When Norah Gaughan stepped onto the podium in the Manhattan Ballroom on the eighth floor of the New York Marriott Marquis on Saturday morning, she did not introduce herself to the audience. There was no need; everyone in the room was there because she is the expert on creativity in knitted stitches, and everyone in the room wanted even one little nugget of knowledge on how to do what she does.
The Vogue Knitting LIVE lecture series in the Manhattan Ballroom is known for its inspiration, and Gaughan's talk was no exception. She started by suggesting that knitters begin borrowing from a stitch dictionary, quoting Austin Kleon in saying that "nothing is completely original." Instead of just showing examples of her work, Gaughan showed progression of one idea into an entire series of ideas and designs.
Gaughan also showed examples of how ready-to-wear items can inspire knitted stitch and cable patterns without directly copying every part of a garment. By exhibiting a slide with both a Free People garment and her own design side by side, the audience could appreciate that elements of the picture shown on the front of each garment were similar, but the garments themselves were completely different.
In addition to being a master at creating stitches, Gaughan proved to be a master at breaking down her process in an easy-to-understand way. Many of her slides showed her own swatches, and how the bottoms and tops of the swatches were different from each other because she changed an element of the stitch pattern halfway through the swatch. One creative-process story involved a swatch of yellow yarn with several attempts at dropping stitches to achieve a ladder of yarn that was appealing to the eye. The final product ended up as a stitch pattern in a scarf.
Gaughan also encouraged her audience to not give up on a particular idea if something goes not quite as planned, referring to the Dickson skirt, her most popular item from her booklet vol. 13 with Berroco, as a perfect illustration. The original pattern was meant to be a poncho, but when the item slid down the mannequin and landed on the hips, it became a skirt. "I am very glad I listened to the mannequin, and the poncho!" Gaughan told the class with her trademark giggle.
At the end of the session, Gaughan took questions from the audience. People were endlessly interested in her creative process, instead of her finished pieces. Perhaps some of them will be inspired to incorporate some of Gaughan's stitching ideas into their own work. After all, nothing is completely original.
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