Sunday, February 15, 2015

Keeping Perfectionism in Check... Mostly.

I've often written about being a perfectionist.  There are aspects of perfectionism that are good and useful.  It helps me produce clean finished designs with clear instruction. It gives me humility and pushes me to make corrections quick and publicly so other knitters don't get stuck or frustrated with my patterns.  It gives me pride in my work.

Perfectionism has a dark side as well.  Striving for the ultimate is frustrating. It fills me with self-doubt and makes me second guess every step of my design - every aspect, choice and idea from fiber to needles, gauge to stitch pattern and name to choice of abbreviations.  It bins ideas before they get a fair shake.

Double edge swords need to be kept sharp, stored well and used wisely.  I think perfectionism is just such a beast; sometimes you need to indulge in it, and sometimes you need to make efforts to keep it in check.  Today I had the pleasure in doing just that.

There is a wonderful business here in Albuquerque that offers "Sip & Paint" classes.  Each date has a different offering. Book for the image of your choice, grab an apron, glass (or bottle) of wine, listen to good music, follow along with a skilled, entertaining and fun instructor, and anytime your inner perfectionist starts to butt in, have another swallow of wine and remind yourself to let go.

I went with my dear friend Becks.  Becks is the best kind of friend. She inspires me, supports my work (she's my test knitter and exquisite at it!), listens, advises and balances me to so many ways.  She is fun loving, enjoys a good glass of wine, and is up for adventure.  We each painted our version of the class painting. We both encouraged each other to push off our own personal perfectionist. We laughed, we shared a bottle, we painted.

This exercise hasn't eliminated my perfectionist, but it has made me feel more balanced.  I ended up with a painting I love. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of each moment, each decision that I hesitated thinking it wasn't good enough, then set my hesitation aside and let go.  I "wung it" and just painted, knowing that I wasn't there to create art - I was there to have a good time.  And in the end, I actually like the result. It's proof that not struggling each choice doesn't always make the end product better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jumping into the deep end of the pooling

I'm forever trying new knitting techniques, stretching my boundaries and exploring new territories for design inspiration.  Most recently, I've been playing around with the techniques presented by Laura Militzer Bryant in Artful Color - Mindful Knits and her companion class on Craftsy, Color Patterning with Hand-Dyed Yarns

I love hand-dyed yarns. I've amassed quite a collection as anyone looking at my ankles can tell you - I've knit MANY socks with hand-dyed yarns! - but sometimes I feel... limited.  What? I know, that sounds really weird.

Hand-dyed yarns, although offering gorgeous colorways with vibrant self-striping patterns often detract from the look of fancier stitch patterns.  Sometimes you want the stitch to be the focus, sometimes you want the color to be the focus, and sometimes you want to approach the delicate balance of both.

Laura Militzer Bryant presents her close study of hand-dyed yarns and the math necessary to CONTROL them.  Through use of a "Magic Number" which is actually a simple measurement and calculation of color repeats, you can actually creatively FORCE color pooling into more pleasing stripes, stacks, argyles and controlled chaos.

Want to play?

I purchased the book before she developed her Craftsy class, and can honestly say I'm not thrilled with the presentation.  It was a lot to swallow and wordy with tons of high-gloss vibrant pictures that left me just overwhelmed.  (That's me - this is my personal opinion.) Then the class came along.  In her Craftsy class she presents the concept, math and examples clearly and concisely with a complementary video format that allows me to go back and watch it again, make notes and even ask HER questions.  Having taken the class and referred back to the book, the book has become more comprehensive and manageable. (Again, all me, all my opinion. You may find otherwise.)

So, what did I learn?

Cool math, neat yarn magic trick, and that overall, I'm not interested in designing with this technique in mind, but I'm likely to try to make someone a gift only because controlling a colorway in this manner is a super-cool impressive knit-master kind of thing to do.

And here's where I tell you, no one asked me to review this. I'm not getting paid.  The only benefit I could possibly get for this is if you use one of the Craftsy links here on my blog to purchase a class, I will receive a minor referral fee (and thank you very much if you do), but I don't request or require it of my readers.  I simply tell you about things I like.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Perfectionism and Knitting

I'm currently hosting a KAL on Ravelry for my Forbidden Forest Shawl.  KAL's are fun. I get to work with a group of people on a common project. It being my design, I get to see how the pattern is received and how other people perceive the design.  Everyone brings their own vision to the project, whether it's a different gauge, an additional repeat of the lace pattern, alterations to the size, or adding more color via striping or singling out the lace panel.

One of the things I run into in every KAL are participants that are either perfectionists, like myself, or individuals that somehow feel they are letting either themselves or me down by not working the pattern perfectly.

I'm a horrible perfectionist.  Horrible. I have no problem spending huge amounts of time correcting even the smallest error in my knitting.  I will park a project for months while I gain the courage to go back and make corrections.  I'm aware how absurd this is.

Someone once said to me about one of my design elements that anyone close enough to see the element would most definitely have other things on their mind... ;)

This impacted me and changed how I thought about my errors.  I'm still a horrible perfectionist, but now I'm much more aware of how rarely I see design elements in other people's work, and I'm a lot more comfortable with the elements in my own.

In one of my knitting classes I had a student that was struggling.  She desperately wanted her work to be perfect. Another student spoke up and told her the errors were okay, and that she actually made sure there was an error in each of her pieces as a tribute to being one of God's children; that only God could be perfect.

I like that idea.

Not enough to overcome my own perfectionism... but the idea makes me feel good.

I coach my KAL participants and students to simply be consistent with their "design elements". An error can become simply a different take on the design, helping to make the project "more your-own".  I've adopted this for myself.  When I'm knitting a shawl that calls for a CCD and I accidentally work an SSSK, I simply continue.  Both are decreasing from 3 stitches to 1, they simply look a little different... and what's wrong with being a little different?  Different can still be perfect.