I have a love of classic cinema, and the actors in them. I blame my mother for it, really. The woman raised me on the films of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Doris Day, and many more. That love is something my mother and I share. We can (and do) talk for hours about this stuff, and the useless bits of trivia that come with a love of classic cinema.
So, there’s a scene in the 1958 film classic Auntie Mame, where Mame (played by Rosalind Russell) descends the stairs of her home and delivers one of the most quintessential lines in the entire movie. You see, she’s trying to convince her frumpy and anxious secretary to go out, have a good time and live a little. “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” she proclaims. Lucille Ball would later deliver this same line nearly twenty years later in the 1974 movie musical Mame, though the word sucker was replaced with sons of bitches. Either way, words to live by, if I ever heard them.
Now, you’re probably wondering how this relates to crafting, am I right? No, this is not where I make a statement about how important it is to take chances and utilize the opportunities that are given to you (though, you really should). Okay… so how does this all tie into that film that you love, Kevin?
When I first started on this design journey, I got it in my brain that I was going to make a wedding jacket for the Stitches West fashion show in 2015. It would get my name out there, be a statement piece, and most importantly it would be fun to say I did! I talked about this with the enablers in charge at my LYS, and plotted. One of the best words of wisdom that came out of those early conversations was to look at existing fashion, see what I liked and build on that. Find inspiration from that which already exists, BRILLIANT!
I took their advice, and browsed the internet for inspiration. After a few days of casually browsing for ideas, I came across a photo of Rosalind Russell in this beautiful brown and black coat. I knew the photo was from Auntie Mame, but I wasn’t sure of the scene so I watched the movie as reference. It turns out that is was the very scene where she descends the stairs to deliver her quintessential quote. This was it, the inspiration for the jacket I wanted to make! Long and elegant, it would look fabulous in a cream colored yarn with a bit of texture and a nice refined edging worn over a wedding dress.
I sat down and sketched it out a dozen or so times. Each time making adjustments to the design until it was absolutely PERFECT. I swatched border motifs, and settled on this gorgeous leaf edging from a Nicky Epstein book. I was consumed with this new venture! It was going to be fantastic, I’d publish it and become a well known knitwear designer!
Now, I should mention at this point in the story that at this stage in my knitting career, I had never knit anything more than shawls, cowls, and hats. I hadn’t even started knitting socks yet. However, I was going to set forth on this epic journey to create this amazing wedding coat.
That is precisely when reality, and more so practicality set in. I could jump into the deep end of the design pool with both feet. I could try swimming in the deep end, without having any clear understanding of how to do it. Or, I could start in the shallow end with my water wings. Learn the basics of design and pattern writing, and start off simple. Needless to say, the water wings won, hands down. I put the wedding jacket on the back burner (where it still is to this day) and set to work on what would become my first design, the Coronet Cowl which debuted at the Stitches West Fashion show in 2015.
I still use that wedding coat idea, and more importantly that scene and that line from Auntie Mame / Mame as a reference point and mantra. The wedding coat is that design project that I’ll come back to, some day. It’s still percolating in the back of my brain. The bit from Auntie Mame is a gentle nudge reminding me to be bold and adventurous, and that the benefits that come from stepping out of your comfort zone can be pretty amazing.
As my mom asked me a few years ago, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”