Friday, November 16, 2007

Compliment Conundrum

Isn't it the greatest feeling to pull on a hand-knit that you're really proud of? You look in the mirror and say to yourself, "Wow, this really works!" There's a whole day ahead where everyone you know and don't know will admire your handiwork and smother you with compliments. You're psyched to get out into the world, even if your destination is your normal daily employment.

And then no one notices. Not a soul. It's surreal. Everyone complimented you on the ill-fitting beginner's project that you wore two days ago. What's going on?!

I've been thinking about this because I'm working on a somewhat strange sweater project. It makes me happy, but it's definitely not a statement of high fashion… or any other kind of fashion! It's my Playing with Fire Sweater. This garment is just painfully bright and cheerful, kind of like one of those morning people that most days you just want to avoid. As I was working on it last night it occurred to me that I can probably expect a lot of compliments on it. Then I had to think about what triggered that idea.

Here's my theory: Once a completed knit object achieves a certain level of quality, very few people will take notice and say something nice. I suspect that the garment actually goes beyond what most folks think a hand knit can look like. Sometimes they take for granted that it's store-bought. Sometimes they just don't notice it at all.

Of course if it doesn't fit, or the collar's a little funny, or the color selection is outside of mainstream, or the button band puckers, the anomaly catches the eye. The viewer is then likely to think, "What's up with that?" Their brain crunches away and "bing", they categorize the oddity as hand made. Next they recognize that you've probably attempted something that might be just a little beyond your capabilities. "This person's really trying to be creative. Good for them!", they might think. They may even hear suggestive frogs in the distance and not understand why…

That's when you'll suddenly hear, "Did you knit that? How nice!" Without any intent to boast I can say that I've experienced this comment often. It's because I've got plenty of projects that have "issues" that I like to wear anyways. It's fun and I'm not so proud. I freely admit that I've reached the point where I always wonder what I've done wrong when I hear those words from a stranger. Sadly cynical I suppose.

The project below netted me a compliment in the elevator at my lawyer's office. Honestly it looks much better on the floor than it does on me. Don't know that I could ever lose enough weight to really wear it without being hospitalized.
I consider the Dale sweater below to be the best I've done, (so far). Unsolicited compliment count: zero.
I used to be shocked when my knitting mentor Susan would tell me she wore her latest stunning creation and no one said anything. Her work always fits perfectly, is completely tasteful, perfectly executed, and often involves challenge outside the normal scope of a knitting project. I can only theorize that people can't imagine these works came off of knitting needles! (I've seen many of them in process and still have trouble believing it sometimes!) For myself, I hear those words much more often, but almost never when I'm wearing one of my few truly good projects.

Until recently that is. My latest effort has been the retraining of my co-workers. If you're suffering from the same lack of recognition you might want to try this as well. I make them listen to me talk about knitting at every possible opportunity. That way they always ask if I knit what I'm wearing. Last week I was asked if I knit a velour printed jacket! (Now that would be a trick!) Anyways, I'm very satisfied with this state of things. I'll never know for sure if anyone's really impressed with any of my projects, but I'll always have an excuse to talk about them!

The last part of the experiment is to see if all this knitting talk causes me to lose respect at work, or causes people to run the other way when they see me down the hall. I'll let you know as the experiment continues. Especially since if I keep this up I may end up with lots of unemployed time for talking and no one else to talk to!

So that's a whole lot of text without much detail on my beloved Playing with Fire Sweater. I'll save the fun knitting technology for next time. Just brace yourself for a project that's almost too joyful to tolerate!

1 comment:

ringer said...

I just have to say it again - your Dale sweater is *awesome*.

More data which I think agrees with your theory - the first day at Rhinebeck I wore a sweater made with odd colors, lots of compliments. The second day a vest in colors I like much better, not a word.