Almost every doll and softie maker has been there. It starts with an image, imagined or inspired from something real. An image of something that does not exist yet—maybe a doll, an animal, a doll dress. It has to be designed and a pattern has to be created. A process that involves lots of paper, lots of cloth and sometimes a copier for scaling. The pattern is necessary because this image rarely becomes your vision on the first try and you will need a starting point from which to tweak.
So you tweak, and you tweak, and you tweak. You produce iteration after iteration. What propels you is that you have now invested serious time and materials and you imagine that you are creeping closer. Sometimes you are. You turn that last iteration right side out and have hit that eureka moment, when your vision has become real. You are holding your vision in your hands.. It was time well-spent. You gather your pattern pieces, because you will be sewing this again and again. Yay! Life is good.
But this is not always the prototyping path. It is not always a happy ending. Sometimes the ending is a dead-end. At some point, reality hits you and you start to realize, maybe this is not a wise investment. You reluctantly cut your losses.
When this happens, as it did to me this week-end, I need to realize this dead-end was also a worthy investment. An experiment that had to be explored. I wouldn't have known what could not be done until until I tried. And inevitably, when this happens, and it has more than once, I learn something new about sewing, or the materials, or pattern-making, or my psyche.
But first I'm in a bit of a funk, feeling like I wasted a lot of time. I throw away all the pieces, clean my studio, strip it of the evidence, so when i start tomorrow, I can think about what is ahead and not lament.
I tried to make a floppy toddler doll. I thought it would be sweet, but I could not get the felt to cooperate at that scale. I did make at least a half dozen iterations of a floppy toddler doll, each a tweak better than the last, but none were good enough to leave my house.
And I did get something out of it—this blog post. I would love to hear the ups and downs of prototyping from the rest of you makers out there. Misery loves company.