Confession from a creative type: Sometimes I make something great, but never use it.
This is understandable when something goes wrong on a project, like the gauge is off because I didn’t allow for the effects of stranded colorwork, or I went up a size when I didn’t need to, or I think a material will work, but it doesn’t. Sometimes a project comes out exactly as planned, but my plans themselves were flawed, say because they didn’t include the fact that children don’t take the care and maintenance of their shoes into consideration when they walk.
But sometimes, everything goes according to plan, the plan was great, and I just don’t love the result.
Last winter I knitted myself a circular shawl. I was intrigued by the pattern (which goes from a smaller cowl-size circumference on the neck to ample enough to use as a batwing shirt with no increases or decreases), and I needed to do some amending of my wardrobe. The pattern was easy, my modifications worked as intended, the fit was fine, the yarn was lovely, and still, I just didn’t like the thing. I didn’t wear it– not even ONCE– in the full cycle of seasons following its completion.
So rather than continuing to feel guilty about it every time I looked in my closet, I made the radical choice to frog it and make something new– something I knew I would use: a big triangular shawl with no lacy holes to let the wind through.
And? I LOVE IT. Even now, while it’s still on the needles, I know it’s a million times better than the original shawl.
Years ago, when the smalls were babies, I came across a blog post about using your precious things before time destroys them. It inspires me to this day– to find a way to incorporate my great-grandmother’s silver tea set into my rustic modern life, to risk losing those antique tablecloths by cutting them up and making something my family will actually use, to eat up that last jar of balsamic-pickled figs as a way of making a regular Thursday night special.
I would say that the sentiment applies one thousand fold to things you’ve made. So what if it took weeks of work? If you aren’t using it, change it. Re-make it. Cut it down for quilt squares. Felt it and hook a rug. Whatever it takes. Going back to fix the mistakes you made or reclaim the materials for something better doesn’t negate the effort you put into the original project– the effort you put into making things is only wasted if that thing is never useful, and a learning experience is always useful.
I had to tell myself this last weekend, when I came to the realization that the rug wasn’t working out. With every extra row I sewed into place, it became less of a half-circle and more of a third of a circle. So I cut my threads and ripped my progress back to just a few rows and tried again– a few rows of going around the half-circle shape in a D shape, then a few rows of back-and-forth like I’d tried the first time, over and over. I’m now almost back to the point I ripped from, and it looks much better. I’m glad I went back to fix it, even though it meant accepting that it would take much longer to finish and we desperately need that rug. Choosing to make something– and re-make it– so that it fits your needs perfectly is a radical act in our throw-away culture, where immediate satisfaction is everything and quality rarely even enters the equation.
So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I find that I was my real WIP this week, learning to live with failure and walk with humility. But the shawl is turning out well, too.
The original pattern for the shawl was Paris Loop by Stefanie Japel. It really is an easy and satisfying knit, but the FO just didn’t work for me. I’m now using Orlane’s Textured Shawl Recipe, on an ancient recommendation from Amanda Soule. The yarn is Ella Rae Mega in Pure Black (it’s actually a subtle heather), which I find EXTREMELY willing to felt and therefore kind of resistant to frogging, but it’s soft and surprisingly strong for a single.