So much of what I do anymore is kept tightly under lock and key and I've expressed more than once how eager I am to share all the work I've been doing since summer. Luckily I'm blessed to have a network of creators who are generous and kind, offering me support and the chance to write patterns with their beautiful yarns in mind. Right now I'm working with two completely contrasting companies forcing me to stretch my creative energy in a good, healthy way. The first of which I'm going to share fully with you here - from concept to pattern publication.
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Let's start at the beginning.
If you're not yet familiar with Northbound Knitting... boy oh boy should you be. I met Lisa via Instagram which has been a surprisingly successful social network for me. I'm not a facebooker or a tweeter or a forumer, but Instagram I can do. A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words. It's an instant and intimate means of communication.
So, there is Lisa flaunting all of her delicious yarns in stunning colorways over luscious bases. How could I not fall under her spell? She very casually asked one day if I would like yarn support for any of my designs and my heart skipped a beat. I was currently in the midst of multiple samples for publication so I was a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of knitting with yarn of my own selection and put it off until I could narrow down the perfect project. I sketch ideas constantly - there are at least three notebooks and sketchbooks scattered around me at all times because when an idea strikes it's best to get it down before it's gone. I mulled through all of my sketchbooks trying to determine which would be the best, most worthy piece for Lisa's yarn. I finally settled on a shawl I had sketched while at my dad's in Colorado over the summer.
I couldn't even tell you what triggered the concept, but i remember clearly siting at Dad's giant re-claimed wood farm table knitting a swatch this way, then that way, adding and removing cables, yarn overs, and decreases before I settled on a nice, not too tricky stitch that would read as feathers. I thought the best way to work the shawl was to cast-on and work even, decreasing along one side to create a triangle. I then jotted down a couple notes and tucked the idea in my back pocket for a rainy day.
I sent a pic of one of the original swatches to Lisa letting her know the quantities and colors I was looking for. I wanted a yarn that would be soft against the skin, round for great stitch definition, and a tad heavier than fingering. It was a good day when that package arrived!! I opened it carefully and filed the address label (one of my totally OCD things. Send me a package and I may keep the label forever.), and laid all the shiny hanks next to each other on the dining room table for petting. My oldest walked in from school soon after and told me she could tell that was some nice yarn. The yarn was specifically Merino/Silk DK in Parchment and Rosewood which, to me, was a great combination to express feathers.
Most knitters will not swatch. It's not that they can't or that they forget, it's that they refuse to waste valuable time on knitting a worthless square. All designers swatch. It's absolutely imperative to determine gauge as a designer. I will often times change the needle size to obtain a certain amount of drape, but really, especially if I'm grading sizes, I need an accurate number for "x". Yes, design is algebra. It's ALL algebra. In this case, I wasn't worried about size grading, but I still needed to know how many stitches to cast-on for the size I wanted, and I was very interested in drape. I didn't want to go adding too much though. Silk is naturally lazy. It will just slump and grow floppy over time so I decided to swatch using US6 needles.
In the pic above, I have my swatch which is knit in stockinette with a garter border, washed, blocked, and completely dry. This is such an important step - I can't even express!! There's really no point in knitting a swatch if you don't plan on blocking it and letting it dry completely. The stitches per inch should be an accurate representation of the finished piece and if it's wet or even damp, it will shrink and your number will be completely inaccurate. If you don't block at all, the yarn, still fighting against it's new shape, will be slightly uneven and a bit tighter than after blocking. This is more so true with natural hair fibers, but washing any fiber before trying to get an accurate measurement is helpful.
I don't always measure this way, but it seemed best to show stitches per inch in a photo. I just grabbed one of my quilting rules and marked one square inch with artist's tape. This particular swatch measured 4.5 stitches and 7 rows. Most patterns, however list gauge per 4" (18 stitches and 28 rows). With gauge calculated, I was ready to cast-on!
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If you'd like more information about my yarn selection (why I chose the base I did) or swatching, just let me know. I'm always happy to blab on a while longer about these things. The next post will get into some of the math - then casting- on and how a concept can change... sometimes drastically (wink).