Friday, April 6, 2012

Are you knitting an artifact?

Have you ever spent money on a garment you thought you loved in the changing room only to have it languish in your closet for years (decades sometimes)? How does this happen? With me, it happens when I forget to apply the "will I wear it tomorrow?" test. It happens when I think I might need to lose 5 lbs before wearing whatever it is, or I might need to have just the right event emerge on my calendar, or I might need a new pair of shoes to make it work.
The same sort of thing often happens in the realm of knitting. You fall in love with the way a garment looks on a model, you imagine yourself with your hair blowing in the breeze and the shawl you've spent the last 6 months slaving over fluttering gracefully from your shoulders. Never mind that in your real life you've never worn a shawl, or that shawls don't fit under coats terribly well. Or take another scenario: you find a particular sock technique so fascinating that you can't put your needles down. Forget about the fact that for most of the year you live in a climate that makes handknitted socks (or any socks for that matter) out of the question. And to make matters worse, instead of just wasting your money as in the case of store-bought clothing, you've wasted hours, days, weeks of your life.
If you're a process-oriented knitter, then you really haven't "wasted" your time. You've had a lot of hours of relaxing fun and, after all, knitting is cheaper than psychotherapy. Better, though, to have all the hours of fun and something you can enjoy wearing for years to come.
Over the years, I've spent a lot of time making knitted artifacts, destined for the McCarten Knitting Museum. I still have a few of these items, which are beautiful to behold, but sadly will probably live the rest of their lives in ziplock bags, too gorgeous to donate or throw out or frog, but not right for wearing today. I think I have some vague hope that in the distant future some descendant might pull them out and give them a new life. It's happened before, as when I wore my great-aunt Siddy's handknit sweaters for years after she'd died.
Now that I design most of what I knit, I'm getting better at assessing what works and what doesn't. I know I've designed a winner (from my own perspective, because that's what matters most) when I practically live in a sweater, when it's the one I reach for day after day, when I fret over what to wear while it's being washed and re-blocked.
This last year, my fave has been the Perth Cardi,  the alpaca version of which is shown here:

I wear it buttoned up with blue jeans and a T-shirt and with the front edges dangling open with my favourite knit dress and linen jumper. I wear the cotton short-sleeved summer version as a layering piece during spring and fall. For me, this is the ultimate go-with-everything piece, definitely not just an artifact.