Design Process #4: Knitting…

Step 4 of designing in this series is just knitting. Knitting, adjusting my draft pattern, adjusting numbers if necessary. Trying the sweater on now and again to make sure it is all as it should be.

Most of the adjusting and trying on happens when working the yoke. I’m trying it on several times to see if it works. Once I’ve divided for sleeves, the process is smooth sailing from here – the rest of the body is just knitting and knitting, spruced up with some waist shaping and the color changes. I take meticulous notes on the yarn usage for each color, to check if the calculations I made on color use actually work out or not.

In this particular case, it looks like the calculations were on the generous side, which is good. I might need to adjust it a little bit for the final pattern, as the calculations were very generous, but I’m happy that I indeed have enough yarn and did the calculations right so I am sure not to run out. Phew! If it turns out I don’t have enough yarn, it’s a huge turn off and the project risks being thrown in a corner to think about what it has done ;)

Some decisions have to be made at this point as well. And, actually, one of the inklings I had regarding the yarn, which I had ignored for the sake of ease, proves right. I will in no way have enough of the last, dark blue, to make the sleeves the full length I wanted them to be. As the sleeves are around 10 cm longer than the body, I would need double the amount of the darkest yarn for the sleeves to make that length. And I don’t have that, as I worked the required stripe length + the ribbing in that color.

What to do? The project gets to hibernate a little bit while I contemplate whether I should do something fun with the yarn left overs in other colors, or just stop the sleeves after the second to last color and work a ribbing for 3/4 or bracelet length sleeves. Tough decision here.

 

Next up: Step 5: Taking a final decision, blocking, and sending the pattern off for tech editing.

Design Process #3: Casting On

Swatch and calculations done, I’m finally ready to start knitting. This is my favorite part!
I usually write the pattern alongside the knitting of my sample, as I want to remember exactly what I did. With all those calculations done, sometimes I can actually already write a draft for most of the pattern at this point. As the calculations are based on the pattern process/flow, it’s more or less a matter of writing down each step and plotting in the numbers.

Casting on and knitting

While I knit, I adjust the pattern instructions I wrote to start with. Sometimes it looks better when done slightly different, or the plan I had simply doesn’t work out.

There is also quite often some ripping out happening at this point. As I knit, it might suddenly turn out that the numbers I calculated are wrong, make it look odd, or just should be adjusted a little bit. In this particular case, casting on and knitting for a while happened 3 times, as I didn’t like the look of the yoke to start with. Working this sweater top down (my favorite method – you can try it on while working on it, it’s so handy!), the cast on and yoke is the most complicated part of the pattern, so I can just as well get it right straight away.

Next up: Step 4: Knitting…

 

Design Process #2: Calculating

Having done my gauge swatch, it’s time to do some calculations.

For the calculating, I use Excel spreadsheets. I could of course calculate everything by hand with a pen and a piece of paper, and that would also work fine – but knowing the right formulas and notations in Excel, that just goes a lot quicker. An additional plus is that it will be a lot easier to do the grading (= calculating other sizes) later on, as it will be a matter of copying the same formulas used into the same places in another column, using different numbers for the size only.

Calculating stitch numbers

Now I’m usually doing the grading simultaneously with my calculations for the sample I’m working on. There’s a very specific reason for that: This way, I can find out straight away if the plan I have will also work out for other sizes. It’s pretty handy, as it will make it possible to make sure I don’t need to do all kinds of things specific for one size or the other.

Step 2B: Calculating yarn use per color

Apart from calculating the stitch counts needed for the sizes, I also needed to calculate how much of each color I could use in order to have enough for both body and sleeves. This includes calculating the area of the fabric (cm2, square cm), and multiplying it with the amount of yarn used per cm2 (calculated on grounds of the size and weight of my gauge swatch). A little simple math later, I could see that I could make stretches of around 11-12 cm per color, and only use the 5 skeins I have in the gradient. Hurray! Now I just hope my calculations actually are right (which isn’t always the case at this point in time) :)

Next up: Step 3: Pattern writing, start knitting, ripping out, re-calculating, starting over…

Design Process #1: Planning

For a long time, I have been wanting to share the process I (usually) go through when designing something.

I say “usually”, as it can vary a lot from design to design. Sometimes I start knitting and see what happens, sometimes there is more planning involved. It very often depends on the type of pattern I’m writing: Is it a shawl, a sweater, socks? A shawl can be pretty simple, but may require some calculations. A sweater most definitely requires calculations, and also swatching, so you can do the calculations properly.

Also, what is the inspiration?

John Arbon Knit by Numbers

In this particular case, for the design I am using for this series of blog posts, I was inspired by the yarn. I bought it at Unwind Brighton in July 2014, when I fell in love with the shelves full of gradients at the John Arbon stand. You can take a look at the Knit by Numbers merino yarn range here, they even ombré’d it on the website! I am a sucker for that kind of gradients/ombrés, so I just HAD to have it. I bought a grey gradient (the KBN01-KBN06) and a blue gradient (KBN80-KBN84). 6 skeins of the grey one, 5 of the blue one. I can’t for the life of me remember why I only bought 5 of the blue!

In any case, it’s the blue I will be using for this sweater. It’s going to be a sweater, you see – a simple sweater, which can show off the awesome gradient, but at the same time not boring to knit.
As I love texture, I was thinking: What about Half ‘n Half? Half stockinette stitch, half garter stitch?

I didn’t even make a sketch for this one, which I usually do. I was simply so convinced it would work out, that I wanted to get started straight away.

Step 1: Make a gauge swatch!
My thoughts about the stitch patterns I wanted to use keyed in to this. Garter stitch, when done at a loose gauge, will stretch an awful lot. At a tighter gauge, it is better at keeping its shape. Stockinette stitch on the other hand is flat and lovely, and is a bit less prone to change much if done at a right gauge. So I grabbed my 3,75 mm needles for this Sport weight yarn and got going, seeing if I could fabricate a fabric that I liked.

swatching
30 sts is my usual swatch size, and that’s what I did this time as well. A couple of rows of garter stitch, and then the real deal: stockinette and garter stitch. I chose to be lazy and make half the swatch in one, the other half in the other. To get an accurate gauge measurement you need at least 10×10 cm to measure on freely, but in my case it would be around 5×10 cm (5 cm in width). It won’t be exactly accurate, but that doesn’t matter a great deal, as it can be fudged as we go on with the design. I am thinking a garment with no ease, and it’s okay if it turns out with a little bit of positive ease or negative ease.
Done with knitting, I measured my swatch. The stockinette stitch part was 18 sts & 27,5 rows per 10×10 cm, the garter stitch part 19 sts & 35 rows. So some blocking was needed if I wanted it to be alike.

Measuring my swatch
A little bath and a block, gently stretching the garter stitch but not the stockinette stitch part.
Funnily enough, after blocking, I ended with 19 sts & 26 rows for the stockinette stitch part, 19 sts & 28 rows for the garter stitch part. So – the stockinette stitch shrunk in width. Good to know! The garter stitch part kept it’s shape when I had stretched it, which is also a good result in this case. If not, the sweater would become longer on one side than the other, and that would look a bit odd.

Next up: Step 2: Calculating!