It's done! Edging crocheted, buttons sewn on, pressed and folded in David's suitcase and waiting for lift-off. No modeled photos yet, obviously, but I'm pleased with how it turned out, and VERY pleased that I'll be able to photograph it in its natural habitat.
I don't expect Charles Victor to be my most popular pattern; the small gauge and pronounced drape go against popular wisdom for a mens' garment (even though I envision Charles as non-gendered), and there will probably be some put off by the color and particular retro style. I have to say, though, I learned a TON designing it. Things I did for the first time while designing Charles Victor include:
- Combined a drapey fabric and a fair amount of ease for a "tunic-y" look;
- Knitted or designed full-length kimono-style sleeves;
- Knitted or designed sleeves in one piece with the body, grafted at the tops of the arms and shoulders;
- Designed a representational motif (the pineapple), which included figuring out how to approximate the textures of the actual fruit, as well as how to handle the decreases around a semi-circular area of a smaller gauge than the surrounding stockinette;
- Incorporated a textured stitch and cables into the same motif;
- Knitted or designed a garment with an asymmetrical front opening;
- Knitted or designed a cardigan-style garment where the button bands were knitted in one piece with the fronts, and made of a non-ribbed stitch;
- Crocheted buttonholes; and
- Designed a garment inspired by a time period outside of my normal 1920's-through-1950's window.
I've been thinking a lot lately about saleability and artistic growth. I actually debated whether I should even make Charles Victor, because I didn't anticipate it selling many patterns. Then I thought about how this is my Art Project, where I challenge myself as a knitter and designer, and try to make the best representations I can of my ancestors' characters. Charles Victor was something I'd visualized, which I liked in my head and wanted to see whether I could actually execute. I was kind of shocked at myself for considering just abandoning the project because it lacked market appeal. And now that the sample garment is done, I'm so glad I went through with it. The fabric is lovely and complex; the textured sections have a scrumptious weight about them; the asymmetry of the pineapple is balanced by the buttons; and the thing is just relaxing and fun to wear. On one level, if David and I (and my Tutu, who apparently wants to buy it from me) were the only people in love with it, what would that matter?
Yet, at the same time, designing is also something at which I'm trying to make money. And it's not like the more popular things I've designed have less "integrity" or are less interesting, or any such snobbish nonsense. From that perspective, maybe it's not so awful to consider how best to come up with things that are interesting both to me and others. So I've been vacillating between these two perspectives throughout work on Charles Victor...and I've also been spending time reminding myself that these questions are nothing new. I'm reading Hermione Lee's amazing biography of Edith Wharton right now, and boy howdy, did arguments about profitability and artistic merits ever fly fast and loose around her. (Not to class myself with Wharton, but it does make me feel better to realize that artists I admire faced some of the same issues with which I'm struggling, and made fantastic art anyway.) In the end, I think it's one of those fine lines we all have to tread. I would never want to stop setting myself interesting technical challenges, or back out of a project that intrigued me because I didn't think it would make money. On the other hand, trying lots of different things, expanding my scope and coming up with a range of designs that appeal to a diverse array of people, is definitely a goal of mine as well.
I will just continue to mull this over over the next few days. On a beach. In my swimsuit. Yeah, life is hard.