Knitting designer series: Swatching is fun but number crunching is bliss!

by Admin on 24/10/2012

in Guest series Knitting 2012, knitting+crochet+yarn

Knitting designer series:  I invited a few of my favourite knitwear designers to discuss their design process and inspiration and to share some tips and ideas too.

Jane Richmond designs classic pieces from her Island home of Victoria, BC. With a focus on enjoyable, well written patterns, Jane prides herself on delivering projects that are fun to knit and easy to wear. Find her online: Website  ::  Facebook ::  Ravelry  ::  Etsy

It has been nearly four years since I began designing knitwear. With every pattern I write, my method becomes more finely tuned. The road from design inspiration to finished product and pattern is unique to each designer, here is a glimpse into my design method…

SKETCH OR SKEIN // New designs typically originate from one of two places, a sketch or a particular yarn. A sketch will take me on a mad hunt to find the right yarn to meet my “vision”, this can be a long search over many months and can sometimes lead to compromise. A design that is sprung from a particular yarn can require just as much searching but in this case the hunt is for a fabric that is well suited to the yarn.

SWATCHING // I love swatching a new design, it is such a revealing process of what is yet to come and is very much a deciding factor in the direction of a design. When you are knitting a piece from scratch, swatches tend to take on a whole new meaning. I always use the opportunity to sample the techniques I intend to use within the pattern. Buttonholes, collars, ribbed borders and shaping can all be performed on a smaller scale during the swatching process. This also helps to ensure there are no surprises when you reach these steps when working in full scale.

NUMBERS CRUNCHING // Swatching is fun but number crunching is bliss! I’m a geeky math lover and for me this next step is something I can really sink my teeth into. The more thoroughly I’ve swatched, the more prepared I am to crunch the numbers. For this I work with large spreadsheets, inputting all of my calculations and creating special formulas to tackle design elements over multiple sizes. On designs that are more complex I may step away from the computer, armed with my clipboard of scrap paper and a calculator, and work solely on the numbers for my size to gain clarity on how all of the elements will work together to create a garment.

PATTERN WRITING // From the spreadsheet straight to pattern writing, some might think it backwards to write the entire pattern before knitting the sample. I prefer to work this way, it’s how my mind processes my design concept. I also really enjoy working from a pattern. It’s so satisfying to follow instructions thoroughly and meet your expectations with the results. It’s also important to me that I personally have followed my own final copy just as any knitter proceeding me would, to ensure that it is enjoyable, easy to follow, and doesn’t use any techniques that are better on paper than they are in practice. A fun knit is extremely important to me.

SAMPLE KNITTING // Once the pattern is written in full I can begin knitting the sample. This is where I make my final cuts. If I find a technique tedious, instructions written poorly, fit issues or what have you, this is when I make these adjustments. I often have to reknit sleeves a handful of times to get the fit just right. A fully written pattern does not automatically mean smooth sailing from start to finish and I’m happy to have the opportunity to scrutinize every design decision I’ve made as it knits up before me.

PHOTOGRAPHY // Once the sample is complete I will stage a photo shoot. I prefer simplicity and normally work on a white back drop so that the focus remains on the knitting. I take all of my own photographs with a tripod and remote, if you’ve ever tried this I’m sure you can sympathize with how difficult it is to photograph yourself!

TECHNICAL EDITING // The final pattern then goes off to my technical editor who makes further adjustments. She is looking for clarity and consistency within the written word. She also goes over all of the numbers with a fine tooth comb and reports any discrepancies. Katherine  is invaluable when I’ve struggled to find the words to write clear instructions for a technique, it’s her job to clear up these messes and she’s incredibly good at it. Often during this process the pattern goes back and forth between me and the technical editor until there are no more changes to be made.

TEST KNITTING // If test knitters are to be used this would be the stage in which the pattern would be released to them. I don’t always employ the help of test knitters although I am extremely lucky to have friends who enjoy knitting my patterns and often get to see the results of my work knit up by them.

PUBLISHING // Until March of this year my designs were entirely self published. I am an advocate of selfish knitting and most of my designs are fuelled by the desire to add a particular piece to my wardrobe. When a pattern has reached this point it is ready for publication. In my self-publishing world that means adding the pattern to my shops, Ravelry , Etsy , Website , and hoping that my designs appeal to knitters who appreciate my aesthetic.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into how I create! Happy Knitting!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathy October 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Nice to learn how you go about creating your pieces. Gives me more insight into the pieces dancing around in my own head :) Thanks!


2 mick November 4, 2012 at 8:06 pm

This was so cool to read! Jane Richmond is one of my favorite designers ever. She has such an eye for wearable pieces that are classic but have really interesting, modern details. I’ve knitted her Christopher hat I believe 5 times, and I’m about to start my sixth. Great series!


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