Monday December 18th 2017

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On designing patterns

Okay, so I have been the person who bought what I think of as a “stitch pattern in basic pattern” pattern. Maybe I couldn’t stand the thought of figuring out the pattern myself, perhaps I was out of time and just needed a step by step so I could concentrate on knitting as fast as I could (ie: not very fast), and I was willing to pay to get that.

It’s just that it’s only fairly recently that I realized that a lot of people not only don’t want to think about figuring out a pattern, they can’t actually think like that very easily.

I’m not sure that there are many patterns out there where I haven’t had to make at least one or two mods (“modifications”, for you non-knitters out there reading this for any inexplicable reason), sometimes for style, usually for fit.

Somewhat to my astonishment, I realized fairly recently  that this is not only just difficult for some people, but nigh on impossible.

I know, I know.  Anyone reading this who matches this description is probably thinking that I’m really up myself or something equally unappealing, but I’m begging you to be patient with me here, because for me it’s a bit like reading music.

I’ve read music since I was around 3 or 4 years old.  I know that at one point I taught myself to read music, but, really, I don’t actually remember a time when I couldn’t read music.  So I’m somewhat taken aback when someone can’t read music, because to me, a whole note simply means exactly what it is (a musical notation that means the note is held for all of the beats within a measure), whereas for someone who doesn’t read music, it’s a little picture of a slightly squashed doughnut that has no inherent meaning to it at all.

In other words, once you know how to do something, it’s easy.  Until you know how, it’s a mystery.  And the longer you know how to do it, the more natural it seems, and you tend to forget how hard it actually is to learn to do this mysterious thing.

I’m not the most expert knitting pattern maker or modifier, far, far from, but I now realize (here in my own little alleyway to Damascus) that there are people out there who want to break down and cry at even the thought of fitting a pattern to themselves, much less making that pattern exactly what they want by embellishing, changing this or that line, or simply making sure the proportions of the design fit their own body.

So, I’m thinking I’d like to design some patterns that painlessly help people learn to make that pattern bark like a dog, run obstacle courses, turn flip-flops, sit up and beg, you name it.

I’m working on a shrug right now for a swap on the Anthropologie Rav group (Ravelry link, you’ll need a password to get into that), and I think I’ll turn this into my first real live pattern, designed to be passed on in proper format.  The stitch pattern and ruffle comes from Melody Griffiths’s Clarissa Cardigan, and the shrug shape will be a classic two-seam T-shape with sleeves worked in the round, possibly with a short-row sleeve cap.  I’m also adding a gathered skirt at the back, as per Kristeen Griffen-Grimes’s Veronique shrug from French Girl Knits.

I’ll probably make sure the pattern includes at least two different lace patterns to make sure that knitters can see how easy it is to switch out stitch patterns to make a garment precisely their own.  I’m already taking pretty precise notes on what I’m doing for this first garment, so I figure I’m at least a third of the way there.  Since this’ll probably be a freebie, though, I probably won’t take it to a technical editor or knitter, though I might avail myself of one of the trade-pattern-for-sample-knitting groups on Rav.

What do you think?  Decent idea, or is this all too presumptuous for a fairly inexperienced knitter (though an experienced designer)?

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4 Responses to “On designing patterns”

  1. Kim says:

    I think your idea of the shrug sounds fantastic and can hardly wait to see it. I’ve been mulling around the idea of taking the dumpling bag (IWK Fall 08)and making it using a cow pattern (for love of my alma mater, Oregon State). In fact I plan on playing with that this afternoon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. zlee says:

    Ooh, I can hardly wait to see it too. ;) The cow bag sounds like fun — be sure to post pics, that’d be fabulous! I’ve yet to try intarsia, although I suppose you don’t need to do so for a felted bag…

  3. verylisa says:

    Even though I had been knitting for 20 years, it never occurred to me that I could modify patterns until I read Stitch ‘N Bitch Nation. The first chapter explains how to modify patterns in words of one syllable. It was like someone switched on a lightbulb in my head. All stuff I ‘knew’, but Debbie Stoller took me by the hand and walked me through so that I could see how to put all that stuff together. Now I hardly ever knit a pattern without making some kind of mod.

  4. zlee says:

    I love hearing stories about how people made this switch! I always want to jump up and down and squeal a bit when I hear about people discovering the freedom of being able to change a pattern up so it fits them perfectly, or suits them better, etc., which I realize sounds like just a *bit* of an over-reaction, but it’s so exciting to hear about it. Totally cool, Lisa!

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