women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Great Expectations

"There is no greater enemy to those who would please than expectation."

- Michel Eyquem De Montaigne

"Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate."

- Henry David Thoreau

I was already planning a post today on expectations, and I now find myself skewered by them.

There are some very unhappy knitters on Ravelry and they are voicing their disappointment in Evenstar.

That is their right. It goes with the territory. I live my life, to a certain extent, in the public arena. With great successes, come great expectations.

And perhaps I had a few expectations as well. I expected to please 1000 people. I probably shouldn't have.

Expectations can be wonderful things; they allow us to dream our dreams and build wonderful castles in the sky. They can also take on a life of their own, if we let them.

This time last year, I was looking forward to the cruise I took with my husband in celebration of our 30th anniversary. I had almost as much fun during the planning of that trip as I did during it.

I thought about what to pack, what shore excursions we should take, which islands we should visit, what cabin we should spring for. I did research on line. I joined travel chat rooms. I did everything I could to fulfill my expectations for that vacation, our first in many years.

But a funny thing happened on our way to the ship. We missed our flight. The airline lost our luggage. We found ourselves in San Juan with the clothes on our backs & the swimsuits in our carry-on.

We sat on deck before sailing, with a lovely breeze flowing over us and the sun beaming down. We had drinks with parasols in them.

But DH was so angry over the screw ups that he couldn't enjoy the beauty of the day. His experience failed to live up to his expectations and he was unable to reconcile the two. I told him to relax; they would find our bags (which they did - eventually) and we should make the best of it.

Because our expectations weren't met, we wasted the first day of our vacation fuming & fussing, instead of relaxing and we will never get that day back.

The basic facts of life are this: we cannot control our world. We are not in charge. Sometimes things will work out to our benefit. And sometimes they won't. No matter how many precautions we take, no matter how much experience we have, no matter how hard we work, sometimes things just don't go how we thought they would.

We must not allow our expectations to get the better of us. Therein lies only grief.

A parent's expectations begin during pregnancy. This child will be special. This child will be a doctor. This child will always love me. This child will look like me, talk like me, have all my virtues, but none of my faults.

We bring some of those same expectations to our other relationships as well. And we find that people in real life are rarely what we expected.

Ultimately, all we can do is hope for the best, expect something somewhat less than that, and learn to accept the fact that neither we, nor the world we live in, are perfect.

One of the perils of living a more public life than in the past, is the very real possibility that people will expect more of you than you, in fact, are capable of.

As my business has grown over the past few years, I have found people who think I am famous. I have found people who imagine I live a charmed life, out on a real life sunflower farm somewhere. I have found people who expect my patterns to transcend the norm. I have found people who expect perfection.

And I have disappointed them.

In truth, I live an existence as flawed and full of contradiction as anyone else in this world. I eat too much, exercise too little, forget to buy the milk at the grocery store, have good days & bad days, procrastinate too often, call my friends too in-often.

I knit just like you. I make mistakes just like you. And I try my best to fix them just like you.

I asked a burning question on Plurk this past week: Do we expect too much of our artisans? Do we forget that what makes a hand-made item special, also makes it flawed?

We could, after all have a machine made sweater for much less money and effort. Every stitch would be the same. Everything would be perfect.

But it would not be a product of our love for the individual and our passion for our art.

And I think that would be sad.

I could set up my software, plug in the stitches & measurements, have it spit out a flawless pattern, which I could then try to sell as my own.

But what fun is that? It would be stale & lifeless, predictable & inert. Computers are very good at perfection. They are very bad at creativity.

Creativity requires the human spark and that human touch comes with imperfection attached.

Over the last few weeks, I have seen several people cease their creative endeavors, because they decided that the joy they got from creating art or supplying those who do simply wasn't worth the unpleasantness that occurred when they failed to meet someone's expectations. I have seen the pain of honest people doing the best they can and discovering it isn't enough.

Are we setting them, as well as ourselves, up for failure?

Several years ago, I struggled with depression brought on by my inability to cope with the truth: I am not now, nor will I ever be: perfect.

Anyone who expects differently should not buy my patterns.

They should also not travel, not have children, not get a job, not get married, not knit, for that matter. All these things, at one time or another, will not go as they expected.

I aim to please. Sometimes I miss. When I do, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on (a little worse for wear, but standing still)

I think Thoreau said it far better than I can. Public opinion does not dictate private character. I work very hard at my craft. I love knitting with a passion, one that I share freely with anyone who wishes to join me.

I ask your forbearance for my faults and beg your forgiveness for my earlier outburst on the boards at the KAL. It seems that, just like you, I get angry. Just like you, I can have my feelings hurt. Just like you, I have feet of clay.

Who knew?


Yarn Tails said...

Hugs! I will say it here... Every great artist puts in a mistake. Nothing is perfect and nothing is meant to be perfect! Hugs!! You have my full admiration for what you are doing and I love every single minute I have spent knitting Evenstar! Thank you!!

Heartsapocolypse said...

You said that computers are good at perfection... I just spent a week dealing with an imperfect computer that probably made me as angry and disappointed as those on the boards.

The difference here is that you are a human being who is willing to share your talents with us. You can't let other people's expectations for you or your work rule your life. We are all flawed and I know that I would hope for a little compassion from a fellow human beings.

Keep doing what you are doing... those of us who are happy, nay thrilled with your work far outweigh those who are not. don't let those few steal your joy...


Karen said...

I think you are wonderful and your designs are fantastic. Keep it up! Don't let the unfortunate times discourage you; the good times will always persevere.


Michelle said...

I for one expect humans to be human. We make mistakes, we pick ourselves up, and we go on. I'm loving both the KAL and the community that has grown up around Evenstar and mistakes are just part of the process. Truly, you've had very few mistakes and I think it's a very small minority of people who are upset. Most of us are happy to hang out and knit a pretty shawl. :)



Nimrodita said...

Overall, I think people are too quick to express disappointment/anger/negativity and too slow to express praise. So one or two disappointed people sound much louder than several hundred happy people. I will say it here - I had one problem with Evenstar, and it was my own damn fault. I tinked the rows and redid them properly, and I love it. I will watch for those rows that others have had problems with as I get to them, and I have no doubt that I will overcome them. Love you and love your patterns!

~Charis, aka Nimrodita

Taleah said...

Susan, keep your chin up! I haven't been in the forums much because of real life - but mistakes are just part of the process. I'm still on clue two, and realized I knit a whole round two stitches off the pattern the other night. I'm going through some pretty terrible things right now - so instead of stressing and tinking back, I'm leaving the shifted row as a reminder that I'm not perfect, but I'm still beautiful. Keep up the good work - I have lots of faith in you!

Anonymous said...

As usual you express yourself with class and grace. I have been holding myself back from ripping some a new ******* for making you upset, at least the best I can being a BIG MAMA BEAR who really wants to growl,snap & bite when someone upsets one I have come to admire, love and respect not for just the beautiful designs but for the warmth and joy of your blog and our too few chats.
As others have said those who are frustrated or unhappy are a small small part of this wonderful KAL, you have said sorry they can now move on or out as they chose.
Love and Warm Hugs Anne aka vibj

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated. I fully agree with you and have been quiet on the boards because I didn't want to inflame the debate. I absolutely value your and your work - and your mistakes, you are after all, human too.


Dragonfly7673 (Vicki) said...

You expressed yourself beautifully and as others said, the angry voice of a few sound louder than the hundreds that are happy. I'm absolutely loving the Evenstar experience

Unknown said...

This blog entry is so poignant I'm thinking of sending the link to other friends who struggle with meeting their own and others expectations.

Evenstar is my first real lace knitting and it's been a fascinating journey, not just for my skills but to watch, in a small way, the marvelous design process. The way you take the inspiration from the books and bring them into the lace is fascinating.

The errata is just part of the process - and so is some venting from a very small number of customers. You can't please 1,000 people! And more important you don't need to. It's for them to decide how patient and understanding they want to be. No matter who you are, someone is going to be upset with you at some point, even Ghandi and the Dalai Lama have critics.

So put up your hard-working feet of clay and find a nice glaze to varnish your toe nails and relax!

Anonymous said...

Although I haven't tried any of your patterns yet (I've been admiring them from afar though), let me just say that they're gorgeous!

I want to see the complainers try and come up with such beautiful things and not make one mistake. Mistakes happen. They're a learning process and a part of life. If those people can't accept that, then I'm sorry to hear that. They know not what they're missing out on.

Laurie said...

I'm pretty good at not expecting perfection of anyone but myself (and I'm really, REALLY trying to get better with that one). Errata bedamned, Evenstar has been a wonderful experience for me. I've been knitting for over 30 years, and this is by far the most difficult thing I've attempted. My confidence has grown with every row - even the ones I've had to tink and frog because they were better next time around, and I learned something with each one.

I'm a little shawl backlogged right now, but I already have my eye on several of your designs for the future - thanks to Evenstar.

Thank you for this beautiful post - you've given me some serious food for thought about some painful relationships in my life - and for your equally beautiful designs. In a year, when we're all wearing our gorgeous shawls and raking in the compliments, will anyone really remember or care that there were errors in Clues #3 and #4?

Unknown said...

Susan, I for one am thoroughly enjoying the Evenstar experience. As a stay at home Mum, there are times when it seems there is nothing "for me", but this KAL is giving me something just for me to look forward to. It's helping me carve out time for something that I want to do - that isn't child-related.

And I'm not bothered about the errata. I find I actually learn a lot more from it - it forces me to slow down and really look at what I am knitting - which enhances the experience so much more.

I'm loving every minute of Evenstar and really looking forward to all of the other LOTR projects.

Thankyou for what you are doing, and please know that there are a lot of people that really appreciate your efforts and your talent!

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm not yet knitting Evenstar (signed up for the KAL simply so I could lurk during your creative process), so I really have no place commenting on it--and even less "place" judging anyone's frustration--but I want to second (maybe by now it's "eleventh"!) other people's reminders that naysayers are nearly always fewer and louder than supporters. Nowhere near 1000 people are on the boards complaining, and it's likely that all the silent ones are knitting happily and not even aware that a small number of others are creating tempest in teapots.

To comfort myself over being too financially strapped to get high-end Evenstar yarn, I've been knitting Byzantine during the E-star KAL. Each moment watching this pattern emerge has been a joy and a wonder, and I keep remarking to myself that I'd never have experienced this bliss had I not one day accidentally happened upon your blog. The fact that I could so easily have missed "meeting" you leaves me breathless--feels like I barely avoided stepping over an abyss--and I give thanks that good accidents sometimes happen.

Chin up, blessed Artist.

Natalie K.
aka The Fat Lady

Terry said...

To be honest knitting a shawl this complicated has issues so I can't imagine the barrel of joys writing it must be. The journey is half the fun tho so don't worry about it!

Laura said...

What a beautiful way of putting your thoughts and in such a way that is needed. Everyone has hurdles to overcome. As Christ said (to paraphrase) 'Let him who is without blame cast the first stone.' I think you do a wonderful job of fulfilling the needs of those who truly need you, don't worry about the others.

Thanks for your inspiration--in designs and thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! I'm one of the slow knitters, and I've missed what seems to be quite a furore on the boards... but I too think that your work is wonderful, and, as usual, it's the loud and obnoxious few who are trying to spoil it for the rest of us. I wonder if they're also missing the point of a mystery KAL. Nothing is perfect, but it's the imperfections in which we live and enjoy our lives, so thank you for a brilliant post Susan, and thank you for all your creativity and for sharing it with us. I'd like to see those who are beating you down do what you have done, to such an exacting standard. :) *hugs*

Debby said...

We lost our 30 year old son 8 months ago in a car accident. It is heart wrenching and many days are an effort. But someone asked me shortly after the loss if I knew I would have to experience this kind of grief, would I still have chosen to have 30 years and I have to answer, "absolutely". Not that it's the same but it applies. Life is full of grief, heartache, mistakes, and yet, there is enough joy, love, wonderful moments that it's worth the big picture. Keep on keeping on.

Rabbitknitz said...

Your comment that you can't please all 1000 people says it all. I bet if you put a Van Gogh painting in a room and trooped 1000 people past it, some would love it, some hate it and some would look at it and say: "meh". So goes all art. What individuals find beautiful varies from person to person. Even within your body of work (and I consider myself a fan), there are some items I like better than others. With a KAL, you are making a project sight unseen, and there is inherent risk that this design might not be a fave. This kind of situation is one where the process is the real treat--seeing something unfold. It's like reading a mystery novel. Some people revel in the anticipation and some read the last few pages first. I admit I am doing this project as an voyeur not a doer. I am reading the clues rather than knitting them up due to time constraints. I plan to actually DO next year's KAL you mentioned earlier. But I also know what I am really in for-- a knitting MYSTERY. For those folks who complain that Evenstar is "disappointing", well, they missed the point of the project. It's KAL and so becomes a process with a select community supporting it and THAT'S what the project is about. Kudos to you, Susan for being the artist you are and sharing your gift with the rest of us!!!

meotzi said...

Susan, I am having a great time with this shawl. It's the first one of your patterns that I have done but I will be looking forward to doing others.
I've been in other KAL's and know that errata happens. It's only bothersome when it is not addressed quickly. That's not happening here. You're right on top of it. I hope that this does not dissuade from future KAL's.

Barb said...

I am so far behind in the KAL that when the erratas are listed on your blog or on google I think to myself...."there you go! It is not a bad thing to be slow or incompetent...I'll just happily slog along at my own pace". I am the queen of mistakes. I can never, ever, ever start a knitting project or weaving project and just do it. I ALWAYS have to start over. Then suddenly, the clouds clear away and ta-da, I can do it. I think that is the way I've faced life as well. Lots of stories to tell that way. Keep up the good work. Your patterns and ideas are an inspiration.

Ash said...

I've greatly enjoyed Evenstar. I feel I've grown as a knitter as I've tinked back--for whatever reason (though usually it's my own fault). Thank you very much for your continued efforts and for sharing this with me--with all of us.

And now I'll go apologize to my husband for griping when he forgot to buy milk today. <3

Silvia M. said...

I started a bit late because of the Ravelympics and I'm almost finished with clue 2. This is my first lace shawl, made with lace weight yarn. It's challenging but that is what keeps it interesting.
I love it so far. I also found my brain can't do anything else while I am knitting lace. The few times I tried watching TV or have a conversation I made a mistake and had to rip it back. :)
You can't please everyone, it's just the way life is. There will always be the ones that complain just because they can and the ones that think that no matter which pattern they are knitting they can always make it better.
Hang in there. Most of us are quite happy with the process.

Sandra La Knitalian said...

I didn't sign on this one, because, well, you know why...I'm not good enough (yet).
I will eventually sign on, when I feel knit-worthy.

Those perfection-critters don't scare me, because I will trust YOU to see it through to the end and we'll all cry in our beer/whine/kool-aid together when we stumble upon any those occassional speed-bumps. :)

"I ain't afraid of no Posts"...


browneyegurl35 said...

i second all the postive comments left here on your blog. I myself i am new to the knitting world and i remember the first time i came upon your patterns. they are quite lovelly and you can see and fell the time and effort you have put into your patterns. Please do not let he grumblers get the best of you, as the saying goes "Make your haters your motivators. I have enjoyed this KAL since the first time you announced it, with the few erratas it makes it even more special. THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge, and patterns with us. THANK YOU SUSAN

Theo said...

and the people who can never be made happy need not be a worry to you or your joy and our joy in your creations. blessing to you and your gift.

teabird said...

If people expect perfection of their artisans, they need to look inside themselves first...

Your patterns are creative, you are a creative person, and your textile visions give us something to love and puzzle over. We can think about the story behind the pattern - to me, that's way more important than a misplaced yo or whatever. Heavens!

Yarndude said...

I actually don't start the clues of Evenstar for at least a week because I actually expect there to be mistakes in the pattern. Not because I don't think you're capable of writing a pattern without mistakes, but because, like you said, we're all human. Also, as a clarinetist, I would say that yes, it is expected of artists to be perfect, but I think we should also strive to be just that. The bar needs to be set as high as possible so that even if we don't reach it, we may still have exceeded our own expectations.

Penni said...

Susan, I woulod like you to know that I am really, truly proud to be one of the 1000 that is knitting Evenstar. I have started over several times and none of the times was due to the pattern, it was me! I didn't think the yarn I was using would do your design justice. You are an amazingly talented and artistic ( and supportive)person, I am so happy that I have had the chance to participate in this KAL with you

Toffee's Mum said...


As you say, with 1000 people you're going to have at least a few who want to cause you grief.

I've worked in publishing (IT stuff) and I've written some knitting patterns for mags. No matter how much effort and care you put in, gremlins still get in somehow.

I'm loving the Evenstar. I'm not such an expert that I expect to get it right first time, so tinking is part of it. Lifelines are a must. I've come to expect the occasional error or omission in patterns so I tut a bit (or swear loudly and embarrass myself in front of the cats) and just get on with it (as I expect most people do).

Someone else said that it's a great learning exercise. I agree. If it was all plain sailing I wouldn't learn much. Having the occasional snafu (the pattern and mine very own) is where I learn the most.

The KAL is a great idea, we can all support and help each other. I've been wary of the mystery element before, but this is my second one and I've not been disappointed - in fact, I'm amazed by the Evenstar. Beautiful.

I love being part of the Evenstar community. Like the lost luggage, don't let a few people spoil it for you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


PS Boy, don't 560-stitch rounds take a while!

La Cabeza Grande said...

A very thoughtful and on-target post about expectations and how they can enhance - or ruin - our realities and outcomes.

"I'm only human..."

Erin said...

I read the Ravelry thread that this blog post refers to, and I don't necessarily think that the critiques there are of the "you suck" variety. I'm sure it's very easy to take it all personally, but perhaps it would be wiser to take a deep breath and try to learn from the problems people are having. My understanding is that they expect professionalism, not perfection.

In the past I've gotten the sense that you're very good at working with and helping people, so perhaps there's more to this that I'm not seeing. From what I *have* read, nothing was done in an ugly manner. People were just expressing their frustrations.

DawnMarie said...

You express yourself beautifully Susan. I admire your work but admire you more, I have never met you and I probably never will but you are a human being in the best sense, you know what really matters in life and that feeds the soul. Hope your troubles pass soon. Like the commenter before, take a deep breath and continue. Sent with love and hugs. Dawn Marie.xx

Unknown said...

Well said! Your designs are lovely. Keep up the good work.

knitaroo said...

Beautifully written.

The pattern is stunning; it is a pleasure and a challenge to knit. You were up front with people that this was your first Mystery KAL, and as most people do the first time they try something, you have made a mistake. I, for one, saw my two rows of tinking as an opportunity to stretch the clue out a little longer until clue 5 is released. ;-)

Thank you for letting it go and moving on, so we can all enjoy what you create.

Lynda said...

I'm kind of late to the party, but I don't think that ANYONE should expect that there won't be mistakes in the pattern. You are human and therefore will make a mistake or two. You have done everything you can possibly do to make sure that the clues are error free, but even your tech editor corrected something that was correct. I think you are going above and beyond by being so available to help anyone that has problems and to take the punches that people feel, out of frustration, they need to throw at you. Just get back up and take the hugs and encouragement that is being offered and keep plugging away.

I personally, have not had any problems with this, except like I posted on plurk, I wish I had chosen a different yarn. I have been able to follow the pattern and the suggestions and come up with a product that I love. That's all I ask of any pattern or it's designer.

Anonymous said...

Ok...so I'm part of the KAL, but haven't started knitting yet. I also haven't been keeping up with the boards since I haven't been knitting it yet. I figured that I would let the errata sort itself out and then I would knit it. I assumed there would be errata because...well because every pattern has some. It is just the way it is. And your pattern would be no different from every other pattern. I love love love this blog post and am bringing it to group therapy to read it to other people who struggle with things just as I do. It is beautifully written. I'm trying to love my beautiful imperfections and I think the world would be a better place if people could love their own and everybody else's.

Madeline said...

And just like me, you're human! You are wonderful, but not perfect. None of us are. Well written post.

Donna Lee said...

Well, I turn the computer off for a few days and look what happens. allhellbreaksloose. I am one of the people who will have to rip out a few 560 stitch rows and you know what? That's life. I think of myself as a wip and I am far from perfect and I don't expect anyone/anything else to be either.

It would be easier for you if you didn't care but I know that's not the case.

I care about how you're feeling and hope that you can find some peace in the next few days. The pattern is glorious and amazing. I am enjoying each and every stitch.

Hang in there. You have an army of friends at your back.

P said...

Great post! I think your designs are great - I am sooo excited to see what you come up with for this series, because LOTR is my favorite story ever. So far, I really love what you have done, and I'll take whatever corrections come, if any, and I'll deal with them - I've been knitting for too long and made too many mistakes myself to let stuff like that throw me.

And I don't have the courage or the original creative spark to do what you are doing - so thank you for bringing these beautiful and inspired pieces to life.

Pia (Cassiopia on Ravelry).

Susanne said...

Too bad there are so many "critics". Designing is tough business. Once again, perhaps a test knitter or two would alleviate some of those naysayers.

Sharon said...

Life is full of ups and downs and that is when there isn't a chart. Mistakes happen, you created something beautiful out of sticks and strings. Know that the majority of people are cheering you on and supporting your creative and beautiful designs. Hold your head up high and move forward.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Woe is me much?

Monet said...


Heartsapocolypse said...

Ignore the nasty people who have nothing better to do with their time but spread negativity and pettiness. Those of us who know you, know your heart.

Thanks for all your hard work.

BeanMama said...

The problem, as I see it, is with forums in general. I read the thread referenced, and I really can understand both sides. The problem is that the forum is a public forum of which you are a part. It is not a private S&B in which one can air ones grievances with more venom than one would do face-to-face.

This is how we let off steam when we're frustrated - we all do it. How many of us have kvetched about a boyfriend/spouse/child/friend to a friend. How many of us would want that person to hear what we said? And did we really mean everything we said exactly with the venom with which we said it? Of course not, we're letting off steam to an appropriate audience, and then we come back and talk to the boyfriend/spouse/child/friend in a balanced frame of mind. What we need to understand about computer forums is that just because you start a new thread does not mean that your audience does now not include the persons you are discussing. People are still in the room. Feelings are involved. If the people with frustrations vent them to their own personal, in-real-life S&B and then decide to come back to you with a reasoned, courteous statement of their concerns/complaints in a PRIVATE message, that's appropriate. The mistake is in believing, even for a second, that a public forum can ever be the appropriate place to vent your spleen. I am so sorry you were hurt by it - I understand some of her complaints, but I also think you were clear about your place in the process and she didn't understand that. I've had some frustration, I did some ripping I didn't want to have to do, but I deal with it. It's not a big deal. We're all learning, including you, this is a HUGE KAL and a big endeavor.

And isn't it funny how threads and threads full of love can be there, and yet one person venting her spleen can cause so much hurt? Is that a cultural thing? I always remember Julia Roberts' character in "Pretty Woman" when she says "why is the bad stuff so much easier to believe." Yeah, why the heck is that?

Love you, love what you do. Carry on with the doing. :)

yarncollector50 said...

KUDOS to you!!!! I put alot of pressure on myself when I knit that I shouldn't, or, I try to keep up with the Jones's, so to speak in knitting class. I always think I'm the worst knitter in the world and I ask myself why did I ever start this.

I suffer from depression, anxiety & PTSD and the anxiety gets in the way, a lot. When I make a mistake, I through it across the room, pick it up later, and throw it in the closet with ALL my other projects, that one day I'll finish.