Have you ever mistakenly purchased a quantity of ugly yarn? This is usually done online because it didn’t look bad in the picture and/or it was cheap. Both circumstances tripped me up recently, and I ended up with two large skeins of rather ugly yarn. I thought it was going to be a heather gray bulky weight yarn. It was made in Italy, so it has to be cool, right? Not necessarily. I‘m here to tell you the Italians can make ugly yarn. It was mostly grayish, but had pink, light blue and lavender shades throughout it as well. It wasn’t soft; it was a scratchy, spongy wool with a black thread wrapped around the yarn strand. When it was crocheted into fabric, all I could see were the pieces of black thread, which for some reason reminded me of spider legs.
All was not lost, though there were challenges ahead.
First, I‘m not good at figuring out how many yards are needed to make anything more complicated than a hat. Second, the label on this yarn indicated its quantity in grams and meters. I’m not stupid, but this kind of thing makes my brain hurt. Next, my intended use for this yarn was for a cowl, but there was no way anyone would put this scratchy, spider-leggy yarn around their neck. Cozy, it’s not. Still not knowing exactly how much yarn I was working with, I boldly decided try a long scarf–one that could be carelessly tossed over one’s shoulder or wrapped loosely several times around one’s next. I started out working it in short rows of one of my favorite stitches, the grit stitch. After wasting a lot of time in this direction, it became apparent that it would be a pretty boring scarf done entirely in this ugly yarn, but I didn’t think it would work well to add stripes, which was the only way I could think of to extend the scarf’s length.
Because my goal with this project was to have something pretty special that could be entered in a juried show at our local arts center and because the deadline for this show was just seven days away, I was getting a little stressed. Now was not the time to start over, so that’s exactly what I did! I was still going to make a scarf, but decided it would follow the theme of the member show–“Water, Water, Everywhere”. I would work lengthwise instead of crosswise. Why? The reason escapes me now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Now I made a chain of 150 stitches using a size Q crochet hook. I stick with the grit stitch but still faced the challenge of ending up with a very narrow scarf due to the small amount of yarn I had, still I soldiered on, using magical thinking as my motivation. This is when I imagine a particular project is going to turn into something special despite all signs to the contrary. After using up the first skein, I saw that, indeed, this was going to be a very narrow scarf unless I came up with a creative solution. I actually enjoy problems like this because more often than not, I end up with something totally unexpected and special, though I’ve also created my share of duds with this approach.
Here’s where the shift from dud to masterpiece–or at least something someone would wear–occurred.
Three things happened. First, I knew I would need to supplement my two skeins of ugly yarn with something else and headed upstairs to peruse my stash. Second, I noticed that this bulky, spongy yarn had turned into a lovely textured fabric and actually resembled the sky just before a thunderstorm. The mental gears meshed and a scarf that fit the “Water, Water, Everywhere” theme began to take shape in my head. And finally, did I dare hope for a stash miracle? You know–when fate, luck and your own genius converge and that odd skein of yarn you bought at Tuesday Morning three years ago is suddenly perfect for a project you are working on in the moment. A miracle occurred when I discovered two skeins of a charcoal gray wool “ribbon” yarn (photo left). Most excellent!
After several hours of crocheting, I ended up with a scarf 72″ long and 6″ wide. But I wasn’t done yet. Fringe or not? The thick, blunt short ends cried for some kind of edging, but a the typical wool fringe seemed to detract from the overall feel of the scarf. Hard to explain, but I just didn’t think that would work. As you can see in the picture (below left), I decided on a free-from chain stitch edging that I hoped would resemble the “curtains” of water one can sometimes see flowing down under distant rain clouds. Unbelievably, a second stash miracle occurred. I found some sport weight yarn in almost the exact same shade as the “ugly” yarn and a charcoal gray wool blend, also sport weight. I free-formed a chain-stitch edging with the charcoal gray first, and then added a layer–front and back–of the lighter gray/lavender yarn. All the edging was created free-form using chain stitches and a size G crochet hook. I am pretty happy with the finished piece.
The scarf was accepted for the arts center member show (see photo). I priced it at $75. In some circles, this price would be considered too low. Others would consider the scarf outrageously over priced. Either way, I’m paying myself well below minimum wage. While not really expecting it to find a buyer here, I think it’s a good idea of put a value on a piece of work, especially when you are a fiber artist and your work is being displayed with those of “real” artists. This fiber artist in particular tends to downplay the creativity, time and effort involved in creating original designs, and I feel especially intimidated when most of the other artists are painters, potters, sculptors, jewelers, etc. By adding a price tag, I’m hoping in this small way to elevate the status of crochet as an art form.
What do you think? Is it just me, or do other fiber artists sometimes feel their work is not as valued as that of artists working with paint or clay?
Coming up: I plan to report on my adventures at CyclopsFest, a well attended arts and crafts show in Yellow Springs, Ohio September 14, 2013. I’ve been working like crazy on original hats, scarves and fingerless gloves.
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