Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Saturday's Child ... or Why I Knit Samples

Have you ever had a dream of swimming in blue water, light prickling the surface far above your open eyes?
Did you feel content to float in the quiet, or did you want to break the surface and come up for a gulp of air? When you came up, did you breathe gratefully, slurping in the warm oxygen and swim to shore, or did you take another breath and slowly sink down below the surface again?

April is a sea of projects.
Needles are in my hands on the train during the morning and evening commute, and they accompany me to my appointments.
They even pester me at tea before a friend comes to join me. The projects are samples with due dates that seem to come as frequently as the daisies that pop up on my lawn.

Monday's Child

Monday's child is fair of face.
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe.
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving.
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the
Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

I was born on a Saturday.

I have knit samples for several designers, so you may call me a "sample knitter" or a "test knitter." I never thought of this occupation as a full-time job, but lately, much of my free time has been dedicated to knitting samples and reading patterns. The samples I knit have been in books and magazines, have been hung in far-flung shops in various knitting ports of call, have been used as giant gauge swatches, and have been shown to many people I will never meet.

All of this sparks incredulity in my friends and family who seem to think I am spending ridiculous amounts of time knitting all of these lovely items, giving them away and getting very little in return.

So, what is the draw? What do I gain in return for all this knitting for others who don't have time to knit the samples themselves?

I knit samples to learn something. Each time I work with a different designer, I learn something new about the design process. I learn about the construction of garments, the composition and behavior of yarn under duress, stretched to its maximum girth or manipulated into its most unnatural posture. I learn about the publishing world and the pressures and deadlines that come with commitment. I learn about beauty and creativity.

I often receive yarn in payment, a common practice, especially among budding new designers. But designers are each and all unique. One person pays $0.06 to $0.15 per yard, depending on the complexity of the pattern, and the amount of work involved. Another person pays equivalent amounts of yarn per project. Yet another pays double for lace work. One designer paid me with an aknowledgment in her book, a copy of the book, and an invitation to the book release party in New York.

I've stocked the yarn closet with the fruits of my labor. Some of them are even named for fruits: kiwi, cranberry, canteloupe. A knitted yard brings another unknitted yard of yarn to the stash. The yarn is piling up. The projects are neverending.

One day, I don't know when, I will stop making samples. After all, I have piles of yarn to knit before I sleep, and I do want to make some things for me. I'm not ready to swim for shore yet, but it certainly is tempting.