Not My Baby

10,000 Hours Dress

Meet the “Thousand Hours Dress.” Isn’t she lovely? I commissioned this piece from local artist & designer, Peggy Noland. I told Peggy that I wanted a dress for my new project, Wait. , that I could also wear for ongoing 10,000 Hours events. It somehow needed to involve knitting and I needed to be able to knit while wearing it. (So no long flowing sleeves or miniskirts.)  Everything else was up to Peggy. I was to be client & knitting labor only.

This filled a few purposes. One, I needed a dress. Two, I love to collect Peggy’s work. Three, I wanted to know what it’s like to knit what you’re told for the purpose of fulfilling someone else’s vision. Up until now I’ve always had at least some creative input in my knitting projects, even if it’s just to choose the pattern and/or color. But knitting completely to others’ specifications is something that many knitters do. There are test knitters for designers who make sure that the design actually yields the product it promises. There are knitters-for-hire who will knit you that sweater you want. There are knitters who work in the sweatshops that make the fancy little headbands sold at the hipster store with the French name. Now, obviously, I didn’t have the sweatshop experience; but I knitted what she asked, how she asked, and (give-or-take 24 hours) when she asked.

Her orders:

Color – Sky Blue

Pattern – Pleated Skirts Lace

Piece 1 – large square swatch 12’’ x 12’’

Piece 2 – collar, 4-6’’ wide by 40-98’’ long

Lace. This was not easy. It was a pattern repeat of 22 stitches & 14 rows. It was slow going. It pushed me to the edge of what I was capable of. I could not talk to anyone or think about anything else while working this pattern. I did an internal cheer when I got to the end of each row. Every hour spent on these pieces felt like two. It mentally exhausted me.

Peggy brilliantly scanned in the large swatch, created a mirrored repeating pattern, and ordered a silky crepe fabric printed with the design. She made a fabric from my knitting… but it was not a knitted fabric. It looks like a snake skin print! Which, my mother pointed out, is odd since one rarely looks at a snake and thinks, “How lacy!”

The lace collar (which I managed to make just over 60’’ long) ruffles around the top and pieces of the swatch line the arms. Yes, she cut my cotton lace knitting and it did not fall apart. (She steeked, surged, & fabric-glued it, but it is secure.) Luckily, she did not do this in my presence; surely I would have fainted in a very dramatic “fetch the smelling salts” sort of way.

The result is gorgeous. I poured thirty fully-concentrated difficult hours into that piece. I simultaneously want to wear it everywhere and to frame it and hang it on my wall. I love it. But… it is not my baby. Peggy Noland created this work. When people ask me if I made this dress I will say, “No, Peggy did. I just knitted the lace for her.”

It’s a strange feeling to work on something giving up any creative control whatsoever. I trusted in Peggy, but I had no idea what the final outcome would be. It really did make for a different knitting experience. Hired needles.

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