Queen Midas Syndrome

GGh Lame Yarn
Quite often when I travel and teach I’m asked by folks,

– “Does it ever get old, knitting for money? Not being able to just knit something for you?”

I answer, truthfully, that I feel like the luckiest person in the world (for many reasons) and consider it a great gift and blessing that I can earn my living doing something that I love so much.

Stephanie – the Yarn Harlot – recently wrote an excellent post about writing – how it really IS work. I can attest to that.

This blog is where I doodle, I don’t spend a lot of time rewriting (or, these days, writing – other bloggers whose output is regular and steady amaze me!) In Steph’s post she hit the nail on the head – writing IS work – and a lot of the work of writing doesn’t happen at the computer or with a pen and paper, but in the mind, on the road, in our dreams.

I’m not a writer – Stephanie most certainly is! I’m a designer who writes a little to fill in the holes around the designs. I’d heard folks all my life talk about finding a voice, a way to express themselves – whether it was through paint, clay, words, dance or any other venue.

For most of my life I was firmly, Methodist-ly rooted in pragmatism (have I mentioned this week that I’m a Virgo?) Although I paid lip service to the idea of self-expression (I was a friggin’ THEATRE major, f’crissake!) I don’t think I really understood how vital it is to express ourselves without using words.

Then I discovered knitting.

For me, learning to knit wasn’t quite as a child learning to talk, but it was close. I found ways to use my knitting to say things I couldn’t put into words – things so ephemeral, so quicksilver, that to anchor them with nouns and verbs would be to remove their magic. I finally understood ‘self expression’ as more than just an arty phrase – or perhaps I finally understood what it was that I needed to express.

I knit often, and with many “odd” fibers. I try to increase my knitting vocabulary with practice; the more I knit, the more I learn, which makes me want to knit more, which allows me to say more.

For most of my knitting life it’s been a one-woman show (I design and knit the items, and quite often I present them, too!) I enjoyed not needing to please anyone but myself (which, ironically, made me more pleasing to more people!) As I mention in Confessions of a Knitting Heretic, I spent a good amount of time in the “wilderness” where I knit, perhaps, a grand total of 200 stitches in a 10 year period.

When I reentered the knitting and design community I became part of a larger world which included editors, project-knitters, and yarn companies. Instead of a monologue, I found myself creating dialogues and one-act plays of knitting. At first I produced them myself, eventually moving to full-scale productions involving publishing houses and a hierarchy of editors, publicity folk, agents & distributors.

Knowing that my designs – my creativity – have a direct impact on the livelihood of others makes me swallow hard. It could be paralyzing, but I have to knit through the anxiety. Adding to that anxiety is the fact that all of these other folks have a direct impact on my own livelihood. Knowing that a knitter is a bit over their heads and 1,000 miles away is enough to keep you up at night, adding an editor pushing for that garment to be delivered yesterday at least gives you the midnight company of an upset stomach. I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart.

At times I feel that I’ve gilded what I dearly love – but was it simply by touching it? Or have I intentionally and deliberately spun my fibers into gold? Is this within or out of my control?

Unlike Midas, I can choose what I market, I determine what I turn to gold.

I’ve sat with a vest in my lap for a few weeks now – when I’m not painting or dealing with paint-house upheaval – and I begin to feel the same kind of fear that second-book writers talk about after a first book is a success. Its a simple vest, but it’s not working out the way I envisioned it. The yarn isn’t what I anticipated, the colors a little duller than I’d hoped, and the colorwork is awkward and kludgy looking. It’s almost as if the pieces involved in Romantic Knits came out of me so easily that the work involved in this vest feels more of a challenge than it normally would.

I need to remind myself that ripping and second guessing is an important part of the process. I need to be thankful that I’ve developed a wide, ever-stretching bag of knit tricks I can use to make this vest match my original design concept (using methods I hadn’t considered before.) Or, to parphrase Woody Allen, Designing is easy, unless it’s impossible. I’d love to have the luxury of doing an entire book where I knit every piece, but I’m afraid that would take a year to complete.

Everything I knit isn’t gold. Gold is a hard fiber to knit. Perhaps this is where all those years knitting wire and various man-made materials come in?

Maybe I’ll just knit myself something out of gold- something just for me.

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