This is a core memory for me: At a long-ago Q & A session at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, after a slide show bristling with needlepoint wing chairs, mosaic walls, paintings, and giant intarsia coats, someone the prolific multimedia artist Kaffe Fassett, “How do you manage to make all these things? How do you produce so much?” And what I recall him saying, almost with a laugh, is something like, “Well, you know, you get up and start working, and you keep working on it until it’s done.”
Kaffe’s advice, as commonplace as it may sound, stuck with me, I suppose because of the authority and surefootedness that Kaffe represents for me and so many other makers. Once in a while, I even follow that advice!
And boy, is it powerful.
On April 23, I was high on the creative atmosphere of Florence, Alabama, where you and I were attending a symposium at Alabama Chanin’s headquarters. While in this elevated state, I fell in love with a Cropped Car Jacket we saw there, at The School of Making. The jacket was stitched in three appliqué styles that transition over the fabric. By April 26, I had the kit for this jacket in my hands, the stencils on the fabric barely dry, and I had a notion that I could finish the jacket in time to wear to a wedding in early June.
I started working—and I kept working on it until it was done, on May 31. I did other things, too: eat, sleep, knit during zoom calls, and type sentences into Google docs. But mainly my life for those five weeks could be summed up in three words: Cropped Car Jacket.
I loved this project at every stage, through every one of the nearly 8 spools of thread it took. There were no snags, no doldrums. Very near the finish line, when it came time to attach the collar and facings, I did have a sobering realization: I didn’t know how to do this part, and I couldn’t make sense of the instructions.
But I was so close to the end, and how many ways can there be to attach a collar and facings, and how could any of them be wrong ways? The imaginary Kaffe in my head whispered in my ear to keep going. (My inner voice of Ann Shayne also had a suggestion: “Glue?” Thanks Ann.) The point here: if I kept going, my jacket would have a collar and facings on it, and all would be well.
And all was well. But the next time I’m in Florence, you can bet I will be putting on the white cotton gloves and giving the Cropped Car Jacket sample’s collar and facings a full forensic examination.
I know this is a knitting site, and that my Cropped Car Jacket is not knitting. But sewing a garment by hand hits the same resonant notes for me as knitting does. I know most knitters have other creative pursuits. The knitting feeds the painting, or the quilting, or the sewing, and vice versa, a virtuous circle of staying inspired to do handwork of all kinds. I’d love to hear what other crafts knitters do, passionately, besides knitting.
It’s all of a piece, from potholders, to paper flowers, to a floor loom that needs its own room.
Just start working, and keep working until it’s done. No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.
(I’ll model the jacket one of these days!)
Dishcloth Knitalong Ahead!
Readers had a wildly enthusiastic response to the idea of a quick & clean summer dishcloth knitalong—thank you. We’re going to do it! The official kickoff date will be July 15, and we’ll spend 2 weeks knitting and crocheting all the dishcloths. No dishcloth is too simple, too homespun, or too whimsical: make the ones you like the most, and share pattern ideas with all of your fellow dishrag-heads.
Look for my post next Thursday, June 23, for details, ideas, and inspiration. But in the meantime, if you’re in the mood to make dishcloths, go ahead and pregame this party! All photos posted to the Instagram hashtag #MDKdishclothKAL, or to the MDK Lounge, will be eligible for good clean prizes, regardless of when you made them.