater that took me 40 hours to knit. I see all of it, and until recently, I judged myself for it. Harshly.

Living with perfectionism like that can be debilitating. Usually, I end up procrastinating on something that I’m afraid to do badly, with the end result that I don’t leave enough time to do it well and virtually guarantee that I will, in fact, do a subpar job. There have even been times when I’m so afraid to do something imperfectly that I just don’t do it at all.

Lately, when I feel the perfectionism start to rear its head again, I stop and ask myself a question: who are you trying to be perfect for?

It turns out that nobody who really matters to me cares if I do things perfectly. My husband and my kid sure don’t. My parents don’t. My friends don’t. The only one who notices most of my little mistakes is (you guessed it) me.

That’s where the knitting comes in. Over the last decade, I’ve made more mistakes while knitting than I can possibly count. My first scarf still makes me chuckle when I look at it — 15 stitches at one end, 22 at the other (a huge difference when using size 19 needles!), with random tufts of yarn sticking out in odd places and gauge issues in multiple spots. It’s a bit of a mess.  

Since that first scarf, I’ve dropped stitches, messed up row counts, bungled pattern repeats, and gotten things so badly tangled that the only solution was to frog it and start over. In the end, none of it mattered. I didn’t lose anything, really — not even time, because time spent knitting is never wasted. I gained knowledge and skill. The mistakes were usually fixable.

Most of the items I made mistakes on were destined to be gifts. I gave them to their new owners with a bit of apprehension, knowing how many mistakes were in them. Guess what? Nobody ever noticed, and if they did, they sure didn’t say anything. They were just happy to have something pretty and useful that was made for them with love.

So here’s to learning to live with — and love — our imperfect selves and the imperfect things we make. Making mistakes is a normal part of living and learning, and nobody really expects perfection out of us. We shouldn’t expect it of ourselves, either.

And the best thing about yarn? It never tells your secrets.

If you’ve got tips and tricks for combating perfectionism or a story about how knitting helped you learn to embrace mistakes, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or drop me an email at abeeinthebonnet at gmail dot com.

2 Replies to “Fighting Perfectionism”

  1. Oh, I wish I could say knitting/sewing/crocheting/etc. has helped me with perfectionism. Since I have a shop selling those things my inner harsh critic gets full reign. 😕 However, I must say that the relaxation and enjoyment in the process of making things outweighs the pain of perfectionism. (I fully concur with procrastination being the child of perfectionism. I have to consciously struggle against it.)

    1. Whenever I encounter parents who think their kid is lazy, the first thing I always ask is whether they might not actually have a perfectionist on their hands. I know it was at the root of a lot of my time-management problems as a youngster, and it’s still such an issue even now. Glad to have a companion on the journey!

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