It’s an itch felt by anyone who works creatively. Musicians, artists, crafters and writers hold a skill that over time changes and develops. Knitting is just the same; and as our skills improve, we can reflect on past projects and wince at the clumsy mistakes we made.
A sloppily sewn up sleeve or a rushed neckline stands out like a belisha beacon now; and the urge to rectify these crude mistakes can be immense. I’ve felt the same about my fair isle knits, but learning to not throw the baby out with the bathwater is hard!
I’ve recently learned about colour dominance in fair isle knitting – a technique which now makes my past efforts look sloppy and poorly executed. When I look back at my first fair isle design I definitely feel this way! There are stitches in my pattern that should have been the dominant colour, but weren’t, so they get lost in the background. I designed my first fair isle pattern two years ago. I had completed the ‘Twinned With Roses’ cardigan in Susan Crawford’s ‘A Stitch In Time’ vintage knitwear book, which was a combination of fair isle and intarsia (there’s another blog to come about the different between the two), and I was eager to try my hand at designing a fair isle yoke with wool I’d purchased on a recent visit to friends in Reykjavik.
I knew the stitches didn’t all seem to sit right and that some of these were lost in the background, and now I have learned about colour dominance I shalln’t make the same mistake again. But what shall I do with my original jumper?? (I often wear it as I love the combination of colours and the feel of the Lopi 4 ply fleece from Icelandic sheep).
I’m a fairly competent seamstress and my sewing up isn’t bad; and as I’ve not split my stitches when sewing up I could unpick the set-in sleeves, the shoulders and part of the side seam, unravel the neckline and yoke and re-knit the yoke with my newly found, improved skills (I have actually considered doing this…is it me or is anyone else as persnickity??!?) or, I can leave this jumper, warts and all, as a reminder of the progress I’ve made in my techniques.
It feels as though there’s actually a much bigger picture here – in a world where we can make everything look perfect, there can be a tendency to apply this to our own creative skills – to remaster what we have already done. However, we stand to lose the history of our creative endeavours and pretend we started from a different point to where we really did; and there’s something disingenuous about this for me. So, the jumper stays! I shall continue to wear it with more pride in the history it conveys than the techniques employed; but it’s a honest documentation of my progress.