Speaking of jumping in with both feet, my biggest challenge with stitching has always been COLOR. Gorgeous projects calling for a million colors would blithely start out by telling me simply to take all my leftover yarns to end up with what they had pictured. Right. Clearly, they had never seen my collection of leftover yarns.
Then, eventually, I did just jump in. I started making what I call my ugly afghans. Afghans made from such a scattered range of colors that you could never have a worse hair day than these creations looked. No matter how bad your day, you could curl up in one of these afghans and take comfort that your day was better than they looked. Spilling cocoa (by accident, of course) on one couldn't make it look worse. You get the picture.
And a funny thing happened: I had my first epiphany. As long as the pattern was simple and consistent, each afghan turned out looking like it was meant to look like that -- a lot like the new generation of stuffed toys coming out these days. For example, the traditional granny square afghan is made up of all kinds of leftover scraps, but the last round of each square is the same color. That unifying rule adds stability. Having additional rules, like how you arrange the squares, also adds stability.
I also learned two other rules that made life so much easier: Kaffe Fassett (and others, I'm sure, but he's one who got the most attention) pointed out that when you gather up your stray bits of yarn, organize them in color order (lining them up in a row) before winding them up in two big balls. Two balls because you start winding the bits from one end of the line to the middle of the line, and the second ball from the middle of the line to the other end. That way, when you use two colors in a row of stitching, there will be the most contrast. Duh -- why didn't I think of that? Just that amount of organizing creates wonderful stability in how the colors end up.
The last rule is a basic mantra from the fashion world: Light, Bright, and Dark. If you don't want all the energy of ten million colors, remember that 3 is really plenty. And for any three that you choose, choose a trio where one is clearly Light, another one is clearly Bright, and the third is clearly Dark -- all compared to each other. You could even use this idea in sorting your odd bits of yarn (see above).
These three rules have made my crocheting and knitting make much more enjoyable, and they make me look remarkably clever with very little effort, which is always a good thing.