Imperfectly Perfect

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I am not perfect.

I know that must’ve come as a shock to you, when I revealed it last month, but it’s true. And you know what? People love me, in spite of my imperfections! No, really, they do–they think I’m good enough.

The imperfect dishtowel I told you about is finished and it’s still imperfect. In fact, I had threaded my loom in such a way, with a long enough warp, that I am now the proud maker/owner of three imperfect dishtowels.

And, you know what? I love them, in spite of their imperfections! No, really, I do! I think they’re perfectly good.

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I learned a lot from making them.

I learned new things about weaving and the possibilities. The loom is threaded one way but, by pressing different treadles in different orders, I could weave three different patterns. It shows up most clearly in the striped colors but is also really pretty in the texture of the white.

I learned that it really is important to fix mistakes when you notice them. I made at least three threading errors in my towels. I knew one of them was there from the start and thought it wouldn’t be noticeable. Now I know better!

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I learned I really like this fiber. It’s called Cottolin and it’s a mix of cotton and linen. I’m told linen, by itself, can be difficult to weave but mixed with cotton it was very satisfying.

I learned that cotton and linen shrink a lot, especially in length. I had intended, and thought I had planned for, these towels to measure 26 by 18 when finished but the biggest one ended up 22 by 20 . . . Hmmm, and I’m just now learning that I must’ve done something very wrong from the start, if I thought the towels would be 18 inches wide and they ended up 20. That can’t be explained by shrinking!

I guess I’ve learned that I need to pay more attention to the math aspects of the planning stages!

I learned, or realized again, that weaving feels like a certain kind of magic. You start with thread, just endlessly long, boring thread, and create a web of fabric that is full of possibilities.

 

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I made dishtowels but I could’ve made cloth for a dress, a blanket for a baby, a coat for my cat, placemats and napkins for my table, a tapestry to celebrate a victory, a christening gown, a shroud . . .

And the fabric I wove makes me appreciate fabric like I never have before. Weaving anything gives you a sense of why, historically, fabrics were treasured and treated with care and patched and re-used. This is an appreciation that gets lost when all our fabric comes from mills in foreign lands.

My towels are imperfect but they will accomplish, perfectly, the purposes for which they were created. They have already taught me a great deal. They will be absorbent and will hold up to rough treatment. They will stand up to a hot washer and dryer and be ready to serve again. They will age beautifully and last long and make me smile when I use them.

And they offer an important reminder to us all—we don’t need to be perfect to be perfectly good!

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56 thoughts on “Imperfectly Perfect

  1. Imperfectly perfect. These are absolutely perfect. Now really if I wanted a pattern without personality I could just buy them but these are made by loving hands! Thought and planning and the act of making. Bravo they are perfect-O!!!

  2. A computer/machine, if programmed correctly 🙂 can construct a perfect product. Only humans can create art – products that carry the perfections and the imperfections of the human hand.

  3. I love how you have learned from this weaving experience. Just knowing you have to pay attention, knowing you must attend to a mis-thread or other mis-take in the moment, these are the lessons of life. Next time you will make less of these errors. Or, if you are like me – and I know you are from our last conversation – you will make something completely different and make a whole lot of new errors. This is the joy of the journey, yes? And the journey itself is the purpose – the product is just three things – albeit perfectly imperfect beautiful, hardy, satisfying and useful things! Enjoy 🙂 .

    • You know, I think I’m going to make more towels and see how they turn out. I’m very driven to make useful things and towels really fit the bill. They are humble but the variations of possible designs and colors seem endless. But, you’re right–it’s all about the process and the journey!

      • oh yes! In fact, it’s the next one coming up. I thought I’d have some time to type after Thanksgiving but the kitten is a bit of a hell raiser and then I caught a cold and holy smokes, it’s already a week later. But I have, oh, about 100 pictures of her so it should be an easy post to write. =)

    • I make awful mistakes with patchwork math, too. I always think I’m good with numbers then find this undeniable evidence that I’m not–I guess I need to focus more. It’s good to see you here–I hope you’ll be blogging more soon?

  4. I was in a “craft” store, one of those kind of kitschy country places, and there was a booth with a lot of dish towels for sale for $1.00. They were pretty so I bought one to try and after washing, it was so deformed and awful that I used it as a rag. Your imperfectly perfect dish towels will be around for years, growing softer and more absorbent with each use. Anybody would be thrilled to have one!

    • I think you’re right that these towels will be real workhorses. Of course, I have yet to use them–the thought of a big smear of chocolate or red sauce on them is daunting. I’ll get over it, though!

  5. A perfectly lovely post!
    I am so impressed! and loved your comments about appreciating cloth so much more now. I’ve thought about the process from picking cotton onward and know that we all take for granted the clothing we wear.
    One of the things I always tell the students who spend time in my office: we are constantly learning and therefore not perfect. If we were perfect, we would no longer strive to learn.

    • That is wise advice to your students! And I really think I’m drawn to craft because of my curiosity and desire to learn . . . but I can still get frustrated when the process is slow!

  6. Now I’d like to see you make a coat for your cat! Your towels look wonderful. Think how much you’ve learned in a short period of time!

    • I am pleased with how quickly I’ve been able to weave items that are actually usable and credible! I sort of thought that the first efforts would be pretty lame but they’ve turned out fine. Not that my cats would lower themselves to be seen in my creations, though . . .

  7. Yes, Kerry, all that learning we keep on doing all our lives..about history, skills and our personal journey through live. It makes our lives interesting and sharing it with those who appreciate, is the cherry on top. Those teatowels are precious heirlooms of the future! Thank you! Johanna

    • Having such kind folks to share with is making this whole process of learning more fun! I intend to use my towels hard, so they may not last to become heirlooms, but I like the idea that the project has been recorded here.

  8. The towels are lovely!! I really agree to your last statement . So often we forget that part and dwell so hard on the imperfections that we never move on , therefore never growing or learning.

    • It’s funny–I really believe that we all get far too hung up on perfection and should just relax and enjoy the making. And yet, I still find myself worrying about the flaws . . . guess I need to practice what I preach!

    • Oh, definitely! It’s a bit overwhelming because there seems to be so much to learn! I quite liked the fine weave–it really feels like you’re making fabric. I’ll be interested in seeing what you make!

  9. When I saw those towels on etsy, wondered how the heck someone could make them. Now I know! Thanks for the photos. You really are amazing. Funny how we all have different gifts and the many ways in which yours goes out to the world.

    • Oh, I don’t sell weaving on Etsy–maybe someday but I’ll have to get a lot better at it! Any towels you saw in my Etsy shop were vintage and probably made in a mill somewhere. Amazing how much better the quality is in those vintage towels, though, than in what we can buy today. Thanks for being such a great pal!

  10. Your comment about the importance of fixing mistakes when you find them made me smile–I’ve also done projects where I ignored little mistakes along the way and regretted it later. 🙂

  11. Lovely towels! Linen is a great material, I use it for crochet and I love it. In Sweden it is used traditionally in a lot of woven work. My mother who is a Weaver too uses a lot of cottolin!

    • I haven’t woven yet with 100% linen–I’m a little intimidated by it–but I liked the cottolin very much. I love the history and tradition of our linen, though.

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