So I’m currently putting together a class that I’m teaching next Wednesday–it’s beginning knitting and crocheting, and one of the enrollees wrote to ask what project I’m teaching first, and my response was, “A rectangle. I’m teaching people how to choose materials and make a rectangle. And if their first rectangle is successful, I can teach them how to read a pattern and make a different rectangle–or even a triangle. But first, we start with material choices and what I’ve learned by doing.”
And as I outline this class, I’m thinking of the projects I want to present, and how they’re often not perfect, but I learned something from each one. And also how even the imperfect ones usually get used to death and loved.
And while I was outlining the course, I stumbled upon the idea of Fuckcesses and Sailures.
A Fuckcess is a project that actually turns out–shape is perfect, stitches are perfect, it’s everything it was planned to be, but due to material choices or stitch choices the item is really never going to be used. About fifteen years ago, a friend of mine was doing a takedown of Vogue Knitting, and she tore a designer a whole new asshole because of a backless knit dress designed in bulky 100% alpaca wool. As it turns out, the wool company was sort of the hidden bad guy here–as I recall, they told the designer what they wanted and she did her best, but the reason this was a “dress for fuckcess” item rested in the material and item choice. Bulky weight alpaca is lovely stuff–but it has serious drape and zero elasticity. Either it would be written to standard gauge or even a little below and droop so badly that nipples and other things would just pop right through the stitching (remember, it was backless so a bra SHOULDN’T be necessary) or it would be knit so tight that it would hang like a garage door. Also, knitted dresses are often a bad idea if the material choices don’t account for the sag in the skirt. As in, it could give a size zero model an ass like a dump truck. I have a shawl of bulky weight alpaca–I love it, but as a form-fitting garment? No.
And a capper, I believe the entire garment was done with popcorn stitches, which looked like giant growths in the giant fluffy yarn.
Oh–and if it was cold enough to wear an alpaca dress, leaving the shoulders bare would result in some serious frostbite.
But the dress was very pretty in the picture. That my friends, is a Fuck-cess.
We’ve all had them.
I, for instance, have a poncho I made for Mate using super thick kitchen cotton. Looks good. Fits great. Is not warm AT ALL and weighs roughly 300 pounds.
I also have (and this is ready to be presented for the class) this sweater I made chicken. It’s bulky weight wool, and to my eyes, it’s SOOPER pretty. And the unusual construction worked. The wool itself was a little drapey–I thought a little bit of light felting would make it hang together more, and I was right! It’s a little felted, and it’s tight, and while it was super big on Chicken then, it comes much closer to fitting now.
It would be a fine, FINE article of clothing in Toronto, say, or Alaska. Some place where they have snow six months out of the year.
As opposed to our part of California which is slowly sinking into oblivion because of drought and climate change.
Yeah. This sweater is a FUCKCESS. Did everything I wanted it to and nothing I needed it for. Ta-da!
So that’s one side of the coin.
The other side of the coin is much less likely to be seen in knitting magazines. The standard Sailure is something that may have a structural deficit–or several of them. It may have some poor color choices (aherm, in the eyes of everyone but the maker, mind you) and it may have a few missed stitches, but the item is useful, well used, and LOVED. One of my favorite stories of a Sailure is a qiviut shawl made by a woman in recovery. She and the other members of her recovery group became fascinated by the “magic” properties of qiviut yarn, and in spite of the fact that knitting was new to this person–she’d learned it to help her recovery process–and she didn’t know how to block, and the shawl was therefore stumpy and short and needed a pin to stay around the neck or shoulders, this shawl was the magic talisman for women who were trying so desperately to live a better life. It was passed from member to member–one wore it when she got her thirty day chip, and then again at a year. Another wore it to her daughter’s wedding, where she could only go if she promised to stay sober.
I would say that this garment, in spite of its structural flaws and knitting errors, was an unqualified SUCCESS–or a Sailure. Any flaws in the construction or knitting sailed right by the wearer’s notice, because the garment itself fulfilled its usefulness again and again and again.
Sailures do not get layouts in magazines. They’re not often on the blogs of knitting designers or geniuses. But they are unequivocally loved.
My own personal Sailures are many and documented, but most recently it’s this Stevie Nicks inspired hooded cowl–an infinity scarf with a hood–that I made for my sister’s birthday using some favorite yarn scraps. I love everything about this by the way, every scrap, every color choice–it just all came together.
As did the extra twist in the infinity portion of the scarf, giving it almost a knot as opposed to an infinity twist.
Now, I’d keep this myself–iI love me a good hooded scarf or shawl–but my sister was the first person to tell me, “You know, nobody but you has seen the picture–even the one in your head. What you may be freaking out as a design glitch might be a feature to somebody else.”
So I’m writing this one down as a Sailure. And I’m pretty sure she’ll wear it to death in the winter. It really is her jam.
And the reason it’s important to know about Fuckcesses and Sailures is that it’s important to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Some people can only function if everything is perfect–and sometimes I envy those people. But most of the time I’m aware that if I stressed about perfection I’d get nothing done–not knitting, not housework, not traveling. I could easily get obsessed with chumming the water with minutia and not ever see the ocean upon which I knit or write or float. If my bestie asks me for a sweater, I feel like I need to get her a sweater STAT–sometime in the next year. She’s COLD, you understand. FREEZING. My yarn may be the only thing between her and certain death from exposure. A miscounted stitch or mildly imperfect seam doesn’t matter when death is on the line! Pretty much everything I’ve given her–and there’s been a lot–has been possessed of flaws. And while I see the flaws, she sees the garment and how warm it keeps her.
She sees SUCCESS, and I see SAILURE.
And sometimes it’s okay to just let the F in “failure” sail right by.