Knit, Frog, Re-wind and Repeat. In a nutshell, that is the basic process I go through each time I set out to design a new knitted piece for my shop, Among the Wildflowers. My design process is much more of an experimentation than a science I would say. That’s what I enjoy most about it, even if it can be at times frustrating. I thoroughly enjoy the act of experimenting. I love playing around with different needle sizes and yarn weights until I find the combination that works best. I, like many other creative people, am a perfectionist and I feel this innate need to work out even the smallest of kinks in a design, even if it involves starting from scratch for the third time! I am continually researching new techniques (increases, decreases, cast ons, bind offs), always in search of ways to perfect a pattern. I never want to stop learning and improving my craft. The feeling of accomplishment and pride I have for my pieces once I complete a design is almost reward enough. That is what you are really paying for when you support small, handmade businesses, this incredible attention to detail.
Like all creators, my design process first begins with a flicker of inspiration. Something catches my eye and my mind begins running through all the possibilities. That inspiration could be something as small as a texture I come across or a new stitch pattern. I am continually expanding what I call my craft library. I collect resource books on not only knitting, but weaving, embroidery and botanical dyeing too. These are often rewarding sources for inspiration and areas I aspire to try my hand at eventually. Personally, I am drawn to simple textures done on a large scale. There is nothing more cozy than a huge, fluffy scarf to keep you warm through the Canadian winters in my opinion. But, I also know that is not every person’s preference. My goal every time I approach a new design is to replicate this cozy feeling and aesthetic that people associate with knitwear, even when it’s done on the smallest of scales. I try not to get too involved in overly complicated stitch patterns and focus on simple patterns that create the deliciously squishy texture everyone loves and expects from a knitted piece.
It’s now time to put pencil to paper and translate what is in my mind into a pattern. Every design is different, but they all begin with me jotting down the first attempt at the pattern. This first attempt is rarely the only attempt if I’m honest, but it’s all part of the experimentation.
My favored way to knit is in the round on my trusty set of interchangeable circular needles. But, working in the round often requires a little extra prep time before I can begin on the actual knitting. That is, if I am working with a stitch pattern that is a new one -for me. This step is not required if I am working with one of my tried and tested stitch patterns, which I have memorized at this point. Without getting too technical, many stitch patterns were designed to be worked flat. In other words, you work on a right and wrong side, flipping your work at the end of each row. When knitting in the round, your work never flips. You are almost always working on the right side. I am careful to spend the time reworking the stitch pattern to ensure the end result when worked in the round produces the same pattern and texture as the original that was worked flat. This process can sometimes be time consuming, involving many test knits using inexpensive yarn of the same weight that I keep on hand for this purpose. This saves my best yarn the pain of being knit and un-knit numerous times.
I’ve learned to put a lot of trust in my instincts when I design. I begin a project with an idea of what weight of yarn I want to use based on the stitch pattern and the end look I want to achieve. With some designs, I know I have a more geometric pattern in mind that will really pop with a finer yarn and smaller needles. The more organic, loosely knit designs call for a larger needle size and chunkier yarn. I’ll create some quick swatches, testing out the pattern with a couple different needle sizes, while gauging how many stitches I feel I should cast on to create the desired size and look.
Once I am confident that I have the pattern translated and the needle size chosen, I finally cast on. But, this is rarely the last step. Depending on the project (specifically hats or headbands), I will do a number of ideations of the same design, testing out slight changes to the pattern. I continue with this process until I feel happy with the end result. Being a perfectionist though, I never only trust my opinion. I am incredibly lucky to have a wonderful and supportive family, who kindly volunteer to be my test models. They are the real troopers of this process, trying on variation after variation. But, it is this honest feedback that really helps me hone in on the final version of any design. From their feedback, I am able to incorporate any small tweaks while I knit the final sample piece.
This process is never the same every time I sit down to design. But, I enjoy that part. No design will ever be the same. Each one presents its own challenges that need to be overcome. It pushes me to keep learning and growing as a knitter. That’s what I feel, as makers, we should always be aspiring to do. Continue being inspired to keep these beautiful handmade crafts alive and thriving.