This past weekend I attended the biennial conference of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, an organization with the motto Entrusted with History's Future. Our mission is to protect and preserve the homes, collections and artifacts of the men and women who labored to bring forth our nation. Over the years, the some of details of their lives have been lost, and we read only of their great deeds through the history books that clothe them in glory to inspire future generations. What we really need, however, are their stories, the good as well as the not-so-good, to give our heroes flesh and blood. It is in their stories that the real value lies, because it is through the stories, the details, the errors, and persistence, that we learn what it takes to accomplish great things. As Winston Churchill said, Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it, so we must look beyond their grand homes and fine furnishings to their challenges and struggles and to their ultimate success. We are as inspired, perhaps more inspired, by the knowledge that our nation was founded by imperfect people who, through force of will and the support of many others, accomplished great things.
You and I, as knitters, may not be founding nations, but we are each working hard toward a variety of goals and accomplishments. We have our struggles and setbacks, and we have our successes. When we share a project that was challenging but turned out to be spectacularly well, it's tempting to kind of gloss over what a struggle it was. We figure no one wants to hear the bad stuff, but that's not true. We all want to hear the bad stuff. We need to hear it. We're going to admire your beautiful project, of course, but what will inspire us is knowing that what you did was hard but not impossible - seeing that you kept at it in the face of great challenging. When we look at a pattern on Ravelry, our nearly universal response is to see who else has knit it. There are the stellar examples, and there are the less-than-stellar. Both have much to teach us through project notes documenting the process. We can see and be inspired, and we can learn from and avoid mistakes others have made. Seeing the success and learning from those who went before us is what sharing and preserving history is all about, whether you are building a sweater or a nation.