An imperfect crafter.

July 04, 2013

This is the third time i've tried to write this post, hopefully it's lucky number three!

At Handmade this year I spoke at the two Pecha Kucha sessions. I really hope they are part of the programme again next year as it was loads of fun and so interesting to hear a range of different craft stories. Pecha Kucha is a quick fire set of talks. Each speaker gets 20 slides which are up on screen for 20 seconds each. 

I agreed last minute to do it, and the first thing that came to mind was the following (abbreviated here) talk. It's so interesting meeting all of you wonderful knitters, be you new to the craft or an old hand. 



These aren't my confessions - oh no, they're yours! A series of troubles that I hear over and over again from you - the crafter. And  i'm going to ask something of you. it'll be a bit scary, and little hard to take, but I know you can do it. You really can.



It took a long time to come to terms with - but I am. I don't do things perfectly by any stretch of the imagination. It used to really, seriously stress me out. I would get all twisted up with anxiety because almost everything I made had something wrong with it. A wonky seam, the wrong colour thread, slightly asymmetrical hem. Or fudged knit stitches because my stitch count was out, or a cable crossed the wrong way. 



 One day, in a fit of anxiety, I decided it wasn't worth it. Why was I so caught up in making something perfect? So what if things didn't quite turn out like the image in my head? I made something. As my grandma says - only God is perfect. In some cultures they make mistakes on purpose for just this reason. I've made peace with my imperfections - and it's made me a happier, more satisfied crafter. Religious or not, it's important to remember that we are only human.



I watch people furrow their brows as they learn a new technique, and frown when they don't get it right the first time. Something we forget as adult learners is that the learning is in the mistakes - we figure out what went wrong and what not to do. Mistakes are GOOD. You are learning something completely new, so give yourself a break and accept that you won't get it absolutely right first go.



I messed up this 'simple' lace scarf pattern so many times it was infuriating. But in making those mistakes I learned something: don't knit this project when talking to people, when tired, or basically any time that may present with distractions. 



I say the word practice like it's going out of fashion. If you're learning something new, we've already covered that you're going to screw it up. You won't get it right. No-one expects you to. Oh, wait! YOU EXPECT TO! Ahhh, yes, Guess what? You won't. You'll get it wrong and the only way you're going to improve is by doing it over and over and over and over again. You know what? I've done things over and over and over again and ended up with this:



This blanket is epic. I can't really crochet. I can do two stitches - and they are right here. And now i've done them so many effing times I can't possibly forget how. And look what I have at the end of it! Practice is wonderful!

so you're allowed to make mistakes, you're allowed to not be amazing at it. Once you know that - relax. Enjoy the process of learning something new. 



I cannot emphasize enough just how important your tools are. If you have crap tools, you will spend your entire time fighting against them. And if you're going to invest your precious time making something, that time shouldn't be filled with the frustration of struggling to get an inferior product to bend to your will. 



Yes, you should make things for yourself, yes you should get yourself something nice, yes the most beautiful fabric or yarn or paper should be used for you. Be selfish with your making. Don't agree to make your manager at work a hat, unless they are the most amazing manager you have ever had. Your hobby is for you. 



Time is precious. Don't pretend to people that what you made isn't a big deal - it really is. After the emotional stress of accepting your imperfections, after all that practice, you make something beautiful and valuable. Don't play it down. Celebrate your handmade items - you have a skill, it is worth something.



If you're near an independent craft supplier - use them. You'll get better service, more passion and real knowledge. They'll bend over backwards for you and without you - they'll be gone. Show off what you've made - because by golly they'll get excited about it.



People will think you are weird. They will judge you. It doesn't matter. This is your time - do with it what you will. Knit in public. Wear your handmade items with pride. Don't let anyone tell you that it's not cool. If you enjoy it - cool doesn't even factor. 


This is my cat. Because he doesn't judge my knitting, or me, except when there's no room on my knee for him because there's too much yarn.

My grandad learned to snowboard when he was 70. Don't tell me you can't do anything. Don't put limitations on yourself. Go forth, make mistakes, challenge yourself, and craft.




gidgetknits said:

Happy claps! This is wonderful and exactly what I was thinking today as I looked at the quilting I was doing and all the triangle points that didn’t match up… and then I looked at the couple that did and that made me happy! It is about being okay with learning. Learning is good. Learning is not about being perfect all the time. I learn by plunging in and getting things wrong. Plus, I like your cat!


Jess said:

I am so glad I went to the Pecha kucha I hope they do it again it was so awesome! I’ve thought a lot about what you said since and it so rings true, I am forever thinking what I would love to make for people if I had the time, I often knit things and because of I guess my perseved imperfections I often given them away, once someone said to me you love knitting so much but you wear nothing knitted that made me think too! I visited the shop recently to choose a colour for a cardy and I always get so torn because when I choose things to make I am constantly thinking of what others will say, they won’t like the colour, the pattern, but when you said who cares you are making it for you that is what I now think, I now have a lovely cardy I made in a colour I love and I wear it saying to myself I don’t care what others think, as I have been with other things I’ve made now I wear them because I love them and I made them


Tash said:

Oh Jess, it makes me so happy to read your comment! I’m so pleased you love your new cardi – honestly, as long as it makes you happy to wear it, the opinions of others don’t count for anything. Forget about what other people think. It’s your life, you’re the only one who can live it. <3


SamIam said:

Awesome post, Tash.
I was thinking along these lines myself this week as I complete my fourth version of olgajazzy’s Hari (love the pattern, confirm I am addicted!)…my first one was in 2 ply yak and I was super pleased with the result at the time. Took me over three weeks to make (2.5mm needles and 2 ply, what was I thinking?!) but boy was it worth it. I wear it so much, its a bit stretched now, but I made it with my hands and its a one-of-a-kind piece that I’ve adapted to my requirements.

Each new one I’ve done is better than the last: surely down to the practicing and refining of the pattern. Now I can pop one out in a week. Its a clever pattern that seems tricksy but is so simple and the results are amazing.

Best of all its a small enough project that knitting it doesn’t take up too much of my lap and my bossy boots cat Selma can still take up pole position on my lap! Love your beautiful cat in the photo.

The latest one (also in yak) is destined for my dear mother who taught me to knit many years ago. Can’t wait to get it blocked and in the mail to her…


maureencrow said:

lovely post I kept looking for the love and agree button.
Thankyou for carrying qualitytools and yarn, lifes to short to use
poor quality yarn and tools!


Mel said:

I make mistakes all the time most of the time i only correct them if I can’t fudge past them and make it ok.
My nana once told me that you never point out your mistakes as most others won’t be able to see them anyway. And if they can then they’ll recognise just how much work you’ve put into it and would know that mistakes are ok


Caren said:

Great stuff Tash, must have been lovely as a talk. Couldn’t agree more. I love your grandad as well as your cat.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.