“You must be very patient…”

For some reason, people who don’t knit will often say something along these lines: “Wow, you knit, huh? You must be very patient” or “I don’t have the patience to do that.” This may be code for boy, that looks boring, but let’s take it as an honest statement.

The fact is; most knitters I know are no more patient than non-knitters I know. I certainly am not patient. If knitting required patience, I wouldn’t do it. If knitting gets boring, I stop and read a book or clean the bathroom. Evidence exists (in the form of the growing stack of books next to my bed) to show that I don’t often quit my knitting to read. Let’s not talk about the state of the bathroom.

But as I was carefully taking out about 8 hours of lace knitting a couple of weekends ago, and trying not to weep over missed yarn-overs, it dawned on me that there’s one type of ‘patience’ that knitters do need.

You need the willingness to be patient with yourself. When I was first learning to knit, it did not come easily. I had a couple of false starts, and I couldn’t even do garter stitch very well for at least the first two months. I had to learn then to forgive myself for making the same mistakes repeatedly. But once you have the basics down, it’s easy to get a bit smug about your knitting.

Then you try something new. The self-congratulatory smugness evaporates. Basic cable knitting isn’t technically difficult, but there are many things that can go wrong. The first time you make a thumb gusset, do two-handed stranded colorwork, or try to figure out how to cast on across a gap when making glove fingers, it can feel as if you’ve started fresh.

Lace knitting, for me, is as hard to do as learning to knit my first garter-stitch scarf. Since I need to block out uninterrupted time to work on my lace projects, it can be weeks or months between sessions. Skills like reading complex charts, or leaving a little extra slack in certain stitches (allowing those K3Togs room to happen later), or just being able to read your own knitting can leak away in the meanwhile.

But getting mad at myself doesn’t help. Having some patience with my own need to relearn techniques I’ve already forgotten three times, forgiving myself for making mistakes I’ve made a dozen times before…

Yeah, patience can be a virtue.