Monday, May 12, 2008

Who Cares About Symmetry?*

I do. It's a bit of hang up for me. Everywhere I go...everything I look at, I think about whether it's symmetrical, balanced. Houses are a big one for me, and it's an easy one for me since I spend an inordinate time on a bus watching the world go by at a stop-and-go pace. Of course, now that I'm Twittering while I'm in transit, I'm not looking at the places that surround me nearly as much unfortunately.

But when I'm not texting, I look around and speculate about buildings and how they once might have been. I can look at an old brownstone and see that the entryway isn't quite "right." There's a new 1950s overhang that replaced something more substantial. Or there's this Victorian house across the street from my place that has a more contemporary porch that hides a doorway that must have an "eyebrow" design that matches the 1880s windows on either side of the porch. What's more, there's all lackluster ugly avocado siding that's got to be covering beautiful, original wood. Each time I walk by, I 'fix' it up in my mind, making it housewalk-worthy. Right now, it looks a tad ho-hum next to the 1920s spiffed-up 1920s red-brick apartment building turned condo and its grey painted brick Victorian neighbor.

I can either count this obsession with symmetry as a blessing or a curse. I chose the former, because while on the outside, it appears that I'm superficial, on a deeper level, I'm truly passionate about beauty and aesthetics. It matters that there's just the right number of tulips in a vase or that there should be something in the background of a photo to draw your eye in. I don't always accomplish this in my own photography but I do think about it. It's why I even like this picture a lot because I can't help but smile at the duo waaay in the back.

So anyhow, my love for balance is a blessing because A) It keeps me entertained when I'm sitting in snailpace traffic whether I'm in a car, a train, a bus, or even on the back of a moped (which hasn't happen in a long time, but I digress). It makes me quite content. It feeds the inner architect, designer and urban planner within me. I might not act on my impulse to re-arrange a garden, a house, or a park, but it fortifies my imagination for free. It's likely I won't have a chance to fix up that aforementioned Victorian, but I can pretend. Who knows? I might even bump into the homeowner one day, mention my thoughts, and he/she just act on my design modifications.

My little design world is great to for those days when I don't have a book or my knitting to keep me bored. In my mind, I can "restore" missing windows, lentils, and portals as I'm making my way to a particular destination.

B) This little knack for balance also helps me as I'm coming up for story ideas. It gets me asking "What if...?" and "I wonder who might know more?" and gets me searching on the Internet, and in some cases, local archives for information on actual paper.

On the flip side, my preoccupation can get me a little overly attached to the past. For example, when I board this train, I can see the old tracks for this line, which was kaput a couple of generations ago. Still I mourn the loss of this commuter rail, wishing it still existed as a viable means of transportation. "If only if ...!" I often say to myself, "Maybe they could bring it back...." in a more wistful tone. All about something thousands of commuters don't even know about as they make to their way to downtown Chicago.

All this a bit of long introduction to my nearly finished sweater. I looked at it this morning. I noticed that the garter stitch and bind-off on the sleeves is uneven. There's an extra row on one side. Of course, I see this error glaringly, and I'm certain others will notice it off the bat. Do I fix it? Or leave it alone and move onto the next project? So I go back and forth on this conundrum. I'm at the point where I'm nearly finished. I've got the DPNs (double-pointed needles)all set up on the neckline. Four rows of stitching, and I will be finished! Unless, I decide to fix the edging on the sleeve.

Here's the thing: I wear a lot of clothes I've sewn that are not quite right. For example, I'm wearing this top. When I made it, I wasn't thrilled with the ridge-like twin-needle stitching on the sleeves. The top itself feels a little large, and the shoulder seam looks, to my dark brown eyes, a little 'off.' But I still wear it, flaws and all. Perhaps I'm not as consumed with perfection as I think. Besides, I find that wearing my projects with their little designer touches tends to be keep me moving forward, completing the unfinished projects, and starting new adventures. If I ditched all those clothes that weren't quite "right," I'm certain that I would have abandoned sewing and knitting and crocheting by now. I really do tell myself all the time that anything I sew/knit/crochet is all about the journey, even if I "goof" up on pricy fabric. If it's wearable, that's all that matters. I think a knitting shop owner in Iowa told me once is that most expensive knitting is the stuff you don't use. She's right. My favorite and warmest "shawl" is a skirt with a flounced on the wrong side that I couldn't bring myself to rip out because I was afraid I'd rip the somewhat fragile yarn.

So here's to a little symmetry if it makes you happy. But if it makes you overly sentimental and pouty, forget about it and get over it already (and I'm speaking mostly for myself). For those of you who make apparel, how do you reign in perfection? Where do you draw the line in the white sand?
* I know I've been tagged...I'll get to a post on it, I promise. You can read more about the top above here.


Everyday Sewist said...

Good question! I haven't been reigning in perfection, and I'm getting almost nothing done because of it.

Most of the time, I don't mind taking my time and fixing all the mistakes. I like things perfect!

But I'm not progressing like I want to, not trying enough new techniques. So I'm seriously considering starting a series of deliberately quick and imperfect projects. I haven't worked up the courage yet. (I tried it last year but couldn't follow through.)

the_lazymilliner said...

Everyday: Good luck on your quick, imperfect projects. I think you'll find you'll learn lots of about sewing and having fun!

crescentaluna said...

Dang, that's a terrific shirt! Thanks for the review over at patternreview ... I'd love to track that one down. As for symmetry, nah, not for me. Miyake all the way, baby! I personally am trying to cultivate *more* perfectionism, being of the "nobody will notice when you're in motion" school of sewing.

In ceramics (which I also do) there is a tradition of timed exercises to loosen up and let go perfectionism and preconceptions. Things like, "Throw 20 teacups. You have an hour." Maybe improvised patchwork ("Sew ten blocks, you have an hour") would be a sewing equivalent. Just a thought.