The Creative Gamble

It all starts with an idea. You don’t really know where it comes from, and sometimes it’s very vague. It can be a kind of vision, but it might also be a memory, a scent, a feeling… and sometimes it’s a full-blown concept that shows up from nowhere, presenting itself to you when you brush your teeth on a Tuesday morning.

In all cases this idea begs to be translated and transformed using yarn.

Crochet or knitting? What kind of stitch pattern? Which fiber? Cotton or wool? Which weight? And the ultimate question: to make what?

You fumble, you think, you try some things. Sometimes you try many, many things before you happen upon something valid.

Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. The idea can’t be transformed into a real-life object, at least not right now.

However, often this is the start of a new project. It can be very close to the original idea – or it can be very far away, so that only you can know its origin.

And now it is time to take a creative gamble.

Whatever the size of the project, you will need to spend many hours to make this thing born from your imagination, this thing that doesn’t exist yet.

You don’t know if you will succeed. You don’t know if the finished item will be appreciated. If you’re making something big, you might spend weeks or months with a disappointing final result. If the creative process is also your job, you can potentially even lose money.

And yet, you must take this gamble, bet on your creativity and skills to give life to this nonexistent thing, create it out of thin air and present it to the world.

It’s an uncomfortable situation, and so many questions race through your head. It would clearly be much easier not to make this thing – but still, you make it.

You make it, because you know it can be a winning bet. There are no guarantees, but there is possibility, and you are far too curious not to try and see what happens.

And when the creative gamble pays off, when this idea becomes a beautiful thing, when you can share it with the world, your satisfaction is so much greater than your uncertainty ever was.

If you are inspired to take a creative gamble, I can help, in a positive and reassuring setting. I have already led several creative coaching programs in French, aimed at people who want to design their own pattern. Perhaps it’s time to start one in English?

If you are interested in creative crochet coaching with the aim of creating your own crochet design, click the button below!

My creative coaching sessions typically run over 8 weeks and include 5 live sessions via Zoom and access to a private discussion group where I connect with the participants several times a week – all for the very reasonable price of 99€.

Click the button to send me an email and let me know if you’re interested!

When you can skip the swatch

I know, I know, you must always swatch before you start a new project – this is what I tell people all the time. And I also know that very often, this is not at all what you want to do!

To be perfectly honest, there are situations where you can skip the swatch – and where I don’t swatch either.

You just need to know when you can do this, and what can happen.

Narrow projects worked in the round

Do you want to crochet or knit a sock, a glove, a cowl or a hat?

A swatch worked flat will never give you the correct information for a project worked in the round.

When knitting, the smallest difference between your knits and your purls will significantly affect your gauge when working flat or in the round, respectively.

When crocheting, a stitch pattern worked flat will hardly ever look exactly like the same pattern worked in the round.

And if you decide to work your swatch in the round, you will need to work it over twice as many stitches. Solution: Use your project as your gauge swatch!

All you need to do is to try on your sock, mitten or hat after having worked a few inches. (For constructions starting with some kind of rib, work at least an inch past the ribbing).

Is it too small or too big? You will know for sure with this full-sized project.

A sleeve is a gauge swatch

For garments worked bottom up, you generally start with the back (for a garment worked flat in pieces) or the body (for a garment worked in the round).

That’s a lot of stitches to work before you can start comparing the actual measurements with those indicated in the pattern.

I suggest you start with a sleeve, which has many fewer stitches but still is big enough to yield a significant sample. Once you have checked that the width of the sleeve is correct, you can simply leave it to one side while you tackle the main part of the garment.

When size doesn’t matter (that much)

Very often people don’t make swatches for shawls, scarves and other accessories that are to be worn without a precise fit.

As long as you like the fabric you get, you can of course go ahead even if your gauge is tighter or looser than the pattern states – provided that you are a bit adventurous.

It is important to know that your gauge will affect the yardage needed for your project and its finished size.

If all your stitches are a bit (or much) smaller than the ones in the original item, you will obtain, for example, a narrower and shorter scarf.

If all your stitches are a bit (or much) larger than the ones in the original item, you will use more yarn, and you might not be able to finish the pattern as written.

If you are willing to improvise the final steps of your project, or to buy more yarn – no problem! You only need to know that this can happen, and have a plan for how to handle it.

And now, I’m off to knit a few more rows on my hat in progress. My head is larger than average, so I have chosen a larger needle size than the one suggested in the pattern. I have worked a couple of inches past the ribbing, and I’ve just tried it on – it looks good! I know that I will most probably use more yarn than stated in the pattern, but I have more in my stash – and if needed, I can add another colour in a similar yarn.

You have already guessed it – this is a project for which I didn’t make a swatch!

4 strategies against mistakes in crochet and knitting

That was supposed to be two rows of yellow, not three!

A terrible mistake!

Your heart is beating fast, a cold hand seems to compress your chest, you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach… You’ve just realized that you’ve made a mistake in your crochet (or knitting) project.

A mistake can have so many reasons. You’re tired, you’re distracted, you didn’t read or understand well…

Sometimes it’s just a mistake that needs correcting, with no other consequence. You undo a few stitches or a couple of rows, you pull out your mistake and redo it correctly – end of story.

But often, this mistake can teach you something (more than that you made a mistake).

Is it time for you to put down your project and go to bed? Do you simply need to concentrate a bit more on the chart? Do you need to get more information about the technique you’re using, asking a friend or Google?

In any case, we’d prefer not to make any mistakes – but everyone makes them, all the time… (yes, me too, all the time!)

I have four strategies against mistakes to suggest.

1) Learn to “read” your work.

I think this is one of the most important skills for any crocheter or knitter. I will get back to this in more detail, but for now, I’ll simply suggest that you frequently take the time to stop and admire what you’ve just made!

2) Ask yourself if it’s really important.

If there’s a wonky or missing stitch somewhere, will it really show when you or someone else wears or uses the finished object? Can you conceal it in a simple way?

But let’s agree on the fact that, if you’ve done 20 decreases too many, it’s probably best to correct that.

3) Learn to correct the most common mistakes. (I’ll have more to say about that, too – but in the meantime, Google and YouTube are your friends!)

4) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!

First of all, if you are stressed over the idea of making a mistake, you will considerably increase your chances of doing something wrong.

And learning how to discover your mistakes and how to correct them will make you a much, much better crocheter or knitter. I honestly think that the best way to learn something new is to do it the wrong way first and understand why it happened before you do it correctly. You will remember how to do it much better than if your first try was perfect.

And I repeat myself: it might not be important at all. Once is a mistake, twice is a problem, three times is a new design!

What do you do with your leftovers?

At least once a week, I check the crisper drawer in my fridge to see what’s left over – a lonely leek, a couple of carrots that start to get a bit dry, the remaining part of a butternut squash, a piece of celeriac.

I take them out and cut them in roughly equally big pieces, I mix them with a dash of olive oil and some salt and pepper – and I roast them in the oven. To get the mix of vegetables right, I just try to get a blend of shapes and colours. My sad little leftovers become a colourful and tasty dish!

This week when I cut up my vegetables, I thought that I should really do the same with my leftover yarns. Check what I have on a regular basis, blend the partial balls and lonely skeins according to colour and weight, and do something with them.

But what? A blanket, a pair of fingerless mittens, something completely different? What do you do with you leftover yarns? Tell me in the comments!