Today on the blog we have a guest post from Belinda Evans who is teaching Modern Weaving, Traditional Techniques at this year's retreat. We love talking about perfection on this blog - what it means and how it affects us and our making. Here is a totally different take on it from Belinda - I truly love this post and know that you will too. - Felicia x
I'm a perfectionist. I like things to be just so. As a weaver this means that I spend a great deal of time (and much angst) unravelling, cutting, redoing (and swearing), all in an attempt to achieve perfect tension, straight lines, an even surface. I place the most incredible standards on myself to create a finished piece that cannot be faulted.
I've discovered that while I expect these standards of myself, I actually prefer items hand made by others that are a little imperfect. Even other people's weaving. Especially other people's weaving! And other people's knitwear.
A perfect (pardon the pun) example of this is my favourite cardigan. It's one of many pieces of knitwear of various yarns, styles and origins that I own. I also have a few neat looking grey and navy men's sweaters from that Australian chain that everyone shops at but no one admits to (that has especially great menswear that you can buy in an extra small and wear yourself and great bed linen - you know the one I mean), a lovely taupe open knit cardigan that was well beyond my budget at the time but I treated myself to when I graduated from uni anyway (from a high end Australian designer), a few cute cardigans for the office from either Cue or Veronika Maine (from about 8 years ago when their styles were really great), and a few rather lovely machine knitted pieces from local designer who works from her home studio with a knitting machine from the 70s.
I'm not really a knitter, so I'm not sure of all the terminology or things that can go wrong with a knitted garment from that point of view, but I am a seasoned and discerning clothes buyer and I pay close attention to the quality of the pieces that I buy. All of these pieces are technically perfect. I couldn't point out anything 'wrong' with any of them. No stitches have been dropped, the seams are perfectly stitched, both arms are exactly matching in length, the knit is uniform across the garment, from top to bottom (no lumpy bits), there is no neck weirdness. All in all, they're perfect. But none of them are my favourite cardigan.
My favourite cardigan is a rather daggy fair isle piece made from possibly the itchiest woollen yarn known to (wo)man. It has ridiculously long arms (and a short body), is kind of lumpy in shape, and when I do the top button I'm convinced that it is trying to strangle me. There are a few holes of unknown origin on one side (dropped stitches, or possibly moths?) and it smells rather sheep - like (despite the fact that it has been detached from the sheep from which it was shorn for at least half a century).
So why is this imperfect, daggy cardigan my favourite piece of knitwear? Why is it the one that makes my heart sing when I slip my hands through its misshapen cuffs? Why do I walk with pride when it is wrapped around my shoulders (with the top button always undone)? Why does it seem to go with everything in my wardrobe (sky blue with indigo denim is ok, right)?
It is because this cardigan was knitted by my great grandmother for my grandmother. It was passed on to my aunt who then passed it to me. When I hold it I think of my great grandmother sitting by the fire, laughing with her friends as she sipped tea and clicked away on her knitting needles. I imagine my grandmother slipping it on as she closed the front door behind her, off to drop my mother off to school. I picture my aunt leaving a cafe with a friend with it slung over her arm as the day was warmer than expected (but she wanted an excuse to wear it).
I love it because it was knitted by hand and with love. Its imperfections make it special and they make it mine. They make it better than all of my straight, even, normal-necked knitwear.
It reminds me that life is imperfect and that I'm imperfect, too. And that maybe someone else loves the imperfections in my own work. Maybe someone looks at my woven tapestries and smiles, thinking of me working on it at a crafternoon, loom on my lap, laughing with my friends. Perhaps when they touch it they close their eyes and imagine me on the beach, collecting treasures and smelling the ocean air. My favourite cardigan reminds me that I should let go, enjoy the process and accept the final product. Because whatever the result, it will be perfectly imperfect.