The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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Define Beautiful

Posted by thedarwinexception on June 6, 2008


Today I need your input on something. I need some opinions.

First, though, let’s get rid of other stuff.

I finished the second sleeper sacque. This one I chose to bind off the neck in a bias tape, rather than in the material the sacque was made in, like I did with the first one.

I kind of like the bias tape bind off.

You can just see the little red airplane button that matches the sacque.

I love these things – so easy.

I also started my first project for the fair – a little three piece layette – why not? I won last year, I have no place to go but down.

This is an openwork lace sweater, with overalls and a hat. It’s going fairly quickly, I just started it yesterday.

Ok – now the stuff I need your help on.

So, for the fair this year, they have a category called “Most Beautiful Knitted Afghan”. I don’t make afghans – I generally find them so boring – to keep repeating the same thing over and over and over.

But since I won the “Most Beautiful Knitted Layette” category last year, I want to enter different categories this year, too.

But I’m having a problem with what “Most Beautiful” means.

There’s a guy named Kaffe Fassett – he’s a designer who authors books with stunning, gorgeous colorwork sweaters, jackets, pillows and blankets. This guy is a genius when it comes to colorwork. He designs beautiful intricate patterns, the kind that when you knit them you go blind or crazy with all the little bobbins of yarn you have to carry along with the working yarn. No kidding, sometimes you can be working with 20 different colors of yarn at the same time. BUT – when you look at one of his patterns, the first words out of your mouth are going to be “Oh my God – that’s beautiful”. And there’s that word – beautiful.

He has this one pattern called “Brocade Throw.” It’s beautiful.

Here’s one in progress from a Ravelry user.

OK – you know you said it “Oh my God – that’s beautiful.” So it’s a fair winner, right? If I make this, I could enter it and have a decent chance of winning “Most Beautiful.”

But, then’ there’s that other thing. That “WOW” factor. There are lots of patterns that have a WOW factor. But does that necessarily translate to “beautiful?” There is a website called “Wooly Thoughts“. They design some patterns that make you go “Holy Fuck – Look at THAT.” I’d like to make one of their designs – like this one. Watch – when you see it, you’ll say “WOW – Holy Fuck!”

But is it beautiful?? Especially considering that my audience for this project is older women who still think Granny Squares are beautiful. They are the people who are judging this contest.

Does “WOW” mean “beautiful”? Is the second design likely to win a contest where the criteria is “most beautiful”?

What do YOU think? Which should I go with – or should I abandon both ideas and go with some cabled afghan pattern more reminiscent of the 60’s 0r 70’s?

And consider your answer carefully, because I think what I am going to do with the finished project is have some sort of raffle or contest or something here on the blog and one of you will get it. SO, keep in mind that you will want a “Beautiful” afghan – and what that means to you.





39 Responses to “Define Beautiful”

  1. zoomcity said

    The brocade throw is beautiful. I don’t think the iris-folded afghan is beautiful, but I think it could be beautiful with different color choices.

    I choose the brocade throw.

  2. Windsmiles said

    The brocade throw is “beautiful”. The other one is giving me flashbacks. I think you should enter considering the judges taste.

  3. Robynn said

    Kaffe Fassett would be the safe win. But an afghan is big, and you’re the one who’s going to be knitting it. I would say, knit whatever is going to keep you excited and having fun right the way through. Then if you win, it’s a bonus. Imagine if you chose something to impress the judges, slaved away, driving yourself nuts with all those bobbins (for instance), but you think it’s okay: I’m doing this for the win. And then you don’t win. (It could happen!) Wouldn’t you be pretty pissed off?

    I’m just sayin’.

  4. Greg Smith said

    The one from Wooly Thoughts looks to modern to be considered beautiful from the jury you describe.

    I’d go with the brocade theme. Could you do this with needles and yarn from your vast storehouse of supplies? That would be cool. I’d also like to see the brocade in a less varied color palette.

    Lot of work, but you’re fast!

  5. Becky Ayers said

    Obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With that said, the brocade is not my choice, so if I was judging, it wouldn’t be that one. Wooly Thoughts is more modern looking. Thinking back to how you describe most Maloneans, if you want to win, it may be best to stick with a traditional favorite. The judges tastes may not be as evolved as others.
    Your previous projects have always brought the “Aaahhh is the sweet” response. Go with your own instinct and best of luck.

  6. tess said

    Well, for me the brocade one with different colors might be really beautiful. The Wooly thoughts one is more my type, but I agree, beautiful is probably not what your panel of judges might think. So, all that being said, I would vote for the brocade in different colors.

  7. Kay said

    From the comment you made about those who will be judging, I vote for the Brocade Throw. Looking forward to seeing photos of your afghan project….which ever one you choose to create. Your work is beautiful!

  8. luvgabe said

    My vote is also for the brocade pattern as more “beautiful” than the second abstract-art throw.

    However, if it’s a different abstract-art pattern and with different colors, No. 2 might become “beautiful.”

    Honestly, though, the brocade pattern didn’t elicit a gasp, “It’s BEAUTIFUL!” response from me. For me, something really beautiful makes me gasp.

  9. Tazzie said

    I think the knitting work on the brocade is beautiful and would absolutely win but the colors are awful, so if you do that one, pick some really great colors. You are such a special person with so many talents! I am glad you share them with us.

  10. NJGill said

    “Tazzie Says:

    I think the knitting work on the brocade is beautiful..”

    Actually, I think the knitting work is probably simple stockinette or seed stitch, and not very interesting at all (for the knitter), but the intarsia will require a lot of fiddling and attention. If these judges think granny squares are beautiful, maybe you should choose fewer colors but more elaborate stitchery. Something with cables – that kind of thing is always the winner at our State Fair, I’ve noticed.

  11. tkc said

    I like the wow! one.

  12. I did find one other pattern I think is beautiful, and I agree with NJGill, that maybe something “cable like” will catch the judges attention – so what do you think of this one – as compared to the Kaffee Brocade throw?


  13. Val Dalton said

    I like the Brocade Throw. But everything you make is beautiful so either way i dont think you could go wrong!

  14. HT said

    The second one is more artsy and non-traditional so I vote for that one. Having said that, I’m sure you’ll go with the brcade one….

    The third one is pretty in a way but it didn’t really grab me. I’ve seen stuff like that before.

    I wouldn’t try to play to the judges. I’d go with my gut.


  15. tess said

    I like the third one. Maybe some subtle colors for the raised areas would be interesting. I don’t knit very well, so I don’t know if what I am asking would be awful to do or not.

  16. Kim (Canada) said

    The first “Wins” if going with the ol’biddy judges…
    The second gave me (LSD) flashbacks –
    The first took my breath away – Totally! And in a “WOWing” manner…
    The second took my breath away – And I thought it wasn’t coming back…
    I completely get the whole “modern” vibe of #2, but I’m thinking the #1 is way more comfy and inviting…

    And I know “jack” about this kind of stuff…Really!
    Fonzie :`)

  17. AtwoodLady said

    Beautiful is in the eye of the beholder. Who knows what a judge is looking for. Are these people the same judges year after year?

    I personally don’t care for the brocade pattern. Lots of color also isn’t my choice. I like texture 100% more with subtle colors that can emphasize the texture more than the colors.

    As I crochet and don’t knit, I know crochet techniques have endless textured patterns. I don’t know if knitting does.

    Good luck with whatever choice you enter.


  18. Greg Smith said

    Kim, I do like the 3rd choice a lot more for a fair entry than the others. Got a “wow” from me.

  19. artdonkey said

    I vote on the brocade style of #1 but done in the neutral palette of #3.

  20. How about a new design??….. The center a Brilliant Coloured Hummingbird with a Willow tree in the background? Would appeal to lots of ages!!! Just something different?

    How bad I wish I could draw it for you, but I can’t even draw stick people 😦

    Love the Airplane outfit. It is so hard to find cute boy clothes and accessories.

  21. lovey von doodlesocks said

    Kim, um – being a huge K.Fassett fan myself I’d have to say, of course, K FASSETT! Or if you are really stumped, why don’t you take elements you love from each design or designer and let them inspire you to create something of your very own that’s just as – or even more beautiful. Maybe choose vivid colors that Fassett often uses but take design elements from the other designer and make your own afghan. Take it one step further and instead of making the judges say “holy fuck” when they see your design, make them say “holy fuckin’ A”!! I know you can do it!

  22. Cathy said

    I wish I had the talent to do any of them … and I’d love to own any of them!

    I used to do counted cross-stitch for a county fair, and tried to figure out what the judges would like. One year I won best of show with a simple Paint Indian pony picture I worked on wheat aida cloth—it was large and not much of a challenge. The following year I submitted a Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum picture of an Indian maiden with a dreamcatcher and beading worked in linen over two threads … got beat by some little simple no-name sampler kit for Best of Show. The following year I went big yet again with a HUGE 18″ X 24″ strawberry sampler from a Better Homes & Gardens book, worked over two strands of 32 count linen, and got beat by a Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum bride kit for Best of Show worked on plain 14 aida.

    The moral: don’t even try to figure out what those biddies want!

    But if I had your talent, I’d be working choice #2 … with a different color palette. #3 is cute too, I’d like a different color palette but I suspect the variety of “stitches” would show your abilities to be versatile (what the heck do you call a variety of knitting styles anyway LOL!)

    I would not argue with you if you handed me choice #1 when I am having a raging period and want something soft and warm to cuddle with.

    I think it’s a matter of picking the right colors and textures in this case, Kim. Besides, we all know you are a winner!

    Sorry I am of no help 🙂

  23. your bro said

    i think you could could design something that would, in the end, be concidered both “beautiful” and could WOW your audience. some of things you’ve shown here have been very beautiful already. just trust yourself and your own ideas. you’ve shown some great creativity already.

  24. Mort Snerd said

    A copy of a pattern, no matter how “beautiful” is still only a copy of some one else’s idea of beauty. I would say do something different, like make a “memory afgan” for the Zombie Lady. Who knows if she will or will not reappear but your “memory” work will be usefull either way. Front view of house, plants in yard, picket fence, kind of a Malone Rockwell view. Obviously I do not knit so have no way of knowing if this is possible.

  25. Greg Smith said

    Malone Memory Afgan. Cool idea, but it needs to be Malone through the eyes of VanGough, not the Chamber or Commerce. No, no. I don’t think the judges would find that beautiful.

  26. Sprocket said

    #3 is cool Kim. Would you consider adding a brief hint of color to it?

  27. luvgabe said


    I’m with HT & YourBro. Don’t try to second-guess the judges; be your usual creative self; and trust your guts/instincts!

    Actually, *everything* that you’ve knitted & sewn had looked “really beautiful” to me 🙂

  28. HT said

    Ola Kimita, (I don’t know where that came from – it’s past May 5) LOL

    Greg and Mort hit on something, a *purl* of wisdom. Design a montage of Zombie Lady….her *starry night*, flower garden, porch art, etc. Then you can make replicas and sell them on your blog, chachang$$$$$

    I say but not originally…………………BE BOLD!


  29. Caroline said

    The Kaffe afghan wins my vote! Thanks for the link to his website, his work is WOW. I have never seen anything like his quilt on the cover of his quilt book. The second afghan is striking, but not as visually stunning as the first, but then I am a colour person.

    The airplane sacque is so precious! I am telling you the reason all of those Malone girls are getting pregnant is because they want some handmade Kim couture of their own!

  30. Sandy said

    The third one is “beautiful”. Although the 1st is intricate, I really don’t like the colors at all. Nor the artistic approach to the 2nd. The problem with these are those who see them will judge according to personal tastes, environment, etc. Would be nice to say judges are open, but little voices still speak quietly to them.

    Not an opinion, but I personally love Irish afghans and their symbolic designs.
    Whatever you do, do what is loved. When defining something to fit others, it will take your joy and creativity a bunch of steps back.

  31. pam said

    The brocade afghan is beautiful, but I would make different color choices…probably more tone on tone. #2 surprised me it is so modern! #3 reminds me of what i would personally make for an entry, and that is a sampler afghan in one color. The sacque is adorable..I like the bias tape bindoff too.

  32. NJGill said

    I think #3 is probably something judges would like. So’s this one:

    Tree-of-Life Afghan

  33. Sandy said

    NJGill…your link is what I was trying to describe. I love those. Guess we could call that the big girl example of the 3rd one Kim showed.

  34. Kym said

    Hi Kim!

    I don’t post that often, but I am still reading every word…and I have to break my lurking habit to throw my vote towards the Brocade Throw- whatever colors you decide to use it will be be both beautiful and “wow” IMO. And well, if you decided that a lurker would be fit to win your raffle or contest…then that is a pattern I would gladly cheat to receive. 😉

    Your baby saques are the cutest things ever. My youngest is 12, but I am thinking about asking hubby to reverse his vasectomy so that I have an excuse to ask you for a handful of them! Or maybe you could make them to fit my dog…you really should go into business, you have such talent. I wish I had “known” you when I had babies, I would have never left you alone about clothes and blankets.

  35. Angi said

    Given who the judges are, I’d go with the Brocade Throw or something as colorful yet closer to “Traditional”

    Good luck!

  36. Chrissycat said

    Oh Kim!

    When I saw the brocade design I had three thoughts.
    1. WOW!
    2. That is BEAUTIFUL! STUNNING! MAGNIFIQUE! (See the word, beautiful in that thought…)
    3. Holy Moly how in the world could you do THAT with YARN?

    When I saw the second design I also had three throughts.
    1. HUH, reminds me of the Q-Bert Video game.
    2. Hmmm, I’m thinking GEOMETRY. (Notice I’m using the word GEOMETRY…not BEAUTIFUL)
    3. Where would something like that go in my house? (Attic?)

    Good luck, sister! Anything you make is going to make heads turn!


  37. anygirl said

    Love the sacques

    Number three does it for me…really soft, and delicate..WOWOWOW…sometimes less is more…LOL

  38. gaia said

    OK, I’m adding my two cents! When I first saw the brocade one, I didn’t know what I was looking at – seriously. I had no clue it was brocade and the colots seemed mismatched and creepy. The more avant garde one reminds me of several fabric “pictures” hanging on the wall at the Serpentine Gallery (and many other art galleries) in London. I’m not kidding. If you ever make it, use your own sense of color (I’m sure you will!) and I can get my daughter (an artist – painter) to contact the two guys that own and run the gallery across from the large theatre with a play starring Diana Rigg (I grew up wanting to be her!) and taken over by Kevin Spacey. Anyway, when your item is shown, you are then qualified for the biggest shows in London! And, you get lots of folks asking for more of your work! I’m a potter/sculptor and I could do that easily, but it’s so hard to send something like that intact. I’m still contemplating it.

    The avant garde piece would be fantastic made from your choice of colors, but not one the “little old ladies” would appreciate at the fair. After all, I think they wonder if they could put it in their houses. That’s what I did when I looked at them. My daughter has a wildly decorated house, but mine looks like a Floride Home dragged from there to the coastal area of North Carolina. It’s filled with Chinese and oriental stuff plus more eclectic but not so much as to fall in line with the oriental rugs! I sure wish it would. I’m in love with it – all the way.

    The brocade would fit my house to a “T”, as it would many of the houses around here. Of course, I can’t speak for the whole country. It would even work in my daughter’s wild house! Heck, my husband raises orchids and sends pictures of some of ’em when they bloom. Sara, my daughter, quickly painted three of them and we have them over our bed! My husband kinda hates them because her interpretation of the orchids aren’t what he thinks of them. I LOVE ‘EM. So, there you go.


  39. maryjblog said

    My experience with these kind of competitions is that “beautiful but safe” will usually win out over “Holy Fuck!” but you know, as an artist you have to follow your muse; there are more important things than winning First Place. Maybe you could start early for next year and enter one of each kind – last year I won 2 blue ribbons and a red (second place,) in different categories, by doing just that. Besides, they might surprise you: occasionally even the most conservative judge will respond to the fact that a funky design represented a high level of difficulty and exquisite execution. Good luck!

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