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Pushing through the Mental Block (and finishing my project!)

When a project starts to go wrong and you are struggling to fix it, and you are pulling your hair out, how do you push through? And should you? A short "time out" for the project, a chance to walk away and calm oneself down, is often necessary for the creative process and will hopefully allow your brain to process everything and provide the solution! But sometimes, especially when things repeatedly go wrong, it takes more than setting the project aside for an overnight or even for a few days. That was certainly the case with this sweater: Coda by Brooklyn Tweed. Its "time out" lasted more than a year! So here are some thoughts on how I pushed through the mental block and finished, in this case my sweater, but the process applies to most creative projects!

1. Give yourself a deadline! I find this especially works if I am sewing for someone else, especially my girls. I don't want to disappoint them and so I will push through and get it done, even when that means finishing the Easter dresses at 3 a.m. because darling son decided it was the perfect time to see if the Buzz Lightyear toothpaste could be flushed down the toilet! This method doesn't always work - darling daughter's skirt currently needs to be taken in which means ripping out the zipper, and so it has been sitting in the sewing room, and sitting, and sitting... So that brings us the next suggestion:

2. Give yourself a reward! It can be whatever works for you - anything from chocolate, to a new project! That is how I finished the Coda sweater - I want to participate in the 4 Day KAL sponsered by Olive Knits and I told myself I couldn't participate unless I finished the Coda! Essentially I used both - I had a deadline (the KAL starts July 4th) and I had a reward (a new project!). (Yarn is Malabrigo Rios Aguas)

Foxtrot Cardigan pattern and yarn.

3. Ask for help! Sometimes a project really stumps us and giving the brain time to think it through just doesn't solve the problem. In that case, its time to turn to your knitting and sewing friends. I took my Coda sweater to my friend Cyndi and she had some great suggestions on how to tackle the cable graft that was causing such problems. If you don't have someone locally who can help, reach out online. I am always happy to answer smocking questions and there is a Facebook group that covers just about every topic you can imagine with people who are happy to answer a question and give you help.

4. You may not be the problem, the pattern may be! This is a variation on number 3 above, but even though patterns go through testing, there are still often mistakes! For the sake of your hair, try googling, check a few online forums, and see if others have had similar problems. With my Coda sweater, when I looked back through the pattern, I realized that the cable graft wasn't continuous and that I didn't like the join. Since the cable sits in the middle of my back, I really wanted it to look good. By googling the sweater I found that the cable connection indeed did not look good - I wasn't doing it wrong. Again, reaching out was the answer, this time to my engineering daughter (who is also a knitter!). After I ripped and grafted it 3 different times and still didn't like how it looked, it finally occurred to me that a cable coming from two different sides and joining in the middle just wasn't going to look continuous. My daughter immediately recognized that and explained at best it was going to be off by 1/2 a stitch. In this case, there wasn't a mistake in the pattern, I just wasn't happy with how it was designed. However, mistakes happen all the time in patterns, many sewing patterns have mistakes where seams don't match up and one piece is shorter than another, so check it out online before you assume you are the problem!

5. Ignore the pattern and provide your own solution! You are the boss of your projects and there is nothing that says it needs to be just as the pattern describes. There are no points or gold stars awarded for matching the pattern. The goal is a finished garment that the recipient will love to wear, or a finished project that you are proud to display. So ask yourself and your friends, what can you do to make this a lovely project you will be proud of, even if it isn't the same project that you started out to create. My daughter provided the solution for my Coda when she suggested that I substitute a few rows of garter stitch in the middle. Rather than have an awkward cable join that didn't match, I now have a purposeful join that does match and I like how it looks much better.

6. Give yourself permission to let go and move on! Some projects just aren't meant to be - the choice of fabric, yarn, pattern - it all just doesn't work. Maybe your style has changed and the project just isn't you anymore. You hopefully enjoyed some of the process, you hopefully learned something in the process, so now pass it on if it can be, or give yourself permission to dispose of it if it can't be passed on, but don't let it stop your creativity and your joy in creating!

Finished Brooklyn Tweed Coda Sweater


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