Knowing When to Hold'em or When to Fold'em

When working on a new textile print or other art and design work, there is typically at least one moment where I begin to question the whole thing and whether it’s working or not. I know not to give in to it, but to work it out. Find resolution. It’s all part of the design process.

Sometimes the doubt is fleeting and no big deal. Other times I will decide to scrap the piece and move on in a new direction. I will often walk away and return to look again with fresh eyes or I will work on something new and different for a while to open my mind a bit. Maybe I put it away and not look at it for a while, or maybe I just adjust, rework and slog on through to the finish line. I have learned that the amount of doubt or uncertainty faced while making a print design does not relate to it’s success when finished. Sometimes my best work happens easily in a snap and other times it’s a lot of fretting and reworking. That’s just how it works for me.

With handcrafts however, like sewing and knitting, I’ve come to see this ‘doubt phase’ as a different sort of sign. When a project drags on and on, it usually means I am  just not happy with it. And that it’s not working. If I’m not motivated and excited throughout the project, it’s doubtful that I will ever be happy with it. A good example of my theory is this story of a sweater:

Yorkshire Tweed Chunky yarn by Rowan Yarns. (Yarn has been discontinued.)

Yorkshire Tweed Chunky yarn by Rowan Yarns. (Yarn has been discontinued.)

Once upon a time I loved this yarn and so I bought enough to knit a sweater. It became this sweater.

First sweater knit in chunky tweed yarn.

First sweater knit in chunky tweed yarn.

Hmm. I like the cable up the front, but not the collar or the length or the weight. It was just so heavy. I didn’t wear it much at all. But I thought that the yarn was so nice, so tweedy and wooly that it deserved a second chance. So I frogged it (rip it, rip it), found a new pattern and started knitting.

Yarn unraveled.

Yarn unraveled.

Cast on and progress made.

Cast on and progress made.

Back shaping taking shape.

Back shaping taking shape.

Eventually it became this sweater.

Owls Cardigan, waiting to be blocked and have buttons added.

Owls Cardigan, waiting to be blocked and have buttons added.

Owls Cardigan, finished!

Owls Cardigan, finished!

Bulky yarn knits up quickly, but this sweater took me many months, stopping and starting in on it again. Why? Apparently because it just wasn’t working. I should know this by now. I think the sweater looks OK, although it feels heavy and boxy and is too loosely knit for such a weighty yarn. Although I’ve gotten compliments on it, I don’t love it. Live and learn, and next time I’ll know sooner to let it go. Just give the yarn away. Something – anything – besides knitting two sweaters that I don't like.

But undaunted, I moved on and I'm happy to say that I think I’m not 0 for 2. This recent top is a project I love. It came together quickly and was fun to make from start to finish. I’ve been seeing these sorts of draped tops and found this pattern to use for my own version.

front, Dotty Blouse pattern from StyleArc.com

front, Dotty Blouse pattern from StyleArc.com

side, Dotty Blouse.

side, Dotty Blouse.

back, Dotty Blouse

back, Dotty Blouse

The well-drafted pattern goes together smoothly, and this became a quick wearable test version using an acetate crepe fabric. The fabric was a freebie mystery bonus piece that came with another fabric order and I’ve had it in my fabric stash for a while. I probably wouldn’t buy it, but it draped well, was a nice neutral color and was the same on both sides which was called for in the pattern. It was also easy to work with, which isn't always the case for drapey fabrics. The only alteration I did was to lengthen the top one inch, which I may choose not to do next time, depending on the fabric. I can see making this in cotton voile for the spring & summer, wool challis for fall & winter and silk charmeuse for something special for any season. This project is a winner in my book.

And then we lived happily ever after. The End.