When I was but a lambkin of a knitter, treading timidly across the time-honored beginner's obstacle course of scarf-then-hat-then-mittens, I had exactly one way of dealing with mistakes: I hoped very much not to make any. We all know how well that works.

I was teaching myself from books. They were not good books. They were flimsy, ugly things, sprinkled with advice as useful and reliable as a kindergartener's schoolyard lecture on How Babies Are Made. Yet they did, in the end, lead me forward from knitting to purling to shaping to binding off.