At the risk of sounding like I’m fishing for reassurance, which I’m not (except I kinda am, but I’m really not), everything I do is terrible.
I suppose all creative types go through this. I was listening to Emily of the Knitting Butterflies podcast recently, and she quoted something that resonated with me. (I don’t know if it was a recent episode or an older one – I’m listening to some back episodes while her podcast was on a hiatus.) She referred to a concept she attributed to Ira Glass (not my favorite, but whatever) about how artists have good taste, simply based on the fact that they are artists. However, they can’t actually achieve their taste at first. It takes awhile.
Now, I hesitate to call myself an artist, because that seems rather lofty, but I am creative when it comes to knitting. And some of this concept may have been lost by being filtered through a few people, much like the classic telephone game. But, as I interpret it, it resonates nicely with how I’ve been feeling lately.
This designing thing is a relatively new outlet, just about a year old. Mostly, I’ve been designing the things I used to want to knit. Did you catch that “used to”? Lately, my tastes have changed. I used to be enthralled with the complicated – the more cables and colorwork and new techniques, the more I reveled in it. This is because I am, by nature, a process knitter. For years after I started knitting, strangers would say, “Oh, you knit? Show me something you’ve knit!” and I’d have to shrug, because I’d given it all away. Once I was done knitting something, I was no longer interested in it. This still holds true today, but because I a) made a concerted effort to make myself some things, and b) I have a family now who wears my stuff, I have more things on hand I can show off.
But lately, my desires have changed. I’m actually thinking about product a bit. I have two tops ready to go that I want to knit because I want to wear them to work. Not because I want to knit them, but because I want to wear them. This is like speaking a foreign language to me. And get this – they both have miles of stockinette. Huh? What the heck?
I’m craving the simpler. And this is a trend I’ve noticed in the knitting world overall. Garter and stockinette stitch are back, my friends. And I crave it, a bit. It bugs me to think that I might be influenced by knitting trends, rather than coming to this conclusion independently. But designers are selling hundreds of patterns that look SIMPLE. Now, I would NEVER denigrate the hours and hours of work that I know went into designing these pieces. The fact that they are so beautiful and functional and classic means a lot (a LOT) of effort went into making them work that way. But as a rookie designer, I’ve been chasing this impression that I have to make something unique, that I need to design something that people will need a pattern for. I realize that not everyone can reverse-engineer knitting that they see in the wild, so there will always be people who need patterns. But in chasing this “unique and different” goal, I’ve realized I have no cohesion.
Look at my six published patterns. Go ahead, I’ll wait. What unifies them? The only thing I can come up with is lots of bright color. And that’s not a signature. There are many well-known, established designers who have a signature. You can look at a piece and know it came from a specific designer, without even being told. My own designing has been heavily influenced by “what do I want to knit RIGHT NOW,” which means they’re all over the place. And the (maybe) awful thing is, by the time I’m done, (whisper) I don’t want to knit it anymore. There, I said it. I don’t want to knit my own patterns.
I can’t believe I’m alone in this. Designing a pattern and knitting it takes significantly longer than following someone else’s pattern. You also have to think really hard about what you’re doing the whole time, which takes away the relaxing aspect, which is what entices many of us to keep doing this crazy craft. I think about the designs in the shower. In the middle of the night. While driving. I live them. And more often than not, I’ve got all the thinking done before I’m actually done knitting, and I’m just DONE. I don’t want to knit it anymore.
But you push on, and you publish, and you wait to see what will happen… and for me, a knitting nobody, the reaction is slow. There are sometimes blips in sales, but they’re random. And so you throw this thing out there that took tons of work, and you’re not really sure if you even like it, and you’re not getting external validation, and you don’t even know how it fits into the grand scheme of things, and you think why? Why am I doing this? Why am I not just knitting other people’s patterns? But I can’t help it. Because my brain won’t stop churning, and all these designs want OUT.
I’m thinking about trying out another creative outlet, but I worry. Will people like it? Will I like it? Do I need both of those things to consider it a success? Or will one suffice?
So that’s where I am. I have patterns in my head. I have patterns on paper. The ones on paper are not cohesive and aren’t as good as the ones in my head. I’m not even sure if I like the things I design. I certainly wouldn’t ever wear many of the ones that are in my head, because they’re not my style. But surely they’re somebody’s?
Are you a designer? Or any kind of creator? Do you like your stuff? Is your stuff YOU?