Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Making things involves effort. Creating new or personal or, dare I say it: better things involves effort and thought. Creating something exceptional involves effort, thought, and luck, grace, divine spark, a leap of faith and working through fear: heart.


Creating the exceptional involves trying things out, some of which may not work. Many of those "failures" can be hidden away in closets, and drawers, or shown around, used as a cautionary tale, but they are still things. They are still teachers. Hands and head learned something, strove for a conclusion, tried. And others can learn from them, and build on them, and we all move one step closer to ... what? A new world? Well, that's awfully grand. Maybe just a better sweater!

Not everything in this life turns out the way we want it to. So do we not try? Do we become spectators, watch, look? Do we follow? Use only recipes? Patterns?

Watching others strive is endemic to our culture: TV, movies, and yes, recipes and patterns. Recently, someone told me she only cooks using recipes, because she wants everything she makes to be delicious. Well, it is making. It also can produce a very good meal, a healthy meal, and it's a good step on the path to actually creating. It is how we are trained in this culture: follow the rules, don't think for yourself, do what you are told, do not deviate. Luckily for all of us, most people do just follow the rules, or this world could be crazy anarchy!

Recipes and patterns teach us a lot: which spices go well with which dishes, which stitches make this decrease lean as if to be incorporated in the shaping of the garment, and which weave structure allows this yarn to drape and flow, or remain firm and unyielding. I use, and try to create, recipes and patterns for me and others to follow. But they are a tool to learn something, not the end result. There is no surprise. There is no challenge. It is just rote work: the absence of adventure.

After the learning, the challenge is to use, incorporate, combine, make something new, at least make something out of your own hands and heart, something personal, perfectly suited to you and your needs, using your own powers of adding, subtracting and incorporating; in short: creating.

Not just making.


It is comfortable to follow the rules. It is scary to step put on your own, to try things, to make an effort, to travel, to learn how other people live, to see, wear, and taste new things. But you can always step back! If it's too wearying to be away from your comfort zone, rush back home! Recover for a while, use your recipes and patterns. But look at whatever it is that scared you, and try again. You just might stumble upon something wonderful next time.

The rewards for making something new are very satisfying. I think it is why we are here. Failure is everywhere, lurking around the corner. But so is progress, and success. Where would we be without all the poets, artists, scientists, and engineers who build, and tweak and throw their work out there for the world to see? They look at the world, or at something right in front of them, and say: hmmm, but how about this?

ten years on 014

I try to be flexible and resourceful, in weaving, spinning, dyeing, cooking, travel,in short: everyday. My path may be tortured by failures, but I take that next step and try again. I might just be producing the missing link in the next grand project: the tiniest detail that worked, that I (we!) can build on, that takes me down my own path to something really, really good. If not great.

Every photo in this post is of a failure of some sort. Looks nice, but....something went wrong. Some things I can fix, some things I use as examples of XXX. And some things just wave their little hands in my face to remind me of a miss-step.

Take a chance. Step out of the box. Break a few rules. Try. Strive. Fail. Get up and do it again. Some day: fly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You slay me! I love the safety of patterns and repeatable results. My box is well furnished and comfortable. Why are you trying to make it feel a little small? ...a little constricted? I'm too old for this.

Even your mistakes are beautiful.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Trying something new, something that may fail or just might not be as stunning as it was in my mind, gets easier with practice. So I fail? So what? Maybe I "wasted" $50 worth of yarn and a month's worth of my spare time. So what? I didn't die. I didn't kill anyone else. I just have something in my hand that very clearly tells me where I went wrong, so I can do better next time. It may be annoying or frustrating or irritating, but it's not scary any more. If I "ruin" good yarn, well, darn, I guess I better go buy or spin some more - what a hardship!

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant, just brilliant!

Now I just have to find a way to share this with my students who I am encouraging to leave the box to become creative professionals.

Thank you.

4:59 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

As someone you've taught and encouraged, I live the truth of this. And I love you for it.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

That poor woman....there are some really bad recipes out there!!

Doing is so key, because experience is what helps us to learn to tell the good recipes from the bad ones. And one can only gain experience by doing.

And as you say...not rote doing. I remember early in my professional career when I was mulling over a job change. A mentor said to me when talking about 'years of experience': "There's a difference between doing the same job over and over again for three years vs. being in a job for three years that has allowed you to develop foundational skills which you are building upon."

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Uny said...

I love this post. Also I am learning that sometimes my failures are loved by someone else. When a friend says "I love this!" I am learning to say "I'm so glad that you like it. Why don't you give it a home." Instead of immediately jumping in and pointing out why it doesn't work for me. Of course some things are just plain awful and are consigned to the 'lessons learned' bin.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Charlene said...

So what's wrong with the middle one - the bag? I know the hat's for a pin-head, and the leaves, well, I see what you were after, but the bag isn't obviously (to me) a failure.

If my beading fails, I just cut it up and the beads are as good as new. Every week there are piles of short, wiggly thread in my dustbin.

It's all instructive and it's all inspiring and even though sometimes a piece goes smoothly from conception to execution to realization, it doesn't happen every time.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara, I have a copy of "Woven Treasures" and a not often used 8 shaft loom. Looking at it daily, I dust it off and stroke it and say 'one day' - with that fear of failure also goes waste of product and cost. Really just an excuse, since I have many knitting failures behind me. Thank you for this, 2013 was to be my make or break year with weaving, your words have encouraged me to move forward. Love your work, take care and best wishes from Melbourne, Australia.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Gemmi Fuchsbau said...

This post moved me and I linked back to it and mentioned you in my post today on incorporating learning into Spiritual practice at

Your work is beautiful and your words very inspiring.

10:51 AM  

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