Working in A Series: Exploring a New Medium

I’m still happily immersed in My Current Obsession: cropping and altering sweatshirts. And thinking about how these experiments are giving me opportunities to try things I wouldn’t otherwise have tackled.

On Sunday I bought a bunch of shirts–henley shirts, mostly, but also a crew-neck knitted sweater. I got most of these for less than $1 each at our annual Texas-Sized Garage Sale’s final 50%-off clearance day. It’s way easier to experiment and take risks doing things you’re not sure about when you haven’t invested a lot in the materials. If you’re working in a series and know what you’re doing and where you’re going, of course, you may want to use higher-quality materials, but that’s not always necessary. Plus “higher quality” doesn’t always mean more expensive–the knit sweater is Chaps, regularly about $70. Not hideously expensive, but not something I’d cut into with scissors if I’d paid full price for it.

And here’s the deal: although I have been sewing and stitching (sewing by hand) all the way back into childhood, I’d never really done anything with knits. I’d tried machine-sewing appliques on t-shirts a couple of times, and it was always a huge, ugly mess. I do not have a serger, and I don’t really want one–I don’t much like the way serging looks. It’s too symmetrical and machine-made-looking. But working on knits with a regular sewing machine? It did not work for me, let me tell you.

But because I’ve found these shirts for so little money, and because I started out slowly, working with something that felt safe (easy, familiar), I’ve become bolder, more willing to take some risks. I decide to find out what would happen if I started cutting into other kinds of knitted fabric. I bought a waffle knit henley

and cut it off.


I took one of the cut-off pieces and abused it–yanked on it, wadded it up, pulled at the cut edge–just irritated the fabric to see what would happen. Very little happened at all, so I tossed the cut-off shirt into a purple dye-bath. That worked fine–nothing unraveled or fell apart.

Then I started stitching. I now know how they create those ruffled edges on blouses. This isn’t what I thought it was going to look like, but I like it a lot.

Now that I feel better about knits–not worrying that machine-knitted fabric is going to fall apart the moment I cut it with scissors–there’s more I can do. I’m getting ready to play with that Chaps sweater. And wishing I could find an extra-gigantic-humongous wool sweater to full in the washer.

Think about how all this applies to your work. What might you try if it didn’t feel too risky? What medium might you introduce to your current series–something you’ve wanted to try, but not something you’re ready to jump into all by itself? Watercolor? Cardboard? Polymer clay? By integrating it into something you’re already doing and that’s going well, you can dip your toes in without having to take a full-body plunge.

Here’s hoping you find the water absolutely delightful!


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe, where you can see more images of the finished sweatshirt.


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