Thursday, November 29, 2012

Design Philosophy: A Wordy Post

Yesterday while wandering around, running errands I stopped as a last-ditch effort to find what I was looking for (didn't find it) at the Salvation Army in Uptown. Sitting on the bookshelf, grabbing my attention was this book with "KNITTING" printed on the side.

I have a number of knitting books, but still I lacked a knitting book that showed me how to do almost everything. No longer - this book has EVERYTHING in it. (There's a point to this post, trust me.)

I am not nearly an expert knitter by any means - I'm really still figuring things out and it's likely a seasoned knitter will find problems in my knit design pattern I posted. (I'm pretty great at sewing now however and making my own sewing patterns.) I already see the error in my knitting  of how I used a decrease that makes my stitch pattern swing to directions I would prefer it not - however, that's the beauty of learning things. This book answers practically every knitting question I ever have and of course, it was printed in 1971 by one of my favorite arts/crafts book publishers, Dover. (They've published my favorites like Prismatic Design coloring book by Peter Von Thenen, Folk Art Motifs reference book, etc.)

Like any knitting book, it has a bunch of stitch patterns in the back (sorry - text in photos are blurry, deal with it!). It's super-detailed and will even suggest ribbing to use with certain stitch patterns, shows you how to create your OWN cable effects (if you're into designing your own stitches) and describes how you would go about making your own fair isle knits as well as using graph paper to plot out your own knit designs.

I'm sure there are many modern-day books that tell you these things too, but I haven't seen such a comprehensive book around while keeping my eyes open for one like this.

But what honestly spoke to me was this page under "Basic Knitting Procedures" that basically describes my entire design philosophy in a nutshell: just make it your way.

 The part here reads:           "There is no RIGHT or WRONG way to knit. There is only a right or wrong result. Whether you use the "German" or "Continental" method of the "English" method  - or any other method - it is only the result that counts, not the way you hold your needles or use your hands and fingers. One type of knitting may suit you but would be extremely awkward for another knitter. It is almost impossible to find any two knitters who knit exactly alike. It is rare that any two knitters achieve the same gauge, even if they use the same needles and the same yarn. It is the desired result that counts, not the manner in which the result has been achieved."

This here kids is how design school messes you up, like I went to. Before I went to school, I was completely carefree in the way in which I created. I really had no rules... until one day, a teacher told me, "Nicole, you know that type of zipper really doesn't belong in a dress like that." - I had a big chunky orange zipper in the side of the dress, completely contrasting against the purple fabric with splatter paint inset pieces. But the point is that I liked it and I was the designer meaning... I could do what I wanted!

Throughout my design training I was told that things I did in garments were "wrong" and they "needed to be like ______", and that I used the "wrong fabric" for "that type of garment", etc. I thought this was contrary to the whole design process and what it meant to be a designer. 

This is why this passage in this book spoke to me: for many years afterward I struggled with "am I doing this the wrong way?" and I would completely paralyze myself with fear to the point of not finishing or not even beginning a project!

To any new/intermediate designers, people going to school for it or not: Don't let anyone tell you that what and how you make things is "wrong". Yes, the "industry" has standards, but worry about that when you come to it. Sure, there maybe more efficient ways of achieving the same thing, but use whatever way works best for YOU. Does it look like how you wanted it to? Is it functional, wearable? Or maybe you want it to be a non-wearable piece of art. Does the garment serve it's purpose whether as solely a piece of art or meant to be an everyday favorite? Did you mess it up but learn from it? Did it come out not as planned but better?

You are the designer, you are the artist.

 I am sometimes underwhelmed with the way that fashion can sometimes be so commercial and not encouraging of any originality; the staunch following of ever-changing trends and few who can think for themselves. Fashion and design is what you make of it. Create or wear what feels right to YOU and don't listen to what anyone else has to say if it's negative (though constructive criticism is beneficial, however merely a suggestion).

Every garment you create, whether by sewing, knitting, using printing effects/dyes, etc. is a bridge to your next project and only adding to your wealth of design knowledge (even if you "fail"). Trust in yourself that you will be able to use this knowledge someday to assess and fix a vast array of design problems and use creative solutions and make things you really love.

You don't have to be a professional... or maybe you are. Either way, only the result matters. I wish someone had told me this so much earlier rather than me finding out for myself almost 2 or 3 years ago now.

 On a less serious note, here's Percy's reaction to that:  
 You have to start somewhere.

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