“Tink” is “knit” spelled backwards and that is exactly what tinking is: a way to knit backward stitch-by-stitch, most commonly used to fix mistakes. Not all knitting mistakes are stupid – they might be caused by a difficult stitch or unclear instructions – but mine generally are. I rarely make mistakes in the tough going of a pattern. I’m keyed up then and paying careful attention. No, my mistakes are made in the simplest part of a pattern. I’ll zone out watching television or get too tired. Suddenly, I notice I have to go back an interminable distance to correct what will be a glaring (to me) flaw in the finished item.
This was the case on Christmas Day. My father had gone out for something, the newspaper probably, and mom was starting the turkey. It was a lovely twighlight-y time of day. Presents were all finished, the wrapping collected and tossed down the chute. It was still too early to start the fuss of dinner and we weren’t expecting the rest of the family for a couple of hours yet. I took this opportunity to cast on 131 stitches for a giant cowl I wanted to make, a copy of the ones I’d seen pre-holidays at The Gap. All that has to be done to make this cowl is to cast on the correct number of stitches, join to knit in the round, then knit one, purl one – forever. So here’s what I did. Cast on. Knit pattern across row. Realize I forgot to make the join. This is when I said something like, “FUUUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK.”
Although I learned to knit when I was small, I hadn’t made anything for many years. This summer though, I went at it hard-core when Lorinc’s writing class ended. Make no mistake, Lorinc is a low-pressure guy. At one point I was three assignments behind and he wasn’t fussed at all. However, I was desperate for this guy’s approval. So I did things like write from a viewpoint opposite to my own, just to see if I could pull it off. For God’s sake, I wrote a short essay describing why writing in the second person voice is a crime that should be punished by sentence in the Gulag. I mean, if you read this blog, you know I love the second person (ha, see what I did there?). Immediately after I turned in that assignment, I became convinced I didn’t even know what second person was and had just made a giant ass of myself to this writing deity. This was insane. Of course I knew what it was – but that’s a good example of where my anxiety levels were at. Anyway, I exhausted myself I guess. I couldn’t write anything by the end of the twelve weeks of school. There were other things going on, too. My boyfriend was moving to the Middle East. To sum up, I was short-circuiting.
Every time I tried to write something, I ended up with either a garbled mess or nothing. My anxiety was mounting that I’d never again be able to string together another paragraph. Fortunately, two things happened. Most importantly, I was already feeling really inspired by my friend Diana, who was learning to knit. Secondly, I read an interview with one of my favourite authors, Chuck Palahniuk. The interview contained this pivotal quote:
“My working day involves jotting down ideas while doing a seemingly mindless physical task. Then, when I’m exhausted, I’ll sit down and start writing. Today I stacked firewood. That kind of exercise seems to occupy a certain part of my mind, allowing another part to be freed up for thinking about stories.”
Got it. Chuck Palahniuk’s stacking wood is my knitting. I was still worried, but I just kept knitting and believing eventually the writing part of my brain would heal. It just needed a break. Three pairs of fingerless gloves and two-and-a-half scarves later, I started writing again. But by Christmas, I was having a titch of a relapse. Thus, the cowl.
Since I never bothered to learn how to tink properly, I developed my own method of fixing mistakes, a soul-crushing process of taking each stitch off the right needle, pulling it out and moving it over to the left. And when I was finished cursing about my error on the cowl, I began. Apparently this procedure is as painful to watch as it is to perform. After observing for a few minutes, my mother said, “Do you want me to teach you how to knit backwards?”
Of course, yes. Then:
My mother’s hands move confidently, uncreating my stitches.
My mother’s hands un-knit, un-purl.
Looking at me, “Do you see what I’m doing?”
Inside me resides a panicked child who doesn’t see what my mother is doing. This is a holdover from the multiple times she’s tried to teach me crochet. “NO,” this freaked out brat starts to blurt, “I don’t see what you’re doing!”
But it was my mother who taught me to knit in the first place, all those years ago. And this time, I do see what she’s doing. I feel a rush of gratitude that the skill to tink was passed down to me the traditional way. From my mom and not by YouTube.