Stay Home and Frog!

Hello! We’re still in a Pandemic here!
Stay Home and Frog!

Making mistakes is natural–it’s one of the best ways we learn as humans. How we move from crawling to walking, how we go from goo goo gaa gaa to little words and then bigger ones. We mimic. We try things. We fail at things. But we usually learn a lot when we fail, often way more than we can in hours worth of classes or do’s and don’ts from parental figures. But we don’t learn if we’re not willing to see or name our mistakes or when we blame them on others.  Embracing mistakes doesn’t mean we let go of accountability. No it means we really lean into accountability.

I did that. I admit it. Now I’m willing to do the work to make it better. 

Lots of crafters freak out about mistakes. Other crafters will embrace them. “It’s not a mistake, it’s a design feature.” And that can totally be true and a good thing. As long as the mistake isn’t harming anyone. When it’s just a change in the texture on the cloth then c’est la vie. You might have just invented a new stitch or technique! But what if our mistake will mean we have 3 sleeves instead of 2? or a too small head hole? Or a sweater that just won’t fit right which is really frustrating after so much labor? And what if  we’re talking about the negative impact of systems on people? Even if others can’t actually SEE it, but we know that there are people experiencing the negative impact of the mistake–or rather the intended harmful design–then we have to do something about it. 

Sometimes, whether the result of a mistake or something else, there is nothing salvageable; the design feature is too fatal. We must completely start over. Rip it out!

In knitting, to “FROG” is to RIP IT, RIP IT, RIP IT. Pull out the needle and just start ripping all the stitches out.

Sometimes you only need to frog a section. Maybe the first 20 rows are great, but when you switched to that new pattern section everything went haywire. This is why many lace knitters depend on lifelines. 

A lifeline is a piece of contrasting yarn or thread you put through your stitches at a point when you know everything before is on track. Then when you need to rip, you can easily go back to that landing place, to the lifeline.

You can put one in after the fact, but they are best done preemptively. I know I might make a mistake so I’m investing in this lifeline. They can be time consuming when you do them, but they save you a lot when we do inevitably make a mistake and have to frog.

Because what I think is a grand idea may end up having a massive unintended consequence for someone else. Being purposeful about lifelines, safety nets, intentional ways to go back and star over–means we are avoiding the hubris that ours is the one right way. Because we are always limited in our perspective even we are trying to be as expansive in our thinking as possible.

But sometimes the whole thing must go. We must frog, or rip it ALL OUT. We must go back to the beginning. To before. Luckily yarn, like the stuff of life, can become other things. We can learn from our mistakes. Sometimes something must die before it can be reborn. R.I.P.

Sometimes we must DISMANTLE before we can reBUILD.

Illustration by Rik Lain Schell.

More Thoughts/Questions ot Explore

Frogging, lifelines, design features… did these crafting metaphors resonate for you? What kinds of things in your life could you connect them to?

In what ways do you or can you imagine “frogging” an experience/project/relationship/system?

What kinds of “lifelines” do you use to help you in finding your way back? Could just be like a cairn you leave on the road for a hike. Or could be a meaningful quote or image you have on your wall which helps reconnect you to what is important. Some find these really important in digging their way out of a depressing, shame spiral, or other space that can emotionally consume you. What might a lifeline look like for you?

Mistakes vs. design features is an interesting thing to explore. Mistakes have led to some of the most amazing discoveries. And even when the result isn’t want we want, we usually can learn a lot from going down the wrong road–if only to avoid that road in future. But what about the idea of “design features” that are presented as innocent flaws with unintended consequences, usually, and most especially negatively impacting those with least power in a situation. How do we recognize and challenge these kinds of “design features.”

My dad’s job for a long time was being the Mistake Finder Guy. You know, the guy they sent in to figure out what was wrong on the production line. He was the Trouble Shooter. Of course half the time when he narrowed down the issue, the corporation didn’t like the answer and would decide making the mistake was less expensive to them then fixing it. In the end, how much it cost financially was more important than how much it cost in other ways. That certainly resonates with so much that is wrong in our culture. Why do we preference livelihoods over lives? profits over people? This is a major twisted value in our culture that doesn’t really seem like a mistake but more of a design feature or an embedded intention that benefits those in power.

Many believe that the negative impacts experienced primarily by black and brown Americans at the hands of police is not something that can be just squared away as a few bad apples or horrendous mistakes. But that, instead, a primary design feature of our policing system is a specific focus on controling the movements and lives of black and brown people. If true, is this something we can fix by mending? Or something that requires a deeper intervention? A frogging, or ripping back? Do you think it is possible we can surgically remove what is cancerous within the policing system? or do we need to dismantle it altogether and start over?

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