Say, can you see? (Betcha can’t.)

by Erin on December 29, 2006

McCalls 5884

This is one of those patterns that I'd probably make five or six times, to play out all the variations on the theme, all the different combinations I could think to do of color-on-color, pattern-on-pattern, stripe-on-stripe, and random piping and embellishment.

I've often thought that my desire to actually instantiate all the various dresses that I can imagine is a sign of a mental lack. Shouldn't the conception of them be enough, without having to bring them all to term? Shouldn't I be able to just, say, write down that this dress would be amazing in inch-wide stripes, with the stripes in the insert set on the bias from left to right?

I know I have this particular mental lack (this inability to imagine something fully) with music, which why I love cover versions of songs so much. I know not everyone does; I used to know someone who, if he wanted to hear "Jenny from the Block" done by trombones, he could just imagine how it would sound, and that was enough for him. He could hear any song, just once, and then imagine all the different covers. What any song would sound like as a bossa nova, or mashed up with "Smells Like Teen Spirit". It was sad, actually, because it seemed as if he couldn't let himself be surprised. (It would be like knowing all the dumb jokes in the world, and never smiling at a punchline.) I'm constantly and ridiculously surprised by even the most elementary of musical transpositions; start whistling "Chopsticks" instead of playing it on a piano and I will be transfixed, I swear. (Which is why my iPod is about 35% covers, and growing.)

But even though, with dresses, I can imagine clearly what something would look like with different sleeves or a different collar or in wool instead of silk, I want to make it anyway. I want to leave open the possibility of being surprised. My excuse is that no matter how good your imagination is, the real thing is always just different enough from the way you imagined it to make it worth while. You can't imagine every detail; your brain doesn't render very well in all dimensions. So if you can imagine the colors and the pattern, can you also imagine the way the fabric will hang, or the feel of it? Can you imagine the way the light will hit it? Can you imagine the sound it will make when you walk (or better yet, roller-skate)? Can you imagine the smell of it?

If I wanted to make a sweeping generalization (and this is the part of the blog entry where I generally do), I would say that it's often more helpful than you think to do something "you already know". Re-read the book, or re-watch the movie; sure, you "know how it ends" but what did you miss along the way? Walk down the street you've gone down a hundred times before, instead of taking a new route. Talk to the person you think you'll be bored by, and try the food you think you'll hate. Your imagination — your theorizing about the future — is more fallible than you want to admit.

[This pattern is from The Pattern Fairy; click on the image to visit her eBay store.]

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