But knitting isn’t always about going forward. It’s often, especially if you are me, about going backwards. It’s about undoing as much as doing. Yet the books were entirely mum about what do if your mitten went awry, or if you simply didn’t like the way part of it was turning out. What did you do then? Grit your teeth and soldier on? Throw it away and take up petit point or archery?

My very first scarf was nine feet of garter stitch, and because I didn’t know how to go backwards it varied along its length from about twenty stitches wide to upwards of thirty-four stitches and back down to twenty. Or eighteen. It had accidental yarn overs, unintended passages of stockinette, and a couple of spots where the shedding of bitter tears resulted in felting. It was an unsightly hash; but when it went wrong I had no way of undoing it.

By the time I attempted a hat, I had learned from trial and error how to un-knit, one stitch at a time. It was agonizingly slow, and every stab of the left needle felt like a bully’s poke in the chest. At length, it worked. So for years—almost a decade—that was the way I erased mistakes:

Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit. Un-knit.

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