Failure is ok

Ten year’s ago I saw a keynote speech delivered at an education conference by Malcolm McClaren the man who launched the Sex Pistols into the world. He provided a fabulous 20 minutes or so with his main message being, ‘it is better to be a magnificent failure than a benign success’. I’m not sure how you would define magnificent failure but he certainly held the room and everyone was talking about it afterwards. Failure is an essential element for creative activities. It’s how you react to it that makes the difference. Acknowledging that you perhaps could have done something earlier, longer, greener or even completely differently is essential. It is also key to enabling you to develop as an artist or maker.

Comoposite image with a variety of knitted swatches.
All consigned to the dustbin but the ideas are not lost.

As any knitter or maker will tell you, failures, or just things going wrong are a pretty regular occurence. In an effort to reduce them, magnificent or otherwise, it is a good idea to work a swatch before committing large amounts of fibre to the next project. Swatches aren’t just for getting the gauge right. I find that my fingers take a while to get accustomed to a pattern so the swatch is where I make my mistakes. As a designer, it is essential to swatch to see how an idea actually looks when it’s knittted up. A swatch has prevented me from what would have been costly mistakes.

Sometimes however, even a swatch isn’t enough. You have to know when something really isn’t right no matter how much effort you’ve put into a project. I currently have a 4ply jumper on the needles. It’s the first full size sweater that I’ve designed myself. It’s a great pattern and I’m really pleased with the simple but effective stitch pattern. But, – and it’s a big but. It’s not right. I’m actually on the neck so it is to all intents and purposes complete. I will complete it, and then frog it all back. Having the courage to say, no, that’s not right, is something that I certainly wouldn’t have done a few year’s ago. I won’t lose the wool, which is lovely. I’ll make another, better one.

Unless I decide I don’t like it.

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