Guest series Knitting 2012

Thank you to all the amazing knitting designers to participated in this fabulous series – please do visit their blogs and ravelry and read their guest posts.

Knitting Designer series [link to whole series HERE]

Alex from dull-roar discusses her design process (specifically for hats) and self-publishing in her guest post From idea to published pattern.

I do a mix of self and non-self publishing- I prefer to have the extra control that self-publishing provides, but I occasionally enjoy collaborating with publishers. I’m too impatient to deal with the submissions process much anymore (I want to just start designing, RIGHT NOW!) but occasionally people invite me to contribute to something and that’s always wonderful :-)

Linda from Woolly mammoth knits explains how designing knitting patterns is quite a lot like playing with blocks.

When coming up with a design, I make use of five basic “designing blocks”. Just like with the Duplo, I pick and choose. Not all blocks go into each design, but if you design enough patterns you’ll likely use each of these eventually. 

Alison from sixandahalfstitches talks about her philosophy behind knitting pattern writing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pattern writing, and how I come to be where I am. What are my philosophies, how do I write patterns, and how does that affect the final product? What do I expect of the person using the pattern?

Hilary from theyarniad describes her knitting pattern and design process.

I thought I’d tell the story of a pattern from start to finish, and include all the gory details, whether glamorous or not (because seriously, math is not very glamorous).

Karen from Katoumi discusses her design process and her knitwear designs for children.

I really love the garter stitch, especially on kids’ garment, it is stretchy and classic and never goes out of fashion, so I try to integrate this stitch in most of my patterns.

Suvi from Dandelion In a Jar discusses her love of small details.

My designing process begins with finding an inspiration. Being inspired and excited about my idea is very important to me. I believe that when I love what I’m doing, it also shows in my designs.

Jennette from Doviejay Knits talks about stories as inspiration.

This spring I reread one of my favorite books, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, and I decided I was going to spend this summer designing three shawls based on it. … It’s a romantic little story about a very sad woman who lives a miserable, poor life with her controlling and unpleasant family. She gets a little brave and moves out to an island and the more she lives with the woods and the water the more her world starts to come alive. Also, there’s a man.

Anna from mochimochiland discusses the process of knitted toy design.

Sketching is the starting point for me, both when I have something specific in mind to design and also when I just need to get ideas flowing in a general way. I’m not much of an illustrator, and I’ve never used a proper sketchbook, but I’ve found that making this part of the process as low-fi and homely as possible helps me be free with ideas and make new discoveries.

Melissa from neoknits discusses the process of designing for a large manufacturer vs designing for hand knitting patterns.

Sometimes I’ll sketch up 10 sweaters in one day and won’t sketch another for a few months. When I’m ready, I come back to my sketchbook, revisit the designs and choose one that speaks to me. From there, I polish it up a little bit, add a detail or two and decide on the fit, stitch, and yarn. My designs are typically a work in progress.

Robin from Robin Ulrich Studio discusses her design process.

If only getting ideas was the final destination rather than the beginning of the journey! For me, finding ideas is the easy part of the pattern design process. Taking steps from those first kernels of inspiration on through to the creation of a published knitting pattern is the much lengthier and more involved part of the trip.

Kate from Kelbourne Woolens discusses the knitting lifestyle.

I consider myself ridiculously lucky to be where I am in life. Yes, I wish there were more hours in the day (or less sleep needed) so I could do all the things swirling in my head, but continually working to find the balance between business and a creative life, revelling in the process of it all, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jane Website tells us about her love of numbers.

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.

Amy from Savory Knitting talks about how she begins a project.

Today we are lucky if we had grandmothers, or mothers able to teach us how to knit or sew. The tradition of making your own clothes has largely been lost in just the last generation with the influx of inexpensive off the rack clothing.

Thelma [website and Thelma] explains her love of crazy hats.

I have to admit I never wear weird hats myself. I don’t like to attract the attention. Still I do love anything unusual and I love children and grownups who don’t shy away from it.

Hunter [Violently Domestic] offers a tutorial for swatching in the round.

I am an alarmingly slow knitter. I’m also lazy. Very very lazy. This deadly combination means that, if I ever want to get anything finished and off my needles, I have to be as efficient as possible in my knitting. That means swatching. Lots and lots and lots of swatching.

Solenn [de rerum natura] showcases her love knitting for children.

I especially like to imagine models for children because knitting for them is for me a very special way to surround them with our love and preserve them from global consumption. …  The idea that my little boy grows up keeping this value of crafted things pleases me enormously.

Kirsten [Website] discusses her minimal aesthetic.

My more minimalist aesthetic means I tend towards knitted stitches that result in a continuous textile: stocking stitch, garter stitch, twisted stocking stitch, float stitch, rib. I like the yarn itself to take the leading role in the design. My designs feature the yarn rather than an intricate stitch detail.

Miriam [Website] offers a tutorial on making knitted lace buttons.

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.

Michele [Mishi2x] discusses her love of wearable and flattering clothing 

I always know what I want to end up with, and that’s something wearable and flattering. I also know that I want the process to be interesting. As much as I love the way plain knitting looks, I’m not sure I could design a sweater or accessory with only one simple stitch.

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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.

Michele Wang is a New York City based knitwear designer. Her work has been featured in Vogue Knitting and on Quince & Co.’s site. She is currently a member of the Design Team at Brooklyn Tweed.  You can find her designs on her Ravelry page and keep up with her on her blog.

People often ask me what my inspiration is when I design knitwear. I always know what I want to end up with, and that’s something wearable and flattering. I also know that I want the process to be interesting. As much as I love the way plain knitting looks, I’m not sure I could design a sweater or accessory with only one simple stitch. It would seem to me like I was setting it up for failure. One of my favorite designs is the Eternity Scarf. Knitters seemed to have really taken to it, and I think it’s because the stitches change throughout the rounds, but never is it complicated. I like the balance of simple and interest.

But, I do find it very difficult to put into words where I find inspiration. I’m very tactile, and I know I have to work with yarn before I can imagine what it could turn into. As part of the Brooklyn Tweed Design Team, I have the luxury of working with the same fiber, in two different yarns. Some would find that boring and mundane. But, I like knowing what I’m dealing with, and more often than not it still surprises me.

Often, I sit with a big bowl of water in front of me, and throw swatches in as I finish knitting them. I can do this for days. I pull out my stash of yarn with a pile of stitch dictionaries, turn on the TV and begin knitting. I try not to judge a swatch until it’s been blocked. It’s easy to stop a few rows in and decide a swatch isn’t working. But, you never know. Some swatches have turned into designs and they may have started out with my nose turned up at them.

Once I’m done swatching, and have blocked and dried them, I’ll flip through all my swatches like I’m going fabric shopping. I’ve created quite a library at this point, and much to my delight, I often find usable swatches in my old collection. I begin thinking about how a stitch pattern would lay on a garment, or if it would be better used on an accessory.

I suppose you could say my inspiration is the yarn itself. I love looking at the swatches, squishing them between my fingers, and holding them up to my dress form placing it over different areas. The swatch is usually the starting point for me. And the yarn determines whether or not a particular stitch pattern will work.

Yarn is an incredibly versatile and textural medium. It can never be flat, no matter the fiber or construction. And it usually wants to be full, especially wool. So I’m drawn to stitch patterns that really feed into this. You’ll see a lot of cabling in my designs, because I think it shows off wool the best. Once wool is wet-blocked, it really blooms and fills in any negative space you may have had while knitting. I love how it really fluffs up and makes cables pop. This inherent quality in yarn is why I’m more drawn to texture in knitting than I am to color. I love working with a blank slate, a neutral color, and working it up, with textures. While color can immediately attract someone visually, I like attracting the knitter with their sense of touch.

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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

Materials: 

  • 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!

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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.

Kirsten Johnstone is an Architect based in Melbourne, Australia. She uses yarn, fabric and photography to explore her modern Architectural aesthetic on a smaller scale. She has an eye for flattering forms that are deceptively simple yet frequently transformable; designs with a distinctive urban edge yet elegantly wearable. Website :: Ravelry

Thank you to Kathreen for inviting me to share a little of my creative process. It has been interesting to consider my design process and I’ve also enjoyed reading about other knitting designer’s approaches.

My creative process is not a prescribed process. One design does not necessarily replicate the same gestational path as another. On occasion, it can prove a quite linear progression from sketched design concept with clearly envisioned yarn, swatching, pattern writing and prototyping. However, more frequently, it is not so logical!

Principally, I use a black leather Moleskin to document sketches and doodles, inspirational images, swatch results, miscellaneous information.

  • All jammed in at random.
  • Dating the entry (if I remember).
  • Updating To Make Lists.
  • My Bi-Annual Craft Camp Wish Lists (always longer than I could possibly achieve in a weekend of mad sewing!)
  • With the List-maker’s delight in faithfully striking through the notation upon completion.
  • Sometimes the beginnings of patterns are written in.
  • Crossed out.
  • Updated.
  • Tweaked.

Like others, I keep all my old sketch books and love looking back at them occasionally, remembering the scribbles and jottings of another time.

Where do my design ideas stem from? They can be the obvious inspirational image from a magazine or online. But more likely I’ve seen someone wearing something that triggers a design thought – it is usually something obscure like the hem or neckband of a sewn garment. Or an applied detail that I ponder in yarn. Or a complete outfit that somehow resonates with me; the attitude or angle of elements of the ensemble.

From a sketch I swatch with yarn. Sometimes the reverse happens: a design idea forms as I work the needles of a new yarn I’m itching to use or experience. That tactility of the knitted yarn prompts ideas that are then worked into a sketch, then reworked as a more fully developed concept. For example, my first design for Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People developed literally from the swatch. I made an elongated stocking stitch swatch using 3 different needle sizes. Upon washing and drying the swatch, I wrapped it around my arm, then reverse wrapped it around my arm and voila! The “striped” or “banded” reverse stocking stitch concept drove the garment design.

My more minimalist aesthetic means I tend towards knitted stitches that result in a continuous textile: stocking stitch, garter stitch, twisted stocking stitch, float stitch, rib. I like the yarn itself to take the leading role in the design (often the driving force in the formation of the design in the first place as mentioned). My designs feature the yarn rather than an intricate stitch detail. I tend to use yarns that have exquisite qualities in fibre, texture, stitch definition, tactility.

I then draw my schematic design in Autocad, the Architectural drafting package I use in my other life. On occasion, I print it out at full scale and cut a fabric prototype to test the proportion, size and fit of my design (I learnt to sew from a very young age and is my first craft love). My body is my model: this especially works as my designs are usually pieces I envision for myself and I have only very recently acquired a dressmaker’s form.

When I’m satisfied with the swatch and overall design, I simply cannot wait to cast on! I am attempting to improve my discipline and write the pattern BEFORE I start knitting but I can admit I sometimes measure up the printed paper design and get going! Once I have put the draft pattern into written format, I print that out to keep with me; stapled with the draft garment schematic and any other information, kept together with my knitting prototype: marking it up as I go, writing in extra information, editing.

During the final stages of the knitted prototype, I invariably lose confidence. Kick myself for starting this particular piece. Wonder what on earth I was thinking. All the self talk you can imagine! Occasionally, I seek feedback from a couple of close knitting friends. Invariably, I press on and am always pleased with the finished product. And always laugh at myself at the end thinking how yet again I didn’t trust my initial instincts.

Top photo credit: Tamara Erbacher, all other photos are by Kirsten Johnstone.

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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. 

Solenn Couix-Loarer is a French designer who lives in Rennes (Brittany) with her husband and two little boys. She publishes knitting patterns in French and English (Ravelry link) and is working on the launch of a brand of knitting yarn made of locally sourced wool which will be available this autumn. You can follow her adventures on her blog (in French), de rerum natura.

Thank you Kathreen for this invitation!

I wanted to learn to knit a few years ago for the pleasure of touching beautiful materials and turn them into something. Something different and personal. Something that will last. Something sweet, sensual and simple. Something that gives me as much pleasure to conceive, make, wear or offer.

I remember very well when I discovered that with thread and needles I could virtually transform any simple sketch into a knitted object. On graph paper I drew a silhouette of a fish that I simply knitted by replacing each square by a stitch. An hour later, I was holding in my hands a small soft fish and a new world opened up to me! There is something magical about slowly seeing a thought transforming into an object and then seeing it coming to life in the hands of other knitters. What a joy to discover, on Ravelry, babies around the world wearing my little cardigan Korrigan!

When I imagine a model, I particularly like associating motifs, sometimes classic, to more innovative techniques to create clothing that is stimulating to knit and comfy to wear. This modern retro style
is very dear to me. For example, for the pullover Lancelot, I worked from a traditional cable pattern that I slightly redesigned to give more lightness and that I associated with ribs and short-rows for shaping the neckline. The raglan sleeves, the buttons on the shoulder and the seamless build give a much more sporty and modern look to the classic Irish pullover and turn boys into very cute little knights!

Sometimes it is the discovery of a new technique that creates the desire for a new project. For the cardigan Artichaut, the starting point was some tests to line a garter stitch border with slipped stitches. I realized that when I was associating this border with increases on the stockinnette part, a natural curve was created (which didn’t suit me at all for what I had planned to do!). Rather than trying to cover with blocking the gap between the border and the rest of the fabric, I tried instead to accentuate the curvature by doubling the increases. To my delight, I got a nice hemline very surprising to make since it gives the impression to create itself!

I then had fun highlighting these smooth and modern lines, imagining short sleeves shaping with twisted stitches and a bottom edge in one piece in order to preserve the curves. Associated with a very classic simple seed stitch, these techniques are actually quite simple and rather fun to make, and helped to create a little bolero that embodies exactly what I love designing and knitting.

While it is very exciting to draw for adults, I especially like to imagine models for children because knitting for them is for me a very special way to surround them with our love and preserve them from
global consumption. When my boy tells me very seriously that he prefers pullovers that I knit because they are softer, first my heart melts a little — and then I tell myself that this feeling of softness comes probably not only from the quality of the wool, but also from all the thoughts of kindness and comfort put into it while being slowly and tenderly knitted for him. The idea that my little boy grows up keeping this value of crafted things pleases me enormously.

And then (very objectively of course…), how beautiful they are in their little princes clothes!

So obviously, they grow too fast, they get dirty even faster and it is not difficult for acrylic sweaters made in China to be cheaper, but I think life is just too short not to enjoy these little joys!

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