Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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.

Miriam Felton lives in Salt Lake City with the love of her life and a rescued Siamese named Ekho. You can find her on the web at Miriam Felton. And Make sure to check out her class on Designing Lace Shawls.

Hi all! I’m Miriam, and I’m a maker. I love knitting (and do it every day), but I also love crochet, sewing, weaving, paper crafting, bookbinding, screen printing and much more. I came to knitting when I was a teenager, started blogging about my knitting in the early days of knit blogs and as I made up my own stuff found that other knitters wanted to make my patterns too and the whole thing slowly blossomed into my career.

Assemblage Mitts from the Convergence collection

My design philosophy is pretty rooted in the Arts & Crafts movement — I most enjoy making functional things that are also beautiful and well constructed. I think of knitting as architecture. You build one row on top of the other like a mason laying bricks, and each row feeds into the next and must support what you’re going to do in the next row to make a cohesive whole. The process of knitting has never stopped being intriguing in its possibility and scope.

I started designing knitting patterns with lace and I explored a lot of ways to make lace stitches flow seamlessly and organically one into the other. Every piece was different and I had a lot of fun with it, but when I got down to writing Twist & Knit, I got a taste of what it’s like to have a guiding hand in my design process and I found that I enjoyed it more than designing stand alone pieces. It’s very different to create multiple designs that have a cohesive theme running through them, and equally difficult to source the right yarns in any given color scheme. But since I realized the difference, I’ve been working mostly in collections. I enjoy the challenge of creating a wide variety of pieces that together tell a story, with coordinating stitch patterns, motifs and echoed shapes.

Furrows shawl from the Chevron collection

To start a collection, first I usually pick a theme or a story I’m trying to tell. With the Chevron Collection that theme was (ah…) Chevrons. I have pieces making chevrons in lace, with cables and even making the fabric into a chevron itself using stacked increases and decreases. The Confluence Collection was exploring cluster groups using Bramble or Trinity stitch, little increase decrease pods, and smocking.

I recently finished another collection that I can’t say much about at the moment, but it has a recurring lacey stitch pattern that shows up in a few of the pieces, and when I was stuck trying to find the perfect buttons for one of the pieces, it struck me that I could not only make the buttons, but I could make them tie together with the rest of the collection by covering them with little swatches of the lacey stitch pattern. You could knit little swatches specifically for the buttons, or you could use swatches from old projects.

Making knitted lace buttons


  • Fabric covered button kit (including the mold and the plunger) plus enough button parts to make your required number of buttons
  • scraps of background fabric
  • knitted and blocked lace swatches

Note: background fabric pieces and lace swatches need to be about 1″ larger all around than the button you mean to cover. For instance, these buttons were 1.5″ buttons, so my swatches were blocked to about 2.5″ square. It may require a bit of trial and error to get a swatch that will block to the right size, but bigger is better in this case. You can always cut it down before you finish the button, but you can’t make it bigger.

Cut yourself some fabric to hang out behind the lace pattern. If you didn’t have a fabric backing behind the lace swatch, the shiny metal of the button form would show through the lace. The button making kits usually come with a circular template, but I was lazy and just cut squares and then cut the corners off them to reduce bulk inside the button. Make sure you trim the tails on the lace swatch so they don’t get in the way. There’s no need to weave in your ends though, as the edges of the swatch will be stuffed back inside the button.

Make a sandwich, with the lace swatch on top, right side up, with the fabric underneath it, then flip that whole part over so the lace is facing down and place the rounded part of the button form (the part without the wire shank loop) on top of the fabric, curved side down.  Your sandwich will now look like the photo, with lace swatch, fabric, and then the button form sitting on top like a cup.

Carefully stick this whole sandwich into the flexible mold from the button kit. Make sure that you can see lace swatch edges all the way around the button form.

Tuck the edges of fabric and swatch toward the inside of the cup and place the back piece of the button (the one with the wire shank loop) into the button mold, making sure you get all the fabric edges tucked underneath it.

Then cover it with the harder plastic plunger portion and push down hard. This snaps the back of the button into the cup shaped part, securing your fabric edges along with it.

Remove the hard plastic plunger and pop your new-made button out of the flexible plastic mold. Voila! lace covered buttons to accent all your knitted pieces!