On Designing

So, I'm pretty new to the knitwear design world. I only have a few patterns out, and I'm starting submitting to magazines to get wider exposure and getting published. I've been thinking a lot about designing lately, not just thinking of patterns but also about the design process itself. Where does inspiration come from? What's a good design, what's a bad design? What patterns should be free and what should be for sale?

I see designing as a creative outlet. I've knit so many other people's patterns, and sometimes I just get sick of following directions. My best designs have been totally improvised, just going with the flow and seeing what comes of it. Sure, there's times when careful swatching, charting beforehand, and meticulous planning come in handy - but when inspiration strikes, sometimes you just have to knit it and see what comes out - sometimes it doesn't work out, but sometimes it's great.

Russell Square Mitts design in progress

I see designing as a way to do exactly what I want with my yarn. Even though I have thousands, tens of thousands of patterns at my fingertips on Ravelry, there are times I just can't find exactly what I want. I wanted to knit an iPod holder that would give me access to the screen instead of covering it up, while still protecting it - thus came the iTouch Jumper. I wanted seamless bags in interesting shapes - Three Sachets.
Seamless iPod case design, knit entirely on DPNS

I see designing as a way to bring something new and interesting into the world. There are so many patterns on Ravelry, and very many of them free. So when I set to design a pattern that I intend to sell, I know there has to be something interesting about it. It has to stand out from the crowd. If a knitter wants to knit a cabled beanie or ribbed mitts, they will find a free pattern before turning to a paid pattern. But what if those cables are doing something totally unique? What if that ribbing grows and shifts, transforms into lace? What if my pattern does something that none have ever done before?

I don't pretend that all my patterns are completely unique, because that's impossible. But when I design something, I don't continue with the design unless there's something worthwhile about it. I don't want anything I make to be generic, and I want to enjoy what I knit - I'm a knitter too, and I strive to knit interesting patterns. Unique construction, newly invented stitch pattern, seamless techniques? There has to be something in a design that is new, that will grab one's attention.
No pickup entrelac shell swatches
If a design doesn't have that spark, something that sets it apart, I won't sell it. Maybe I'll put it up for free, or maybe I'll scrap it entirely. And I really enjoy trying to come up with that spark. I love seamless, top-down or toe-up construction, and I love sculpting knitted fabric to avoid the bother of seaming. I love flowing designs, stitch patterns that complement and melt into each other, organic forms and rounded shapes. I like challenging conventions - my latest design-in-progress features a variant of entrelac, without picking up any stitches! Designing is a wonderful outlet for improving the way we knit.


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