“I can’t. I don’t know how.” What more paralyzing words are there? This is how children think. Adults know that the information exists, if you only know how to find it. Adults say it and it means you don’t know where to find the information.
We live in a society of information overload. However, we also live in the Technological Age and nearly everything can be answered by your friend and mine, The Great Wizard Google. What he can’t explain, he’ll allow his sidekick YouTube to illustrate for him.
I found a pattern online ages ago called Argyle Octopus for cross stitch, one of my hobbies. Also recently, Subversive Cross Stitch offered a pendant kit. I thought this was the perfect marriage. I ordered the round pendant kit and went looking for that argyle octopus pattern, only to find it was no longer available. I found loads of silhouette patterns available, like the hibiscus hippo and the plaid plesiosaur, both fantastic, but not what I wanted.
I don’t know how to make a pattern. I don’t draw well. I can’t.
Except that I can.
I do know how to search online and have been doing so for years. Using the word “silhouette” that I’d found in my Etsy and Pinterest searches of similar patterns, I asked The Great Wizard Google for an octopus silhouette and he showed me tons. I wanted one that was “square” so it would fit in the pendant. I found this one. I pasted it into Word and made it small enough to fit the pendant opening, then meticulously cut it out, removing the curly suckers. I do know how to cut out shapes – I learned that in elementary school. I then traced the pattern with a special pen onto the fabric. Tracing is a skill I also learned in elementary school.
Then I opened Excel, a program I do know how to use. I counted the number of squares covered by the outline and figured out approximately how the pattern would look. I guessed and did not worry about being precise. Close enough would be close enough. I then drew the pattern in Excel. I’ve never done this before. I don’t know how. But I figured it out because I do know how to draw on graph paper, and I had nothing more than digital graph paper on my screen. Once I had it filled in as an outline, I went back to Google and looked for an argyle pattern in cross stitch. I adapted what I found to my pattern. It’s ugly, definitely, but was all the guideline I needed to get started. Who cares if this is not the “right” way to make a pattern? It works.
I chose some colors by knowing I needed 4 colors total (based on the pictures of argyle I’d just seen) and wanting to keep at least 2 of them as blues for the underwater nature of the octopus. I used a red and a yellow as my contrasts. I chose colors I already owned, and decided that the color-variations thread would be interesting-looking. I chose the area I thought would be easiest and just began.
Once done, I followed the directions to trim the excess fabric and adhere it to the back of the pendant. That was somewhat difficult as it involves a “running stitch” which is a sewing term and, although I’ve been cross stitching since I was 9, I do not know how to sew; it is a completely different skill set. But, what I do know is how to follow directions and there were photos in the instructions, so I gave it my best shot. I bet it is messier than someone who sews, but I got the job done, and it’s on the back where no one will ever see it. I also used some masking tape to hold things in place. I improvised. That is also something I know how to do – fudge it until it looks right, when necessary.
Then, I realized I’d made an error! I forgot to wash the fabric and still had the blue outlines. I removed the backing and rinsed it off, holding the fabric ever so gently as not to undo my stitching. I put it immediately back on the pendant backing and pulled the thread tighter, then used my blow-drier to dry the fabric onto the backing. Here’s something I guessed: blow driers make my hair smooth, and will probably smooth any wrinkles in the fabric if it is on a smooth surface like the pendant backing.
Not knowing what I was doing in assembling the pendant, I merely followed directions, something I have had a lot of practice at. And it is done! It is imperfect; I don’t care. If I were to do this project again, I’d choose colors with higher contrast, not two blues. I also considered outlining it so you can see each arm, but none of the silhouettes I viewed used back-stitching (outlining) so I skipped it.
Even if you think you can’t, you can. Break the task into small pieces that you DO know how to do. Even something challenging is not, if you think in small enough pieces and focus on what you do know.
Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford.
Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.