Thursday, February 16, 2017

I have a bunch of editing, proofreading, and writing to do today but it's still early.  I've checked my newsfeed for the day and my mind hasn't settled yet.  I'm in my office with my coffee and my eye just found the project I finished a few days ago, which has got me thinking about how different my knitting world is now vs. when I began doing this.

And that seems pretty perfect for Throwback Thursday -  a little procrastination and maybe just a tiny bit of self-involved rumination if you'll indulge me. Because the world is moving pretty fast right now and I think I need to stop and ignore it for a few moments longer.

This sweater began because I got obsessed with Malabrigo Twist, a yarn I'd never used before but had seen a hundred times. You know that moment on the laptop when you go down a yarn hole?

That's what I was doing on the Malabrigo website a few weeks back. I knew this stuff was gorgeous and round and soft, but had never knit with it because I often avoid the world of vareigation. Simple things aren't what you guys usually come to me for, and the more detailed a sweater gets, the less detailed the yarn should be - IMHO.

But that morning, I opened my laptop and started looking through the Malabrigo colorways on the screen, flipping from one to another just to see them, and I found Zinc.  And then I kept coming back to that Zinc. It's hard to capture in these winter office light photos, but it's gorgeous and soothing and plays with gray and a subtle lavender tone and has a touch of gold here and there.

It felt so good to just fall in love with a yarn right in the moment. Looking back, I realize that's what I used to do all the time, just for fun. I  used to look at yarn and get carried away and take it home. I bought it for no other reason than because it made me happy.

I ordered 8 skeins from WEBS, and the moment I opened the package, I started playing around with it. No deadlines, no expectations, no cable dictionaries - nothing. Just playing with it.  Just for fun, because the yarn is beautiful and it felt great on my needles and it took my mind to a place it wanted to be. A mindless, double seed stitch place.  Without even a sketch to work from.  That itch I have to design was silent for a little while, replaced by a different itch - to just knit and block out all the chatter.

When I began designing about 10 years ago, there were no expectations tied to any of my knitting. I'd buy yarn, I'd play with it and I'd see what happened. Sometimes it would become a pattern, but not always. And even when it did, I didn't have test knits, or relationships with the yarn companies, or a group on Ravelry to check in with, or an Instagram account to update. I just did my thing as it came to me, and then went to pick the kids up at school.  Running an actual knitting business isn't the same thing.

My yarn purchases now come with expectations, and casting on creates a whole new set of goals, both internal and external. My needles aren't just working for my own entertainment anymore. They support my family, they help my friends who run small businesses, they entertain a slowly growing group of knitters, and they keep you all engaged in this thing called a "brand".

Sometimes the pressure is passive, and a deadline or agreement doesn't officially exist, but to me, every skein here in my office is some kind of promise to be kept.  And that gets in my head and I think about each project very differently, much more carefully - than I had in the beginning.  I must choose wisely each time I knit, evaluating what the project will be and how it fits into my plan for that season. I can only make so many things a year, so they have to work, right?

Creativity now exists within a framework of goals, schedules and the question of whether it's going result in something that will sell or photograph well, look good on a variety of shapes, and get out in the world at the right time.  And newly prevalent this Fall is the fact that my girl got into college and this is our payment plan and there's an overall number I'm inching up to with each new design published.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't released a single sweater since Stone Fence in October. Part of that is the fact that I have a collection going on in the background that will go live next week, but I'm not sure that's the real reason I've had this lull. I've done bigger projects before and made sure there were other sweaters lined up to launch in the meantime -- this time I just didn't feel like it.  I had no new ideas, no itch to get THAT cable into THAT yarn, and the things I had going on were not working out. I was a little defeated, somewhat exhausted, and mostly annoyed.

I bought some Zinc instead, without thinking about a design. And I cast on.

It was soft and gorgeous and did what I wanted it to do. It slowed me down and made me enjoy the process again. I know that I can't really go back to the way things used to be for too long, because the rest of those promises and responsibilities are incredibly important to me, but maybe this step backwards has me ready to take two steps forward again - I did buy two SQs last week, and I'm incredibly in love with both of those new yarns. My fingers are itchy again.

Next on my to-do list is to write this up, and it looks like some easy, soothing math.

I'm pretty sure that when I'm done with the Excel chart, the world will seem to be spinning just a little slower and I'll jump back in.  And maybe I should write Malabrigo a little thank you note.


Unknown said...

Lovely. And wonderful to hear how life changes things over the years. Rest assured we come here because you bring us joy and beauty. Things that we sorely need right now. - Joan

Suze said...

Dear Thea, what a beautiful post. The world is swirling around me, too, as you know. I love knitting but if I had to make myself a brand doing it, I'd suffocate. I'd rather test for you and keep on keepin' on doing my own thing here. That sweater is gorgeous. I can't wait to see it in full.
(And once my husband/reluctant photographer gets back into town I'll have that test knit photographed for you in time for next week's release, I PROMISE)

Susan (aka MadtownMama)

DonnaC said...

Thank you for sharing this personal post. I think it is important for consumers to understand. This thing called design isn's always what it appears to be, and maybe isn't always what it should be, and gets done despite the external forces crashing in to strain and weaken it. Falling in love with the process again is something that we all could use again, in whatever process brings us joy.

Cheryl said...

Great post, thank you. Things do change. I never put down my needles, but there is an ebb and flow to it. Sometimes I'm on fire and other times the simple, plain vanilla project feels like too much. To everything there is a season... I love your designs and will be happy to see them unveiled whenever that might be.

janna said...

This is gorgeous - both your story and that cable! And, crazily enough, before Christmas, I bought a SQ of this exact yarn - in Zinc even - with no pattern in mind. It was just so pretty that I had to have it - and I guess I now know why!

Sarah said...

There is a comfort in knowing you are not alone and your feelings happen to the best of us too. Thank you for sharing this post, it was truely something I needed to read! The past few months have been very rough and overwhelming in my life. I have realized knitting has lost the joy/ comfort it once gave me. Reading your post brought me back a little and gives me hope to find my knitting self again. Researched the Zinc color and what a great color! Before I knew it I had fallen down the same yarn hole and can not wait to knit this stunning sweater! Thank you!

Knitter said...

Thank you for sharing this post. when the passion of one's art or craft becomes tarnished with a bit of drudge it saps one. really happy to hear you've been reconnecting with that spirit of delight. i'm nobody's designer but know you're a fabulous talent and love knitting your patterns. big hugs!

Trina Edward-Paul said...

Thank you for being so honest! I've been catching up with a few blogs lately, and discovering new ones like yours, and I have to say this was a breath of fresh air! I look forward to reading more :)

Mary Lou said...

This is why I am happy I have a day job, too. It takes some of that pressure off. What is SQ?

Kimberly Winter said...

Beautifully stated! Thank you Thea XXOO