Learning to Slow Down in the Big City

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

     One might think that my trip last weekend to Vogue Knitting Live in New York would have spurred me on to race home to dive into knitting, designing, and blogging.  And while this event did inspire my creativity and reaffirm my determination to pursue my fiber-arts related career dreams, at this event I had a jarring, but oddly comforting, aha moment, where I realized I needed to stop and rethink my previous methods of reaching my goals.  Sitting in classes led by noted knitwear designers helped me to come to the realization that I’ve been on a mad mission:  jumping into knitting and designing without first taking care and effort to ensure that I am creating appealing and technically polished products. 

     On Saturday morning I began a two-part class with Patty Lyons  entitled “Design Your Own Top-Down Sweater.”  Lyons opened the class by commenting that women will go to the store and try on 55 tops before finding one that suits them, but those same individuals will buy yarn and a pattern and jump into knitting something, not taking into account technical details that will result in a well-fitting, attractive garment—and not taking the time to test and experiment by swatching.  In my class led by Louisa Harding on Sunday morning (entitled “Designing with Self-Striping and Variegated Yarns,”) the instructor reiterated a similar idea, stating, “The most expensive part of your project is your time.  If you’re going to spend 100 hours knitting a sweater, spending two hours swatching and playing with yarn isn’t much.”

The large swatches were done using a technique that 
mimics knitting in the round.  

     While both classes reaffirmed my passion for knitting and the strength of my aspirations related to that craft (for instance, in Lyons’s class English-major me was totally engaged and loved spending six hours doing math), they also made me take pause.  So many women grab a colorful skein of yarn and jump into knitting—the yarn purchase and the project choice the result of emotional responses—or see a sweater pattern and buy a yarn other than the one recommended on the pattern.  Buying a variant yarn isn’t necessarily the problem, but failing to go through the many steps that the designers do to ensure that the resulting garment is aesthetically pleasing and figure-flattering is ill-advised.  Designers bring sophisticated technical experience to their work—knitting swatches to see how pairings of particular stitches and particular fibers will behave and bringing their personal aesthete from years of experience in fashion to their creations.  Ignoring the steps these individuals have taken to design a garment and jumping blindly in all too often results in a waste of time and money.  Knitters also sell the designers short when we ignore the fact that they are professionals who have worked very hard for us. 

I walked about six miles on Sunday.  This quiet street near NYU made  me forget about
 deadlines and works in progress and gave me time to think about lessons I'd learned in
my classes.

     Armed with this new knowledge, I returned home to the many containers of yarn that are invading my upstairs and the piles and piles of knitting books and magazines that are all too often merely quickly glanced over by me, until I pick a pattern in one of them, buy some yarn, and start knitting.  Beholding the baskets and assorted catchalls, I felt both determination and anticipation.  I need to stop and take the time to experiment with the yarn I have, I thought.  I want to design garments, but, as a knitter, I’ve been behaving like someone who has casually ridden horses over woodland trails her whole life but who wakes up one day and proclaims, “I’m going to be on the Olympic Equestrian Team next year.”  Obviously, mastering the requisite dressage, eventing, or jumping skills would be an impossible undertaking in such a short period of time.  In the same manner, I can’t expect miracles overnight.  But I don’t want to be discouraged, either.  That recreational rider, like me, could feasibly patiently polish her skills and have a shot. . . .  Maybe a few years down the road. 

     So I’m going to stop worrying about how many finished projects I have to show off on my blog, or how many new yarns I’ve purchased and focus on professionalism—both technical detail and aesthetic sense.  Of course, I couldn’t resist casting on the top-down sweater design I think I’ve calculated properly (I did do an awful lot of math).  And, of course, I'd made some swatches first. . . .

I stopped in at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio on my Sunday stroll--such
an inviting space.  

Since Sunday was my 50th birthday, I stopped in at The Magnolia Bakery (of Sex and the City fame)
and bought a cupcake to eat while viewing Downton Abbey that night.  I did get out on Friday and Saturday
 nights, but was pretty tired after three full days in the city, so staying in with Downton seemed appealing.  


  1. Very valid points. Wonderful photos, the little garden is so sweet. Oh how I would love to visit New York sometime in my life!

  2. You are very disciplined, Liz! I am afraid I am very slapdash by comparison - never swatch, always plunge in! must amend my ways! Happy Birthday belatedly for Saturday! has my birthday parcel arrived? I do hope so - I have been very restrained and not posted on my blog anything about what's inside!! So hope you will like it. Cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery and Downton sound a perfect birthday evening to me! E xx

  3. LIz, I can't tell you how much it means to a teacher (and you know this as a teacher) to read: ". . . classes reaffirmed my passion for knitting and the strength of my aspirations related to that craft"

    I'm so glad you enjoyed my class and I can't WAIT to see pictures of your carefully swatched, designed and knit sweater. Please send me a picture - you have all my contact info on your handout and through my website.

    Hope to see you in class again soon!

    Patty Lyons


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