I was explaining the Autumn Splendor project to a coworker today, and mentioned that I’d been working on it since April. He said, “Six months and it isn’t done yet? Don’t you get bored, working on the same thing for months at a time?”
The short answer is that no, I don’t. In fact, quite the reverse: I find long projects fascinating precisely because they are long; they give me time and space to explore different ideas. A weekend project, by way of contrast, is far more boring because there is rarely any meaty content to a weekend project. If I can get it on and off the loom that quickly, it’s because I already know exactly what to do…either because I’m following a recipe or because I’ve done that kind of project a bazillion times before. In short, I can only do a quick project if I’m not exploring, and because it’s the exploration that interests me, the quicker it is, the more boring it becomes.
That is not to say that a longer project couldn’t bore me. When I used to knit, sweaters were a real challenge because they involved doing the same thing over and over again, without learning much. Socks were easier because they were shorter projects and I could try out new ideas faster. I tried a crocheted tablecloth once, and that was a total disaster. The key, to me, is to keep myself learning and experimenting through the entire project. This typically involves doing a variety of things – with Autumn Splendor, I’ve been through devore, cross-dyeing, drafting my own sewing patterns, etc. – all new (or relatively new) to me and always changing. I rarely do the same thing more than two days in a row.
Sometimes the learning can be subtle. I don’t mind weaving long lengths of yardage in fine threads, even though it’s “the same thing over and over again”, because I use the time to fine-tune my weaving technique – how I hold the shuttle, the rhythm of my hands as they move from throwing the shuttle to beating to catching the shuttle on the other side. I have not got this perfected yet, and I doubt that anyone who does not weave lots of yardage can get enough practice to achieve a really smooth “beat”. It usually takes me at least half an hour to “settle in” and another half-hour to achieve a perfect rhythm, and even then it’s not consistent. It takes sustained weaving time over several days to really feel like I “get it” – time that I wouldn’t get if I weren’t weaving yardage with fine threads. So I enjoy it very much. It’s like doing T’ai Chi – aiming for that internal body awareness and unified motion of the whole body, fine-tuning slowly as I go.
And, in case you’re wondering where I am in my dyeing/weaving, I finished unraveling the blank yesterday morning (my, that went fast!) and am about 18″ into the weaving:
I like it so far! There is color variation, but it is subtle, and the color transitions are coming out nicely. There were some ominous lighter patches towards the bottom of the blank, which may not look so good, but I’m hoping I can adjust it somewhat in the second dyeing. We’ll see what it looks like, first.