A little unhappy designing anecdote. It has a happy ending.
Not too long ago, Interweave Knts sent this out as part of their call for this coming Winter issue.
There were a lot of great possibilities in the overall call, but the idea of doing something cabled really appealed to me. And I thought maybe, just maybe, I could do a skirt. A cabled skirt? you ask. Yes, a cabled skirt.
Knit skirts are not nearly as popular as they deserve to be, and part of the problem is that skirt design is too dominated by the top down tube with lace at the bottom. Now, don't get me wrong. There are some really lovely examples of this formula, but it's been done.
Nor do I mean to suggest that cables on a skirt is an entirely new idea, but in the version I wanted to do, the cables would create gores, vertical panels that act a lot like the pieces sewn together in most skirts. There would be drape in ways there are few good examples of in the lowly handknit skirt. It would be awesome. There would be six panels altogether, and I would use a neglected cable from Barbara Walker, the Aqueduct Cable. (Volume 1)
So I swatched it up, sent off the proposal, and waited.
To make a long story short (and believe me, when you're waiting to knit something you're excited about, the 4 month stretch between concept and contract is a long time . . . ) the swatch came back, very much rejected. There was a nice form letter, but still, rejection is a bit of a stone wall in the road.
The thing about getting submissions back is that you never know why. Was it a bad idea? Did they like it but couldn't use it? Did I not do a good enough job explaining it? Should I have knit an enire panel for the swatch so they would believe me that I could make it work? Or were they mocking me around the table?
"What was she thinking? HAHAHAHA A cabled skirt? HAHAHAHA"
No way to tell. So many possibilities. If you know me, you know I went straight to the "It must suck" option. The papers for the proposal looked like someone had jumped up and down on them, so that helped.
On the bright side, it was only my first rejection. And I knew I needed to earn a few of those before I can count myself as experienced in design. I've since been rejected (or ignored) by Vogue Knitting, PLY, and a previously solicitous literary agent, so that's good.,
Still hoping it might be a good idea, but maybe less so, I started knitting it anyway.
Other commitments intervened, and the skirt sat waiting. I wasn't even sure it was worth pursuing. There were a few restarts, I miscalculated how much yarn I needed and had to start over with new yarn. This is why I usually purchase yarn and not ask for it like a lot of designers do. I change gears alot mid-project and sometimes I'm just wrong. I feel shy about asking for lots of yarn so that I can have some wiggle room, which is one of the great things about magazine work: they send you gobs of yarn.
Finally, I decided to go for it. I set doubt aside and decided that if it stank, I would sit on it. If it was great, then great: out it woud go into the world. I calculated a late August release, and was looking forward to sitting down with the home stretch next week when Ta-DAAA: out comes this wonderful collection from pre-eminent designer, Norah Gaughan.
Full of gorgeous organic shapes and compelling projects, it's going to be mine as soon as I find a copy at one of my local shops. The lightening bolt is this:
It's a stunner. And I mean that in a few ways. I am really surprised at how similar the idea is to my Aqueduct Skirt. It's pure Norah all the way, which means that it is so much "prettier" a version of what I am working on that now I can't imagine finshing mine. I love the lily pad shapes at the hem, the flow of the cables up into the ribbing around the hips. It's perfect. It's original. Not only is it so much better than my version, but even if I went ahead and published my skirt now with the borrowed BW cable, it would never be perceived as anything but derivative of this design because it came after. So it's just as well Interweave Knits sent my skirt back to me.
But at the same time, I am really really pleased at how beautiful it is. So I wasn't crazy, and this means that my skirt would have been worth the effort.
I have gleened a few lessons from this little moment. I had at least one idea that was good enough that I had it (almost) in common with Norah Gaughan (even if she kicked my ass with it), and that even though a magazine might have rejected it, it was still a decent idea. I'm picking myself up now, and getting on with it. Maybe some of the other things I have in the pipeline will be just as good. Maybe better.
For those of you who are doing original work, whether you're a designer or a content to knit for yourself knitter, or you're a maker of some other sort who just happens to be reading a knitting blog, take heart from this. When you hold onto an idea out of doubt, then run smack into it on the street one day, don't be discouraged. Get a little tougher with yourself. It's validation, it means it was an interesting idea. Someone else had more courage than you to get it out there.
So get your stuff out there.