Designing with Yarn

I started to learn how to design with yarn when I became ill with chronic fatigue syndrome and spent hours each day sitting in my recliner and looking out the window. Two years later, when I fell in love with crochet, I kept trying to reproduce what I’d seen during those early months of my illness.

And I kept failing. Patterns didn’t work. Stitch combinations didn’t work. Even expensive, space-dyed yarn didn’t work.

Nor did my beloved books. They were great at telling me how to make stuff like the authors’, but they didn’t show me how to make a blanket like the sky.

Then I found a book of Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolors, with those magnificent sunset paintings. I couldn’t figure out a way to accurately reproduce them in crochet, but I really didn’t want to. I wanted to make my sky into a blanket, not hers.

Still, I’d found a foothold. I continued to crochet and knit and needlepoint, but I also starting exploring art, especially painting.

And that’s when I began to understand.

No one could teach me how to make a sky blanket, because it was a personal, artistic problem.

Me, an artist? Nah, not possible. I was an artistic failure. I had years and years of people, important people like teachers, telling me I couldn’t draw or paint and should stick to being smart.

But I still wanted to make that blanket. And I am one very stubborn woman.

So I somehow found the courage to ignore all those voices and started making pictures. I read all sorts of friendly, “you, too, can be an artist” books and actually followed some of their directions. “Just put marks on paper,” one said, so I bought a big box of crayons and put marks on a piece of paper.

And it was fun!

I bought some dime-store watercolors and put watercolor marks on paper. Then big swirls of color.

More fun!

And I started reading how-to art books, and looked at more paintings, and fell in love with Matisse and David Hockney, and kept on putting marks on paper.

And I kept on crocheting and reading everything I could find about fiber.

Oh, yes, I also watched my two Kaffe Fassett videos about forty times. In one of the segments, he talks about making his own version of space-dyed yarn by tying lots of pieces of different yarns together. Since I’d already been following his advice to buy one skein of every yarn I liked that I could afford, I already had a great stash of beautiful yarns.

About half of them were in sky colors.

So one day I piled them all on my living room floor and made four balls of sky-colored, space-dyed yarn. I crocheted the base row in a solid blue and then let the balls of yarn sing their song.

The blanket was beautiful. Even better than I’d dreamed. It didn’t look like any sky I’d ever seen, but it was my interpretation, my very own, personal, artistic interpretation, of what I’d seen.

I was an artist.

I am an artist.

And I can’t think of any better way to live.

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