(Editor’s Note: Ha! That’s funny to think there’s an editor here! Really just a note from me, Shana, after I’ve written the whole post. Some of you know me in real life, and some of you just know me through the screen. I tend to tell long, seemingly random stories, but as one of my students once said, “trust her. She always brings it back around”. So yes, this is a long post. If you’re here just to see my new sweater, just scroll on down to the bottom.)
Given a multiple choice option, I think many of us would say we prefer to write our own story vs. follow a prescribed path… but do we all follow through?
I’ve mentioned here before that I spent some time in higher education teaching architecture design studios. I truly loved this work, and I think my skillset is tuned in to working with others to develop their own design personality. I’ve always felt pretty strongly about working with a design student to help cultivate their own personal strategy. It doesn’t — and in many cases, shouldn’t— align with my own preferred aesthetic. I viewed my role as coach and guide, helping the designer become the best version of themself. I vividly remember solidifying this idea in a group grading session with other design professors. We had all evaluated our students on the same rubric, and spent an afternoon sharing our students’ work with each other to make sure our metrics were fair across the board. A colleague showed off a project that he identified as one having strong execution. He showed the study models, the drawings, the concept diagrams… and then said “I know what you’re thinking, I don’t really like it, but the student did a great job executing their vision. It’s a top project.”
I really appreciated this statement out loud. It’s not for me, but it’s done well. It sets out to solve a problem and it follows through. I’m not sure I had ever said this out loud up to this point, but it resonated so clearly with me. That student created a cohesive body of work that answered the prompt, and whether or not I actually like it, I see the value in work well done. It’s like getting food from a nice restaurant. You can value the quality of the product but perhaps not enjoy the taste. You can recognize that it’s good, just not your taste.
This is a hard concept sometimes. I think we all struggle with wanting to like the “it” thing. We struggle with wanting to fit in, with wanting to be part of the “in crowd”. Especially in this age of not being able to see each other in person, we get wooed by photos on the tiny screens of our phones. We set reminders to make sure we don’t miss out on the new products. We want the same things as others… or do we really want them? I don’t even know anymore.
This has become a longer post than I originally intended…hope you’re still with me.
There’s a balance between fitting in and standing out. In my recent creative ventures, I’ve observed this happening a lot within the fiber arts community I consider myself to be a part of: the struggle between making the same thing others are making vs creating something that feels uniquely you.
With all of that in mind, here’s a recent finished object. I followed a pattern but I created the color sequence all on my own. The pattern itself is straightforward- it’s the Westknits Go to Raglan (Ravelry link) by Stephen West. I appreciate and admire his creativity and writing style. He suggests how to blend colors for different outcomes but encourages the maker to make it their own. Most of this sweater is marled (that is, 2 thinner strands of yarn held together to make a thicker weight / gauge) and I’m proud of the result. I ripped back a few times to get the right proportion of color and dimension of stripe. I reknit one entire sleeve and knit the bottom band twice in order to get just the right color. Here’s a link to my version on Ravelry, which lists the colors I used. I used partial skeins leftover from previous projects and some yarn I received as gifts.
The final result is a bright, bold garment, and no one else will have the same one. I hope you can appreciate my color choices without necessarily wanting to wear them yourself. I think you can see the quality of execution without wanting to have an exact replica. Maybe it inspires you to make something of your own. Do a good job, and make it your own.