"How long did it take you to do that?"

Someone sees something I've made of my own original design and asks how long it took me to make it.

I never know how to answer that question.

Once I get a design perfected, it might take me an hour or a day to make another one from scratch, but that doesn't feel like the right answer since it doesn't account for all the time I spent working out the design in the first place.
It starts with a mess, a lot of trial and error, ripping out, starting over again...
This is a pile of some of the separate pieces that I made, trying out an idea, and it's likely I'll toss them out and start all over again. This project is one of a series, part of a larger project that I have been working on, a way to explore color theory through crochet projects. The pieces themselves took a few days to a couple of weeks, but these aren't part of the finished work yet. I'm fooling around with yarn. at this point, looking to see how it behaves, and how the colors look against each other.
Before that, I was working out the concept.

On vacation with my husband a few months ago, we spent mornings relaxing in a coffee shop planning our day. While he read the newspaper, I worked out some ideas in my sketchbook. Over a two week period, I filled about 25 pages with notes and sketches.
Over the years, I've taken different art classes, and I've done a lot of research on my own, reading library books on art, color theory, and design.
I researched yarn companies, online and through industry catalogues, because I was looking for a particular kind of yarn, in a particular weight, in a wide choice of colors--and it had to be affordable so I could buy several dozen skeins in different colors.
More than once, I spent most of a day in a Japanese bookstore, going through all the crochet pattern books to find ones to help with inspiration for my designs. And of course, I needed to learn to interpret the international crochet symbols since I can't read Japanese. I learned about these Japanese pattern books from another crocheter at one of the many crochet conventions and workshops I've attended.
Then there are the colorful vintage plastic buttons I hunt for at flea markets and thrift shops. And those buttons don't clean themselves...
So, am I finished? These motifs are piled up, ready to be sewn together and made into pins, but I won't do that yet; I've got to come back after a day or so to look them over again with fresh eyes to make sure I am satisfied with the way it all looks, and that they will clearly illustrate the color lesson in the way I intend. And I'm debating about using a fabric stiffener--if I do and don't like the effect, I can't undo it, so I'd have to re-do the pieces.

Below is how the back will look when they are done--these I made just  for practice, to try out sewing methods and to see if the pin backs will work properly with the motifs--and these are not part of what will be the final product.
These steps have all contributed to my design process. So where is the beginning? How long did this take? I have to think that all the years that I have been crocheting and perfecting my craft, all the observations and design experiments I've made, every book I read, every workshop and industry convention I attended, every museum visit or nature walk I have been on, and every question that has made me curious to enough to explore, have all brought me to this.

So, if you ask me how long this took me, and I tell you it has taken me my whole life, well, you'll know what I mean.


  1. All so true! Thanks for the details. Love these little color wheel test pins.

    1. Thanks for your note--I can tell you get it!

      Watch for later this week when I will offer (for a limited time) a free pattern that includes a color theory lesson/ exercise.