As I tackle a new book project, I’ve been mulling over what it means to be a “designer”. That word doesn’t feel like it fits me, however I do spend a good deal of time designing cloth.
Creating good cloth requires both engineering and imagination, but most of all it requires that you play with your materials a lot. Getting to know yarn and how it behaves is learned by conducting lots of experiments.
Designing is like a Mad Lib. The basic formula goes something like this:
I want to make ____________ (project) in ____________(yarn) using ________ (weave structure) and I’ll give it the perfect polished look by ___________ (finishing technique).
This sentence is filled in and erased multiple times before I have something that I think is publication ready. Add to the basic requirements for publication that the projects needs to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, use readily available yarns in pleasing colors, and add something to the weaving repertoire. If you are publishing multiple projects together they need to support one another. This makes for a heady brew of possibilities that can be overwhelming.
The most efficient way to get from A to B is to create swatches or samples of what you think will work. This process is something we don’t always see because most folks just go straight to “make” and skip the swatch, or we just see a finished project and not the work that went into designing it.
Over on my Instagram feed I’m sharing the massive amount of swatching I’m doing in order to write a new project book.
Here is one example of how I swatch (shown from left to right): Honeycomb is typically worked with a thick supplemental pattern weft, here I used the same weft throughout. My first sample I did in hemp. I took what I learned from this swatch and selected yarns for further expermimentation. In this case, a linen/viscose blend from Classic Elite. I liked what I saw on the loom, but how to finish it took some thought. I tried various knotting technique until I happened across a macrame knot that mimics the pattern. Now back to square one to create a full project. What will this swatch become? You’ll have to wait until the book comes out.
My next Knitty column talks more about the approaching the design process like a scientist. I started a Swatch Club thread over in the Yarnworker Ravelry group. Hop on over and start making your dream cloth a reality!
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