Friday, September 14, 2007

Becoming Adept

Everything is a learning process. When we learned to walk, most of us didn't just get up off the floor and run. We took a few trembling steps, and fell down. We got up and tried again, and maybe fell a few more times. A foot went out wonky, and we did a face-plant. Eventually, we could get up, take aim at a goal, and make a run for it.

At some point we stopped trying, because we could just do it. The face-plants come as a shocking surprise now and then, and yet they still happen. Occasionally.

All this fiber stuff is just like learning to walk, except there is often a physical reminder of the face-plant stage. A sock that has slightly too many holes in it is still a sock. We might wear it, and wear it out, but we also try again, and maybe again and again, until we can pick up those stitches and leave no holes and have A Sock, rather than a sad little sock. Then, of course, we have to do it again (we need Two Socks). The second sock might not be A Sock, but we've gained experience, confidence, and eventually we just knit socks.

So here's a saga, from face-plant stage to not-yet-Sock stage, that has kept me entertained for weeks. Several months ago, I showed you this bag:

spider web bag

Knotted pile, handspun, love the bag itself but there was something not-quite-right about the handle. I sewed it all together though, and took it with me to Asilomar, as a work-in-progress. I love to have examples of not-quite-right for show and tell. I learn more from my mistakes, the analyzing, the fussing, the do-overs, than I do from the projects that go smoothly. In fact, I have the firm belief that the projects that go smoothly are not my own: they are done with the assistance of some other-worldly being who thinks the world needs that One Perfect Bag to remain in tight spin on its axis.

However: we are talking about the process of becoming adept here, and while other-worldly help would be welcome, it usually requires just work. Work, work and more work, and I know the irony of using the term work for something that is really just play.

So here's the first band, the not so successful one, which became the handle for the bag:


Leaving out that it was too short for the bag, the design fell short of the mark. I wanted a certain look, a design that looked like a ribbon wrapped around a pole. On paper, it all looked like it would work, but in yarn, or at least in the yarn I chose, it did not.

I tried a second time, with other yarns, but with the original pattern draft, at the left of this band:

band beginning 2 July 2007

Still didn't work, so I started fussing with it. I dropped a few threads, then a few more, and marked each new version with a red thread. Eventually, the band was closer to the look I wanted:


There was still a slight variation I thought would help, so I warped up a band in cotton yarns, with the new threading, which I liked:


tried a different color weft (whoops! not so good):


And then tested an even further variation:


Oops, went too far. This one is too spare, even though it is indeed like a ribbon wrapping around a pole. The one above looks like two ribbons wrapping, and I like that better. To celebrate the just-rightness of the design, I did a longish band, in handspun silk:


silk band3 July 2007

Then I had another idea, oh dear, which will require more *work*, such as it is. Stay tuned, more to come. Progress however, is being made, step by little step. Face-plants free with every effort.

You can see (I think, I hope) why I thought it was important for that ribbon-wrapped quality of the design, yes, on yet another bag:

atropos detail


The first bag got a completely different band:

world wide web3

Rethink, rethink. It's a mantra. Even with many years of learning behind me, I still stumble and fall. If I never succeeded, I probably wouldn't be so sanguine about the pratfalls. But success only comes with effort, with failures, with trying. I don't mind telling you about it, I don't mind showing people the steps, because I think they eventually lead to competence, for me, and, I hope, for you.


Blogger Donna said...

Only for sake of time, I'll keep this short: Sara, you are such an inspiration to all of us! The teacher is the best student!!

10:10 AM  
Blogger Deanna said...

We have a small poster on the wall upstairs that says "Failure leads to success!" I put it up there for my sons, but I think the message is really for me. :-)

I LOVE the ribbon band on the bag with the marvelous image of the great wheel with the yarn coming off the spindle and meandering! I also think the diagonals on the band for the web bag looks just right - especially the way the band is twisting, like a ribbon, in the photo.

Lovely stuff!

12:13 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I have several of these "teaching moment" items - a spool where I forgot to re-reel the silk and it dried totally inseparable is one of my favorites. I like to tell my students, "If I can't always be a good example, at least I can be a horrible warning." I think all your iterations look quite good, but I can see where you're going in the changes.

I like the image of the ribbon being spun, too - this is one I did back in the early 90's:

1:01 PM  
Blogger Charleen said...

It's very interesting following the steps that you take while fine-tuning a project. I like the twisted ribbon band. It's beautiful in its own right and really complements the bag.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I liked them all, so guess I have a lot of face-plan learning ahead, since I would have been fine with any one of them.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I was interested in the development of the design, and I see what you are talking about, but really I thought you were making a lot of fuss about nothing much. The first handle looked just fine to me.

Then I saw the great wheel bag with the revised "wrapped pole" strap. Very nice -- much nicer IMO than th first iteration of the design. And THEN I saw the original bag with its new strap. Oh, my. What a difference! Just shows it's worth paying attention to that little nagging voice that says "it's not quite right."

4:39 PM  
Blogger dragon knitter said...

but don't the pratfalls make the successes that much sweeter?

8:31 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

The blog loves nothing more than a screw-up. Ask me how I know this.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Whoa! Howdidjadodat? I'm assuming it's a threaded in design? But it looks almost like you have a supplementary warp thing going on there.

Exceedingly cool!

7:56 PM  

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