Monday, August 20, 2012

Design Diary

I hadn’t been a knitter for long when I decided I might like to design my own knitwear. Developing ideas, hoarding them in a notebook – I’ve never found that difficult. But during those early years, and even in recent years, I always stopped short of executing my designs. A lot of it had to do with fear. What if everyone hated it? What if the fit was all wrong? What if I, lacking the skills or experience to puzzle through a design issue, got stuck mid-sweater? What if I hated it, and after all those hours, not to mention expensive yarn, committed to a failure of a project? Clearly I based my speculation on failure, not success.

Then, a couple of years ago, I knit myself a sweater sans pattern. Before you congratulate me for overcoming my fears and starting down the path to successful knitwear design, I should admit that while I did not follow a pattern to the letter, I did base my work on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s EPS system. (An aside: if you are a knitter and you do not know of Elizabeth Zimmerman, get thee to Amazon or your local bookstore and buy Knitting Workshop or Knitting Without Tears. They will change your life, or at least, they will change the way you knit.) Even using the EPS to figure the math, it took me three tries to knit a wearable garment, and the finished sweater was not perfect. After a few wears, I grudgingly recognized that additional shaping might have prevented the sag of extra fabric at the middle back. A few weeks after that, I regretted my decision to nix the planned colorwork yoke after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to squeeze in too-large motifs. And now, as I look at the photo, it's obvious that a round yoke construction absent of bust darts isn't the most flattering choice for my, ahem, ample chest.

Despite the flaws and coulda, woulda, shouldas, I’m still pretty proud of that sweater. So it makes no sense that instead of building upon this baby step toward designing my own knitwear, I retreated. Once again I grabbed a pattern as I reached for the yarn and happily followed along, knowing the whole time exactly how my finished garment would look.

It was the birth of my daughter, Adelaide, that finally inspired me to keep going even after I had fully realized a design on notebook paper. I have knit her many sweaters from patterns, but the ones I’ve designed myself are special. They are truly one-of-a-kind, and I poured my love into them even before I knit the first stitch. Now that I have actually completed a few designs from concept to finished object, my knitting choices have changed. I can’t commit myself to knitting from someone else’s pattern, but I approach each of my new design projects with excitement and high expectations. I’m now wondering why I waited so long to begin designing, and I am glad I’m not waiting any longer.

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