A Design from Start to Finish (how this designer earns her keep)

Color On the Move Scarf
Color On the Move Scarf

This new design just published a few days ago went through a long process. To be fair, it did sit in the yarn closet for half a year or more to ponder its sins when I got unhappy with it and considered scrapping the whole thing altogether. Usually when I work on a design, I am very focused, and although I put in the hours, it doesn’t take as long in a calendar year because I work better when I’m focused.

I really enjoyed this book because I appreciate it when designers share their sketches and thought processes. Since this particular project was on the needles for a long time, I was extra careful to document everything, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing my process from start to finish. Unfortunately, I don’t have beautiful sketches like Galina’s, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!


It started with The Yarn. I had just bought Freia Ombre Sport and had been toying around in my head with how to best show it off. I’m really nuts for gradated yarns and was so in love with this particular one I left it sitting on my coffee table to just look at.


The inspiration - which hit me on the way to the metro.
The inspiration – which hit me on the way to the metro.

When I was on the way to the metro station one evening, I saw the sun setting with the graphic shapes of the telephone poles and found my inspiration.


I usually do sketches, especially for garments, but the only shortcut I took in this project was to skip the sketching process since I had a visual in my head. So on to the knitting…


The first version
The first version

This photo is the first version. Yes, I got quite a long way in the knitting, and took careful notes and records of everything. I could still write up the stranded version of this pattern, minus the gauge, if anyone wanted it. I was actually quite happy with how this was looking. Considering I skipped the sketching and just started knitting what was in my head, it’s pretty cool I got what I envisioned.

Then my mom came to visit, I showed her the design I was working on, and she gave it to me straight. She flipped it over and pointed out that there were an awful lot of floats on the back. Um, yeah, because just like stockinette stitch curls, colorwork involves floats. Innocently, she looked at me and asked if I thought people would like a scarf with all those floats that could pull so easily.


I really tried to rationalize this one. People spend alot of money to dry clean expensive fabrics. Knitters are used to little pulls and ends that need to be woven back in. Yes, floats on a scarf are much more likely to snag than on a sweater, since on a sweater, they’re all on the inside against the body. But, I thought, it’s not any more fragile than taking care of a lace shawl, and at least this yarn is thicker and much harder to break than laceweight.

But, as mothers tend to do, mine really got into my head, and so this design went to sit in the naughty closet until I could resolve the issue. It took the better part of a year before I found a satisfactory answer.


Closeup_mediumI might still make a colorwork scarf one of these days because I do like colorwork and I stand by my rationalizing. But when I went to Vogue Knitting Live in Pasadena earlier this year, I took a class with Franklin Habit on shadow knitting and loved it. I realized that I had just found a solution that would make my mother much happier, should I still decide to gift her with the finished product. 🙂

Shadow knitting lends itself quite nicely to shapes and playing with contrasting colors. I knew it would show off the beautiful gradations in this yarn and also better express my original inspiration. Once I realized shadow knitting was  the solution that had eluded me, I tore out all my work and knit the entire thing in a month.


My chicken scratch
My chicken scratch

Last, but certainly not least, is the pattern writing. I spend alot of time on this. I take very careful notes about everything, as I’m knitting. I NEVER knit the whole thing and then start writing because it’s impossible to keep all the details in my head throughout the course of the project. The most important part of pattern writing is making sure that whoever buys it and knits it is able to understand exactly what I did. I make my own charts, take my own photos, and do all my own graphic design. I also am very careful to read, reread, let it sit a few days, and then reread it again before I publish. This is not to say there is never a mistake, but I work very hard to keep mistakes to a minimum because I know how frustrating it is to deal with a carelessly written pattern. Even though this is the most tedious part of the process for me, I try to give it proper attention and time.

I am very happy with the result, and I hope if any of you make the pattern, you enjoy it too. If you are a designer, I’d love to hear about your process, and if you make any of my designs, I’d love to see your projects – in progress and/or finished!

My Favorite Knitwear Artists

Nothing gives me more excitement than finding a new designer to follow. Or learning about a well-established designer that I hadn’t heard of before! The best designers are the ones who constantly pursue creativity, and their dedication shows. They’re the ones you watch with anticipation to see what they will release next. Here is my personal list of favorites, but I would LOVE it if you share yours with me! I’m always on the lookout for someone else to follow. Enjoy!

IrinaShabayeva
Irina Shabayeva

Irina Shabayeva is a fashion designer whom most people probably know from Project Runway. She is a great fashion designer, but I love it when the fashion world takes a few minutes to appreciate the knitwear world. Knitters may remember her patterns being published in Vogue Knitting – her fabulous welted coat has been on my list to make for a very long time! The photo above is one of my first-ever knitting projects, made as a gift for a dear friend.

I have not yet knitted up a Galina Carroll design, but I think she is also an incredible artist with a good eye for fashion. When her autobiographical book was featured in Vogue Knitting, I ordered it and devoured it from cover to cover. She even wrote a very nice personal note to me when she shipped it.

Stephanie Steinhaus
Stephanie Steinhaus

Yes, this is my boss. However, she is also a designer who has an eye for things that will pop into your wardrobe and go with everything. I’ve knit alot of of her designs, and they always end up being go-to pieces that I end up throwing on at the last minute when I don’t know what else to wear. Plus, I have learned a great deal about writing patterns from her personally, but also just from working through her pattern instructions. I also appreciate her ability to create something practical with yarns that I might not even consider buying otherwise, such as this poncho I’m wearing above.

Lori Versaci
Lori Versaci

She caught my eye when this sweater pattern was published in Knitty. At the time this was published, I was just learning to knit, and this pattern seemed totally out of my league. It sat in my queue for a LONG time, but her design stayed in my head, and after I started feeling more confident, I knitted it. It is a complicated pattern, and I was very proud of myself when I finished it!

No list from a color fanatic like me would be complete without Kaffe Fassett! I did not realize until I started reading his biography that he is a local artist! He now lives in England, and it seems everyone thinks of him as English, but he was born and raised in California. He is a very long-established artist, but his knitwear in older books is still very striking and inspirational color-wise, even though many of the sweater silhouettes are now out of fashion. He is truly a master of color, as well as all different media. If there is one person in the universe who could make me want to abandon knitting and take up quilting, it would be him!

I’m very grateful to the friend who introduced me to Kieran Foley. I just finished knitting one of his designs for a friend’s birthday. She is celebrating a milestone birthday, so I wanted to do something extra special for her, and his Camino Bubbles fit the bill. It takes a special skill as a designer to design a pattern that looks way more sophisticated and complicated than it actually is to knit.

Stephen West
Stephen West

What can I say about Stephen West except that I love him! His patterns are some of the best written out there – very clear and easy to follow. I met him and had him sign books for me at an event our shop held a few years ago. He was extremely polite and so nice. And I am always amazed when he releases new patterns how creative he gets with just simple Stockinette and garter stitch. He is a designer who truly understands how to take the basic elements of design and turn them into something innovative! Even though I have a good eye for color and usually pick my own, I think it’s very generous of him to take the time to put together color palettes for other knitters when he releases designs. But then again, if you have the chance to meet him, I think you’ll agree it’s not surprising!

Crocheters, lest you think I’ve ignored you, no worries! I am saving my list of favorite crochet designers for a separate post!