Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Springfield Dress


Again with this. There are things I want to make to just go in my wardrobe, that are neutral, subdued. Things with dignity. New York things. All evidence to the contrary, I somehow have a notion of myself as something of a sophisticated person, never mind the hair, someone who wears a black turtleneck and sunglasses, and who might go to a gallery opening or something, if there were pictures of dogs, maybe. Black and white photography. Kind of grown up. Then there are things like this dress that are knocking on the inside of my head, inexplicable garments that say WAH! KNIT ME! I am COLORFUL! And I am powerless. I just get a jones to make something weird. Which reminds me that the one time I've been to a gallery opening it was to an exhibit of my own work, and also at the same time the work of some eighth graders, and the eighth graders were one after another selling their art (to their parents) and I was just standing there eating all the cheese and crackers.

It is time to come to terms with that dichotomy, ya'll. I will knit for fashion, and I will also knit for art. There is room for both--there is necessity for both--in my knitting life. I am gonna let you decide which one this is. This is the Springfield Dress, my own design, made while thinking of spring fields, and also Dusty Springfield. Also, The Buffalo Springfield. Naturally.

I was inspired, a few years ago, by Lori Graham's beautiful version of Gudrun Johnston's Bressay Dress, with its miles of stockinette and simple patterned yoke, its cozy comfy-ness, but hesitated to begin one because yoke-style shaping is such a fit struggle for me. I also remember having a kind of open-mouthed reaction to Misa Erder's incredible Owl and the Pussycat Dress (shadows of inspiration from that one, I am just now realizing, have already showed up in my As We Go Along project) and I mentally filed all this stuff away to percolate. I also began to pay attention to how much I liked the way that when I tried on a top-down raglan sweater-in-progress, the unfinished armhole made a handy little cap sleeve that fit me and flattered my arm. Many times, I thought about simply leaving a top-down garment sleeveless altogether, because I loved the way it looked. Why not? Others must have done this, too.

I imagined a go-go dancer dress, short-but-not-too-short, to wear in spring or fall, with boots. I imagined a seventies palette, in mustard and mauve and rose. I imagined a not-quite all over stranded stitch pattern, something with flower motifs, big ones and small ones, that felt like I had seen it before, maybe in a Holly Hobbie dress in elementary school. All knit top-down, with raglan shaping because I like to knit that way, and because the finished garments fit me well.

I decided to make a design-as-you-go, custom fit, top-down-raglan sixties-style go-go dancer dress in worsted yarn with stranded colorwork. You know, as you do. I chose my palette--Plymouth Galway Khaki, Dream in Color Classy "Amber Glass", Jill Makes Stuff Windham "Wax Bean" and some remnants of pinks; Cascade 220, Ella Rae Classic, Patons Classic hand-dyed by me with avocado pits (the heathery pink). I swatched (yes!) measured myself (you have to!) calculated the neckline, figured out how to center the motifs and drew some charts, and commenced the thing. And loved it immediately, and also wondered why. WHY? Is the world clamoring for more of this kind of thing? Are they lining up outside the fancy shops, asking for a flowery patterned wool tunic dress with short cap sleeves? Am I? I worried about the stripes, second-guessed myself a few times which is totally my way and which I have come to recognize as part of my process, and pressed on through all kinds of yearning for plain gray clothes. I thought about Kaffe Fassett, and about something Kay said recently, that he does not concern himself with ease of knitting, but with creating beauty. Knitting as art, again. For a quick and inspiring taste of Kaffe, check this out.
There is beauty in choosing colors, blending them together, in yarn itself and in knitting it; in figuring out things that are tricky, and in being your own weird self and letting it show.

I don't know about anybody else, but I love this Springfield Dress, LOVE IT. And since it's for me, that's just fine.