Monthly Archive for: ‘February, 2013’

Design Process Part 3: The WIP


Earlier posts in this series: Design Process Part 2: Sketching, Swatching and Math ~ Design Process Part 1: Inspiration

The next step in the design process is, of course, to knit the sweater. (Actually, I shouldn’t say “of course”. There are plenty of designers who work out the whole pattern for the sweater, grading and all, before they knit a stitch of the actual sweater. That just doesn’t happen to be my process.)

I’ve been working on it for a few days, and I just split the sleeves off last night:

New sweater design WIP shot

I’m very pleased with the sweater so far! The only hiccup I experienced was a slight change in row gauge from my swatch to the sweater. In the swatch, I got 8.5 rows to 1 inch, which didn’t change when I blocked it. In the sweater, I’m getting 8 rows/in. Luckily I noticed this in time to realize I’d need to shorten the yoke depth by a few rows. Not a big change–but something I always check now, after being burned by gauge swatches before!

And look, it fits rather well (these pics were taken at about 11:00 last night, so please forgive the messy hair and lack of makeup):

New sweater WIP yokeNew sweater WIP back

Another reality check I do as the sweater progresses relates to the amount of yarn I’m using. There have definitely been times where I assumed I’d need a certain number of skeins and completely mis-estimated–and that’s much nicer to figure out at the beginning of a sweater, so I have time to order more.

But it looks like I’ll have plenty of yarn. I still have well over half the giant skein left, which should hopefully get me the rest of the way through the body. And if that works, I won’t have to worry about alternating skeins at the changeover point (a real concern when working with handpainted yarn). So bonus!

Giant skein Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFLMore WIP photos to come!

Design Process Part 2: Sketching, Swatching, and Math


Earlier posts in this series: Design Process Part 1: Inspiration

Now that I have a pretty good idea of the general look and construction I want for the sweater, it’s time to think about the details. First up, I do a rough sketch of the design.

new sweater sketchAhem. I did warn you it was rough. I’m not much of an artist, so if the sketch isn’t for submission to a publication, I don’t spend much time on it. But it gets the idea across!

I also included the targeted measurements for my size. Before, I would need to look up standard guidelines for this bust size, but I’ve knit enough size M fitted sweaters now that I know most of these measurements off the top of my head. A few of them are specifically tailored to my preferences–I like a little bit of positive ease on the upper arm, for example, but I tend to like an inch or two of negative ease at the bust. I also tend to like slightly longer sweaters (probably because a large bust tends to make shorter sweaters ride up at the bottom!).

Next up, choosing yarn! Fun!

It was pretty easy in this case. I have this gorgeousness in my stash:

BFL labelThis is Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Sport in the “Manly, yes, but I like it too!” colorway (great name, eh?). I purchased two giant skeins (about 1300 yds) at Rhinebeck last October. After checking Ravelry, this looks like plenty to knit this type of sweater in a 36″ bust size. The great thing about top-down, too, is I know I have the option of knitting shorter sleeves or a shorter body if it looks like I’m running low on yarn.

Swatch time! As I mentioned in this post, the recommended size on the label for this yarn is incorrect. After a quick check on the yarn’s Ravelry page, I started with US #4 (3.5 mm), and I liked the fabric I got after I wet-blocked the swatch:

New sweater swatch

Pardon the craptacular phone picture.

My measured gauge after blocking is 6 sts/8.5 rows to the inch. A little thinner than I usually prefer (I’m generally a DK and up girl), but the yarn’s soft and nice to knit with. Due to some kind of distracting life stuff going on right now, a stockinette, finer gauge sweater is just what the doctor ordered!

If I were knitting a bottom-up sweater, this is the point where I’d usually do some quick, rough calculations and then dive right into the knitting.

BUT… this is going to be a top-down sweater. So that means I have to do a whole bunch of math before I know how many stitches to cast on.

new sweater mathYeah, that wasn’t too much fun. It took me two whole episodes of Supernatural!

Some designers prefer to grade the pattern for all the sizes before they start knitting the sample in their size. I confess, I’m not one of those. I work out the numbers for my size, tweaking them as I go, and then grade the pattern for the rest of the sizes when I’m finished with the prototype.

Next up: casting on! Woohoo!

Bonus picture: one of the kitties “helping” me photograph the swatch.

New sweater swatch Mort



Design Process Part 1: Inspiration


I got such a nice response to the post about my design process for Lavandula that I thought I’d try an experiment! A new design idea bit me hard a few days ago, so I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts detailing its creation, from first idea to pattern release. (Thanks to the lovely Becky of Sugar Tree Designs for the idea!)

First up: the inspiration.

The initial spark of an idea comes, more often than not, from some hole in my wardrobe.

I only wish I meant this kind of hole.

I only wish I meant this kind of hole.

I’m not doing much dressing up these days, so I’m feeling a lack of casual, comfy, cozy pullovers. You know, the kind you’d wear to curl up in a big chair in front of a fireplace.

So that’s the basic concept out of the way. But what about the details?

I save lots of pictures from catalogs, email mailings, and random internet searches for features I like. I also take pictures of sweaters A LOT. In clothing stores, out walking around, in lines at the grocery store… I know some designers prefer to look at fashion magazines or runway collections, but to me there’s nothing like seeing the way a collar drapes, color does/does not flatter, etc. in person.

I’ve perfected my “take a surreptitious picture with my iPhone, without freaking out the subject” technique.


Well, almost perfected. I think this lady might have been on to me.

Every so often, I go through my photos and see if inspiration strikes.

I saved this picture because I liked how far down the v-neck came (very flattering to larger busts):

gp397902-05p01v01I like the width of the ribbing on this next one (although I’m not really a fan of the lace pattern in the rest of the sweater or the airy-ness of the yarn used, and I don’t think I’d put a v-neck in the back as well as the front):

IMG_2442Big, floppy collars just scream cozy to me–plus I like when it looks like there’s a hood from the front, but there’s not all the extra fabric of a full hood, just a rectangle of fabric partway down the back. Actually, I have no idea what to call this. Is it a shawl collar, just without the short-rows? I can’t find a picture of what I’m talking about by searching for shawl collar, so maybe not. Anyone know what its official name is?

I also like front pockets, and they’re definitely cozy… but I’m a little iffy on whether I want to include one in this design or not–it’s hard to pull off without making the sweater seem too casual. But I’m putting the decision off until later, when I have a better idea about yarn choices and the overall look of the piece.

Cute sweater, but a little too teenage for my tastes.

Cute sweater, but maybe a little too teenage for my tastes.

With those criteria in mind, I can start brainstorming in earnest. Next step: sketching!



Happy Valentine’s Day – and Coupon Code!


Happy Valentine’s Day!

yarny valentine

My awesome husband gave me a box of chocolate truffles and these wonderfully geeky coasters from my favorite TV show. Obviously you can see why I married him.

stargate coastersIn other news, the Malabrigo Junkies group on Ravelry is celebrating Malabrigo March next month, which is a celebration of this colorful, yummy yarn (which happens to be one of my favorites!).

In honor of Mal March, I’m offering a Ravelry coupon code good for 20% off any of my self-published patterns. Enter the code MM2013 during checkout (either from this website or through Ravelry) to get the discount through March 15th.

Wishing you and yours a great Valentine’s Day filled with fiber!

FO Friday: Baby Sophisticate


Gosh you guys, I was overwhelmed by the lovely comments on my last two sweaters. Way to give a gal a big head! I started designing because I had trouble finding simple designs that suited my figure, and it’s so gratifying to hear that other people appreciate them too.

So of course, today’s FO Friday post is someone else’s design, haha.

Remember how I said I was addicted to baby knits?

Baby Sophisticate HangingAhem. They’re just so fast! And after finishing (mostly) a BIG secret design project that’s been giving me fits, I needed something quick.

(I don’t think the intended recipient of this little sweater reads my blog. But Laura, if you’re reading this, act surprised, okay?)

The specs:

Pattern: Baby Sophisticate (Ravelry link) by Linden Down. I modified the pattern quite a bit. One thing I love about designing is that it has given me the confidence to make extensive mods to existing patterns with confidence. I have my favorite techniques that I know work well, and I sub them in frequently when I’m not a fan of the technique given in the pattern.

That said, sometimes I like trying a new technique too! This is a top-down pattern, and it uses the backwards-loop cast on for the raglan increases (instead of the more usual kfb or M1 increases). I’d never considered doing them this way, and to be honest, they were a little fiddly to work, but I like the clean lines they made.

Full Baby Sophisticate

Yarn: Berroco Vintage in Indigo. I’ve used this yarn for a few baby knits now–it’s probably my favorite acrylic/wool blend. Soft, great depth of color, non-squeaky, and washes really well. I used one full skein and maybe a fifth of another.

Which brings me to my main modification: a very different gauge. The pattern specifies 15 sts over 4 inches with size US #8 needles, which I knew right off the bat I wasn’t going to get from anything thinner than a chunky yarn (and it would be pretty bulletproof on size 8s, at that). Most of the people who’ve posted FOs on Ravelry used worsted or Aran weight yarn and did modifications for gauge, too. Mine ended up being 4.5 sts/in on size 8s, which gave me a nice fabric.

Notes: I detailed all my modifications on my Rav project page, so I won’t repeat them here. One thing I wanted to mention, though, is a confession: I usually hate doing short rows. It’s not so much the wrapping and turning, but the picking up the wraps and making it look decent that gives me problems. This pattern has you pick up the wraps, so I was resigned to gritting my teeth and getting through it.

BUT, I learned on this project that you don’t have to pick up the wraps in garter stitch–they’re pretty much invisible anyway!

short row collar

Can you find the wraps?

This immediately fills my mind with garter stitch-short row ideas.

And the pièce de résistance: robot buttons! I found out the parents-to-be are going with a robot theme for their little boy’s bedroom, so I found these from an Etsy seller. I think they’re perfect!

Robot buttons



FO Friday & New Pattern Release: Descanso


Thank you for all the nice comments on my Full Circle Cardigan! It made it to #6 on Ravelry’s Hot Right Now list the day after I released it, which made me extremely happy. I can’t wait to start seeing other people’s versions!

And today, I have another FO/pattern release for you. Lest you think I’m some sort of insane knitting machine, I should tell you this sweater was actually finished last summer. It just happened to come out a few weeks ago, hence the FO post.

This is Descanso, a design I did for Dream in Color Yarn (all photos © Dream In Color Yarn):

7_medium2The specs:

Pattern: my own Descanso pattern. Available for purchase through Dream in Color Designs (Ravelry link).

Yarn: Dream in Color Everlasting DK in Tang.

I have to admit to a bit of skepticism when I saw the color yarn they’d sent me for the sample. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful–Dream in Color Yarns are always stunning–but this particular bright pinky-red isn’t one I could ever wear. When I saw the pictures, though, I was blown away. Doesn’t the model look amazing in that color? It’s like it was made for her!

I’m a teensy bit jealous.

Notes: I’m going to have to knit myself one of these to keep, because I love the way this sweater turned out. I was going for an easy, slouchy look (while still keeping figure-flattering waist shaping and a flattering neckline). It’s a little hard to tell in the pictures, but there’s a slip-stitch rib around the hem and cuffs of the sweater–enough to keep the edge relatively flat, but still let it roll a little for a more casual look.

9_medium2The sweater is knit from the bottom-up in the round to the neck split/yoke joining, and then back and forth in rows (my favorite construction!). The little cable detail at the neck turned out really well. I love the way it adds interest without bulk:

10_copy_mediumI named the pattern after one of my favorite botanical gardens. Descanso Gardens is only a few miles from where we used to live, and I’ve done photo shoots for several sweater patterns there. I thought it would be nice to remember the name by giving it to a comfy sweater pattern.

I hope you like this sweater as much as I do!