What inspires us? This is a question often asked of those who create and of those who inspire others to create. Franklin Habit, when he was interviewing me for the Vogue editorial, asked me about the designers who inspired me and was a little surprised by my answer. I didn’t have to think about it – the names Elizabeth Zimmermann and Bob Mackie, just popped out! I have been thinking about it a lot since then.
There have been a couple of comments directed my way about that answer, most of them a little incredulous. This is not a common pairing!
Elizabeth Zimmermann is a natural for me, since I first read about her and then started to read her books, she had been a staple part of my inspirational process. Knitting was just so much a part of her life and the focus of her activities, it allowed me to accept that knitting was just the same way for me. I was not alone.
Her approach to knitting and creativity opened the doors to my own creativity, making it easy to allow myself to play and experiment and be willing to make the mistakes that could later lead to success (or failure), both of which are valuable experiences. I am definitely a process knitter – the product was a bonus to my knitting. Don’t get me wrong, I love to finish my knitting and wear, or see others wear, what I had created. But the journey was much more important than the result.
Bob Mackie is not a knitter or a knitting designer, but he is a very creative clothing and costume designer. His designs were always feminine and sometimes a little over the top – Ok sometimes a lot over the top! From his designs for Carol Burnett Show, the two costumes that I remember best are the charwoman’s costume and Carol Burnett as Scarlett O’hara, in her Green velvet Curtain Dress, complete with curtain rods. Both are very detailed, feminine and very different from each other. The difference is in the details. It was Bob Mackie’s eye for detail that makes each of his creations memorable.
His costumes for Cher are legendary. She had a very definite presence and his clothing made that presence unqiue. Every piece was full of style and detail. I learned a lot about details and the impact they can make from his approach to design.
Design is often about inspiration and inspiration can come from a combination of factors that lead to the whole. Who is the design for? What effect do you (or they) want? Do you start with the yarn (sometimes yarns just yell to be noticed) or the stitch (sometimes the stitch dictates everything)? Is it a colour that you saw? Each question adds more information and often leads to more questions, all of which allows the ideas to develop. That is inspiration as a work in progress, as labour. Sometimes it is easier, sometimes inspiration comes from a glimpse, a dream, a fragment that leads to the creation! From the inspiration, whether it was through a labourious process or a flash of genius, comes the design. Luckily design is fluid as it often changes with knitting!
I have shelves of books. Stitch libraries, technical books, pattern books and inspirational books – all of my books are inspirational, But some are simply reading books that I visit when I actually don’t want to knit or can’t (sometimes I have to baby my hands)! Reading about what other knitters have done and thought can help me focus on what may be tumbling about in the back of my head.
Stitch libraries are the best. For example: One stitch pattern, like the one in #8 – Wrap and Sheathe, created an image that lead to the whole concept – that was a flashing moment. Several patterns, combined to create the Painted Butterflys Shawl, currently in progress, was more of a labour, as I had to find the stitch patterns that evoked the images I had in my head. But as I love to pour over the stitch libraries it was as much a joy as a labour.
I find inspiration around me, everywhere I look I see colour combinations and textures that make my fingers itch and wonder….What If?! With the photographs that I take I try to capture some of what I see and keep to look back at, another source of inspiration. You don’t have to look very far to find something that makes you think….What If?!
What makes your fingers itch and wonder ….. What If?!
PS. The Helix Scarf will be finished for tomorrow – the knitting anyway!