On Tinking

When teaching someone to knit we often extoll the virtues of frogging (ripping out) a project that doesn’t please us or has errors. “It’s just yarn” I’ve read and heard people say and even myself proclaimed. We’ll laugh it off and say, “Rip it out and start over”, “Frog it”, or my personal favorite “Toss it in the frog pond.”

While frogging is an easy solution it doesn’t teach us as much as say — tinking. For my non-knitting friends, tink is knit spelled backwards and means to unknit something stitch by stitch – usually until the error is found.

I found myself contemplating a bit of tinking this morning.

Some of you may remember a triangular shawl I’d been designing called Sangiovese. Started in silk (designing in silk is just a bit on the crazy-making side of things) and switched to merino, I finally put the project in hibernation. The pattern wasn’t flowing as smooth as the wine for which it was named. During the time I was initially working on the project I jotted down some notes late one night when it occurred to me that it’d also be good as a rectangular stole.

While knitting the exquisitely designed Cloisters Wrap I remembered those notes on my languishing Sangiovese. This week I pulled out those notes and chose a fresh new yarn (2 skeins of llama/bamboo lace weight in a deep plum). The problem I was having with the triangular version was easily addressed using the rectangular style. Moving from one chart to the next calls for a nifty maneuvering trick that was as satisfying and fun as turning the heel on a hand-knit sock.

Last night two repeats into the second chart I was not thrilled with how the two charts bumped up against each other. The maneuver was sweet and each chart looked good but they needed a little different transition. An insert.

This morning I woke with the insert solution clear in my mind. Starting the morning with tinking isn’t how I like to start a day – even after having consumed a big Sunday farm breakfast. But there was no way to move ahead without going backwards. It was slow and methodical to tink back numerous rows until I found the last row of the first chart where I intended to insert a transition element.

Sure I could have frogged the entire project but deliberately unknitting row after row allowed me to see just how the stitches were oriented, whether they leaned to the right or left, and how they lined up or stacked on top of each other. I may be a knitting geek because I just love seeing this. When you tink instead of frog you learn about the anatomy of knitting, and the anatomy of the stitches. If you’re looking for errors and have too few stitches on the needle, you may find a yarn over was missed and in a flash you can simply lift the bar between the stitches into place without sacrificing all of the work you’ve invested in your project.

In my knitting life I’ve learned a great deal about knitting by tinking. Sure there are times when throwing a project into the frog pond is the right thing to do, and the splash can be cathartic. I’ll be the first one to admit that I make a good many mistakes while knitting, not all of which get corrected. A mistake is very seldom a design element, although I’ve heard them called that often enough. Every knitter makes mistakes, and each of us has to decide whether to charge forward and leave the error or retreat and consider our options.

I think next time I teach someone to knit – I’ll also teach them to tink.

When teaching someone to knit we often extoll the virtues of frogging (ripping out) a project that doesn’t please us or has errors. “It’s just yarn” I’ve read and heard people say and even myself proclaimed. We’ll laugh it off and say, “Rip it out and start over”, “Frog it”, or my personal favorite “Toss it in the frog pond.” While frogging is an easy solution it doesn’t teach us as much as say — tinking. For my non-knitting friends, tink is knit spelled backwards and means to unknit something stitch by stitch – usually until the error is found. I found myself contemplating a bit of tinking this morning. Some of you may remember a triangular shawl I’d been designing called Sangiovese. Started in silk (designing in silk is just a bit on the crazy-making side of things) and switched to merino, I finally put the project in hibernation. The pattern wasn’t flowing as smooth as the wine for which it was named. During the time I was initially working on the project I jotted down some notes late one night when it occurred to me that it’d also be good as a rectangular stole. While knitting the exquisitely designed Cloisters Wrap I remembered those notes on my languishing Sangiovese. This week I pulled out those notes and chose a fresh new yarn (2 skeins of llama/bamboo lace weight in a deep plum). The problem I was having with the triangular version was easily addressed using the rectangular style. Moving from one chart to the next calls for a nifty maneuvering trick that was as satisfying and fun as turning the heel on a hand-knit sock. Last night two repeats into the second chart I was not thrilled with how the two charts bumped up against each other. The maneuver was sweet and each chart looked good but they needed a little different transition. An insert. This morning I woke with the insert solution clear in my mind. Starting the morning with tinking isn’t how I like to start a day – even after having consumed a big sunday farm breakfast. But there was no way to move ahead without going backwards. It was slow and methodical to tink back numerous rows until I found the last row of the first chart where I intended to insert a transition element. Sure I could have frogged the entire project but deliberately unknitting row after row allowed me to see just how the stitches were oriented, whether they leaned to the right or left, and how they lined up or stacked on top of each other. When you tink instead of frog you learn about the anatomy of knitting. If you’re looking for errors and have too few stitches on the needle, you may find a misplaced yarn over in a flash and simply lift the bar between the stitches into place without sacrificing all of the work you’ve invested in your project.In my knitting life I’ve learned a great deal about knitting by tinking. Sure there are times when throwing a project into the frog pond is the right thing to do, and the splash can be cathartic. I’ll be the first one to admit that I make a good many mistakes while knitting, not all of which get corrected. A mistake is seldom a design element, although I’ve heard them called that often enough. Every knitter makes mistakes, and each of us has to decide whether to charge forward and leave the error or retreat and consider our options. I think next time I teach someone to knit – I’ll also teach them to tink. var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”)); var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-xxxxxx-x”);pageTracker._trackPageview();

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3 thoughts on “On Tinking

  1. Excellent blog today regarding tinking. I have learned more about knitting stitches from all the tinking I've had to do in my projects, mostly my lace knitting! I consider tinking an exercise for my patience, especially when >1,000 stitches were involved! (cough cough Pi Shawl & that was only a row or two!)
    Thank you!

  2. How insightful….
    When I teach folks to knit I teach them the anatomy of a stitch…. and how to SEE their knitting… but I've never thought of using tinking as a way to help them see that.

  3. Ah, yes, tinking. I often have to put the project aside for a day, to get over my disappointment, but then I do tink back when necessary. Usually for me it's because I've knit the wrong row somewhere (!) and completely messed up the look of the pattern. (If I just get up and get a new sticky note to place on the chart instead of using one that's lost its stick, this wouldn't happen, I think)
    But I always feel a sense of pride that I've done it, and kept the lovely pattern intact!

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