It’s trite, but “mistakes are opportunities.” We not only learn from them (I’ll never do THAT again), but they are also opportunities for some fancy and creative cover-ups… that could make our work more interesting, and ultimately, more artistic.
This was the case with a recent mistake on my part. One of the women in the local hooking guild, Cheryl Pavlik, became taken with the idea of finishing one of her hooked rugs with braiding. She then decided to add on a second row of braid with knots on it, and asked me to help her with the project.
Those of you who’ve read the Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding book know that in the section on Fancy Borders, we talk about “motif” size with regard to each border, and how to place the border around corners. Cheryl’s project was a beautiful hopping bunnies pattern created by Katie Allman, and it was set in a rectangular shape. Since the knotted border has a motif size of 6 loops, each side of the rectangle needed to have a loop count divisible by 6… plus whatever spacing was needed to place the knots equidistant between the corners..
I didn’t remember that.
Totally forgot about it.
So, of course, Cheryl went ahead and put on the first row of braid, and we butted it, and then she finished lacing it onto her hooked bunnies rug. Only after that did I count the loops and realize that there was going to be a problem with the knot row. I counted loops to see where the knots would fall. The sides were okay, but the top and bottom were going to be “off.” With the “dots” pattern that I had planned for the two braids, the knot spacing was going to be completely asymmetric about the corners.
I felt very, very guilty and embarrassed as I looked at this pretty rug and my expectant student. I felt sick that she had worked so long on learning to braid this knotted border (which she had already half-way braided) and that I was going to have to tell her that I had screwed up and it wouldn’t work.
Then, I had a flash. We could put an extra-long space between knots in the top center and bottom center of the rectangle, then fill the center of the enlarged space with something decorative. The space in the center would allow us to put the knots symmetrically about the corners. Cheryl wouldn’t even have to unbraid that much.
Initially I was thinking of a large knot as the decoration—one of those pretty Chinese knots perhaps, made out of a folded and sewn-shut strand. Eventually, after thinking about it incessantly, I decided that I would try something with wire running through the sewn strand: a pretty scroll or fleur-de-lis pattern.
On the way to get together with my student again, I realized that the weight of the wire on the top of the hooked rug (which was going to be hung, not laid on the floor) would cause the scroll-work to sag forward and not look good. I realized that if I were going to use wire, that it would have to have a support along the back to keep it from falling forward.
And you know what? It all worked, and I’m really pleased. Cheryl decided it should be called “wool filigree.” The wire support on the back is couched to the backing fabric, which is fused to the back of the hooking.
I think that the rug is actually prettier than it would have been if we had just placed a (symmetric) knotted border around it. I think the wool filigree adds to the whimsy of the piece.
And, it all came about because I embraced the “mistake” and allowed myself to get a bit creative regarding how to work around it. Mistakes, as disheartening as they can feel in the moment, can be good things. Next time you make a mistake, think about some way that you can repeat it in such a way that it could become interesting… or allow you to do something different to cover it up.