Saturday, July 11, 2009


As most knitters know, 'frogging' is when you rip out what you have been working on. It can happen when you discover a very obvious mistake in the work. It can be an admission of defeat. Or it can be simply because your tastes or interests have changed and you wish to do something entirely different. Whatever the reason, knitters are generally reluctant to do it. I've been known to abandon a project for a year before succumbing to the need to frog it. And, after having frogged half of a sweater the other evening, I found myself wondering not just about frogging knitting, but the role that frogging has in other areas of life.

As I sat there unraveling the knitting and winding the yarn back into a ball, I began to think about the reluctance to do it. This sweater had been sitting for months with a huge mistake staring at me from near the beginning. I've known for all those months that it would have to be frogged, but I still dragged my feet about actually doing it. Why?

One possibility might be that I had invested so much time in the knitting that I felt like I had wasted time and effort which could only be redeemed by the myth that I would eventually fix the mistake and finish the sweater. It was as if only the outcome could justify the process it took to get to that point in the sweater. This seemed a bit wobbly to my thinking. Don't get me wrong; I like a successful outcome just as much as the next one. But I also enjoy the process while it is happening. I don't tend to focus on finishing an item until I'm about three quarters done and my mind has started mapping out the next thing. The hundreds of thousands of stitches made over hours and hours are not somehow less enjoyable when an anticipated outcome doesn't come about. This applies to other areas of our lives. Careers, relationships, personal goals, anything we aimed for does not lose its authenticity or value when we release it in favor of something else. It was valuable while it was valuable and that doesn't change when the goal changes.

Similarly, there is sometimes a sense of failure. We have missed the mark of the original goal and therefore must be less than what we thought we were. This too seems wrong somehow. There are lessons to be learned in the process that could very well be valuable on the next project. We might have learned a new way to do something. We might have learned that we never want to use a particular technique again. We may even have learned the difficult lesson of walking away because it no longer suits us. There doesn't seem to be any virtue in continuing to the end of some project simply because it was started. Our society, of course, frowns on this attitude whether in the micro or the macro. But rather than failure, there is a wisdom in not continuing with things for no other reason than we started them.

Another possibility is that it simply does not suit us for some reason. Our tastes change. Our needs change. Heck, even our sizes change. If we discover half way through the sweater that something about it no longer suits us, where is the virtue in finishing it? If it is finished, the result would be a sweater that we will never wear. Wouldn't it be better to reclaim the basic materials and turn it into something else?

Obviously, society condemns frogging when it moves beyond the realm of knitting. No one wants to be labeled a quitter/failure/what-have-you. Which is probably why knitters are reluctant to frog a project. But society condemns all sorts of things for the sake of enforcing conformity. There is a need to examine that condemnation. Generalized norms do not take into account individualized needs or interests. There is no accommodation for living in the moment and responding to what appears before us. Seemingly once something is begun, it must be continued no matter what. The yarn that I recovered from the frogged sweater is happily becoming a different sweater with a different design. And other things that I have frogged from my life are being knitted into much better things as well. How much richer our lives might be if we learned to frog as needed.


Knitman said...

I frog with gay abandon. Now that i know I don 't have to hurry to do anything and I don't have to be perfect. However, if I can fix something that needs fixing, I fix it. I have frogged these lace socks I am knitting many times now! I think I have the pattern down now. As for being a quitter-well one is really the smartest when one knows when to quit and the stupidest by refusing to ever quit.

Lindsey-Brooke (lbinva) said...

Wow! What a beautiful metaphor of life! My thoughts lately have been along the lines of frogging and re-knitting my life but without a clear sense of why my current life is like abandoned knitting. I think you hit on it. Somewhere along the line, I started to knit my life in acrylic and realized I could no longer breathe, so I am unraveling the acrylic of my life and gathering wool to spin and re-knit my life with its warmth and simplicity. Hmm...think I've found my plurk for tonight,too! :-)