Just occasionally, life runs smoothly. Traffic lights turn respectfully green as I approach (am I the only person who has good-traffic-light days and bad-traffic-light days?) and the twinnage clean their teeth on something less than the seventeenth time of asking. Other days, the roof springs a new leak, next door’s cat poos on my veg beds, and I go to work in the day-job unaware that there are dinosaur stickers attached to the back of my jumper until a patient or a colleague points it out.
Likewise, some evenings the side-hustle knit-designing goes well and I fall prey to hubristic delusions of competence. Other evenings, every motif that I create for a piece of stranded knitting comes out looking like an illustration of private bodily parts gone wonky.
In knit-design news, today was definitely towards the rudey-anatomy end of the success spectrum.
I was working on a design commission. The time pressure was real, but I was on it. I doodled and re-doodled. Lots of curly-swirly bits. I was hoping to convey a hint of foliage, a suggestion of flora. But you get a completely different perspective when you stand back from your work… which was how I discovered that what I’d actually conveyed was a hint of BOOBS. Those twin sweeping curls with spots in the middle? Yeah, there was nothing foliate about those. All I could see was some dubious norkage. (Do you say ‘norks’ outside the UK or is that purely British slang?) You’ll have to imagine the image because I’m far too ashamed to show you my work. Perhaps I was subconsciously compensating for the fact that I only have 1.5 boobs remaining these days – though consciously I’m aggressively unbothered by that, other than worrying that I risk listing to the left and tracing circles every single time I go for a run.
Back, quite literally, to the drawing board, with a fresh pot of green tea as fuel. I sighed. I picked up my pencil and rubber. (Stop sniggering American readers: that doesn’t mean what you think it means over here.) And then I began work again, with a renewed determination to be leafy and ornate. Definitely not thinking about mammary glands. At all. Oh no.
I doodled in my knitters’ graph paper book. (Since knit stitches aren’t square in their proportions, it’s best to use graph paper accounting for that fact when you design your own motifs.) More doodles. Perhaps I should add a few more straight lines instead of all these curves? Doodling has always been a big habit of mine when studying, though less so at other times. Fortunately I clocked up a lot of years of studying. There isn’t a page of my student note-taking that doesn’t have a touch of the curly-swirlies around its edge. Not sure how I’d manage if I was starting out now in these screen-based times. Badly and miserably and uncreatively, I assume. I’ll never stop being grateful that both my sons love to draw, despite the constant lure of screens.
What I didn’t know back then was that all the student doodling would turn out – several decades later – to have been an apprenticeship for a yarn-based side-hustle. The stranded knit-design thing has been a long time in the making. Actually, I remember being entranced by the possibilities of complicated abstract shapes when I was no more than about nine years old, so I might have just served the longest apprenticeship ever. Better late than never.
Anyway. As I said, I had another go. This time there would be no boobs. And indeed, there were none. Success!
Again, I curled and swirled. Things seemed to be going well. I mixed different shapes – long thin shapes with small circular creations. You can guess where this is going, can’t you?
Yeah, when I smugly (hello hubris) stood back to admire my work, all I saw was a peculiarly… phallic creation. Again, I can’t bear to show you the evidence – sorry.
OK. Yet more green tea, in the absence of anything stronger. Third attempt.
Perhaps – I naively thought – the solution was to go against every curly-swirly instinct in my body and embrace straight lines. Yes, this might be the way forward. Right angles! Verticals! Horizontals! I could do this. (Although word to the wise, it’s curls and diagonals that suit the stranded technique best, not long verticals or horizontals.) I played around with a few ideas. Sipped my green tea even though it had by now gone cold. Reviewed progress. Stood back… aaaaaaaaand realized that the motif I’d created looked WAY too much like a swastika. Yikes, that wasn’t even funny. Yes I realize that this symbol had positive connotations amongst Hindus/Buddhists/Jains WAY before the Nazis got hold of it, but still. Fascists ruined a perfectly decent symbol. This was not amusing.
Time to start yet again.
The good news is that having exhausted pretty much every form of rude and inappropriate imagery known to humankind, I did eventually make some non-abysmal progress on the design, albeit in an infinite-monkey-theorem kind of way. The less-good news is that I can’t show you quite yet because it’s a paid commission. So until I can ta-da you the reality, let’s just pretend that today has been a fantastically good-traffic-light day, that the twinnage have the cleanest of teeth, and that I’ve created exceptionally pleasing knitty images, yeah?
I just hope that your day has been full of success, both in yarnery and life.