designing knits, part 2

Picking up where I left off: My yarn arrived, I’ve cast on, and started knitting! The yarn is as soft and delicious as I remember – and yes, it will pill a little since it’s so soft. That’s the nature of the beast for a single ply merino wool, but it’s a trade-off I’ve chosen to deal with to gain the soft feel, the drape, and the pattern effect. Actually, that leads me nicely into what I wanted to share about the process of designing this top: compromises.

That doesn’t really sound like a good thing in designing, but here’s the deal – knitting this lace top the way my original pattern is written would be somewhat convoluted, and probably a little irritating. Let’s go back to how I made the pattern in the first place: I used a soft jersey to drape the top on a dressform to the look that I wanted, then transferred that to a paper pattern. Knowing my gauge from having knit my sample, it was just a matter of marking all the places that had changes in angles (like the waist, or the tip of the shoulder, or the collar line for example), measure the distances, and calculate the amount of rows and stitches that needed to change in between all those points. It was quite a lot of math work, but I think it was a pretty accurate way of coming up with the shaping of the garment.

Now, I followed these numbers accurately. This meant counting rows all the time, and in order to keep track of where I was, I kept having to note on my pattern what row of the 8 row pattern-repeat the next increase or decrease would happen on, so I knew I was on the right row. One decrease might happen on row 5 of the repeat, then I had to count 17 rows and make sure the next decrease in fact was on row 6 of the repeat, and so on.

I don’t think most knitters would find that approach very enjoyable, or logical, or clear. So here is where my compromises come in: in order to make it easier and less frustrating for the knitter, I am choosing to move the decreases and increases to always be at the same point in the pattern repeat. That way, all you have to count is how many of those repeats to go before the next decrease. Yes, the shaping won’t be as optimal as the original, but the tradeoff is a pattern that is better to work with. In the end, I think moving a decrease 3 or 4 rows won’t make too significant of a change to warrant a more knitpicky kind of counting.

Any other pet peeves in knitting from patterns? Mine is knitting in sections and sewing the back and fronts together when it could just be knit in one piece from the start!

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designing knits

I’ve already mentioned in a couple of posts that I’m working on another Geithus lace knit top, which is this thing, if you’ll remember:

I’ve decided to tweak it and publish it, and thought it might be interesting to tag along and see the process!

I bought this absolutely gorgeous Manos del Uruguay yarn while in the US last month to make my sample with, but then I knit up a swatch in the honeycomb pattern that is the main part of the lace knit top, and… it’s completely wrong. Wrong for this project at least! Let’s compare the swatches, shall we?

Making the second swatch in a new yarn was quite an interesting experience. After I realized the yarn was wrong for this project, I started thinking about *why* it didn’t work. Going through those things and deciding the reasons they didn’t work with my project was a reminder of the design process itself. It’s full of decisions you make based on the vision you have for your end product!

The green yarn is a smooth 2-ply lace yarn, and I decided I need a yarn with more give for this garment. The slippery, silky Manos also produced a fabric (color aside) that just didn’t feel right. It was less plum, and less dense than the original swatch, which was something that was important to me in designing the top originally. I didn’t want it see through!

The gauge was way off, and while I could have made another swatch with a smaller needle size, I believe a needle size of somewhere around US 0 or 2mm would just be enjoyable for the detail work involved in this! I decided that a single ply yarn that will somewhat stick to itself was the right yarn for the type of fabric and drape and opacity I wanted to achieve. A last thing I realized about the single ply, was that it would offer a clearer stitch definition. In the green sample it’s hard to see that there is a pattern at all!

So with the swatch telling me I had the wrong yarn, I’ve ordered 3 skeins of Malabrigo in a colorway I’m a little anxious and a lot excited to see if the color will make sense. It should be on its way to my mailbox right now! In the meanwhile, I’ve been crunching numbers. I’ve got some changes I want to make from the original pattern, such as proper cap sleeves instead of an extended shoulder; a more defined side rib to tackle the decreases; and a better way of finishing the armholes and the collar. I’ll come back to those later, when the yarn has arrived and hopefully I’ve started knitting the sample!

I hope this peek into the process of designing knits was interesting!

collection progress: in pieces

On this grey Sunday, with a cold  I’m trying to eradicate, I figured I’d show you how I’m doing on my final senior fashion design project.

Even though we’re well into the second (and last semester) where we make everything, I haven’t actually completed much. The patternmaking and sourcing takes quite a long while; by the time you’re ready to start sewing, you already have your fabric, your pattern, and every thing goes together quite quickly. I guess what I mean to say is that sometimes the actual sewing or creating part doesn’t take all that long, but the preparations that makes it a breeze? That’s the time-consuming part!

My only finished garment so far, a cotton twill vest with mitered dupioni silk bias binding.

A wool coat and a pair of wool flannel pants – in the early stages of construction.

A hand-knit jacket, still in pieces.

Swatches for a lace-weight knit top.

This silk gauze blouse has been living on my dining table for… ehm, three weeks now. I’m pleating the fabric, and it’s just so delicate that I don’t want to move it until I have to!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these little glimpses of a large project in process! I should start having some more completed garments soon, and that’ll be encouraging and exciting!

the doll project

This is the story of a project that starts with a doll. This is the long, and picture-heavy story of this doll:

I posted about “Giacometta” earlier, and apparently promised to be  back in a couple of weeks with the finished dress.

Ops.

Can we say I’m making up for it now with extra many pictures? Pictures are good! Right?

Design journal pages.

This project came at a time when my grandfather had just passed away. I went home to see him, and spent the week at his house looking at old pictures, and thinking of my grandmother, who passed away twenty years ago. Just looking at the pictures, the objects of his home, and the memories from decades of living put me in a pensive and nostalgic mood.

With this design project we were encouraged to represent ourselves as designers – to let our designs come from a personal place. My mind was filled with images of my grandfather at a typewriter at his work in the late 1930’s, looking dapper in highwaisted, wide trousers and a period haircut. It was filled with thoughts of my grandmother, and the socks and mittens and sweaters and embroidered pillowcases she made that we still have.

There is often an emphasis on visual research in a design process. I tried adhering to it – half-heartedly collecting images of iron-wrought gates and intricate Victorian era designs to inspire the decoration of my doll. But rather than inspire me, the images made me feel stuck and un-interested and cold towards it all. It wasn’t leading me anywhere at all, so I put them aside and let my mind wander completely as I stitched silk chiffon pieces and clock-parts and copper-thread on the doll with my thoughts guiding me, rather than imagery I had collected.

It was a very stream-of-consciousness approach, and it felt completely right. All my thoughts on hand-work and gender-roles and the trace of the human hand – even in mechanical operations – came together. Thoughts on being directly involved with the objects and outcomes in your daily life; of working machines but still being the physical driving force behind the actions; of the beauty of these mechanical parts, broken down; of the beauty of handiwork techniques, broken down; of the similarity of the involvement of the female hand and the male hand in their gendered work, juxtaposed by their respective soft and the hard materials.

Moodboards for the doll project.

I wanted my finished garment to represent this juxtaposition of the soft and the hard, and the involvement of the hand – the images of my grandparents in their youth, belonging to a different generation, with different expectations. I explored different techniques of manipulating fabric, and also included corroded metal into my list of materials (already combining nude mesh and silk chiffons with clock-parts). I worked on ways of including the circular shape of the clock- gears. I finally deciding to create a three-dimensional shape with it, making a shoulder-piece with allusions to armour, with its hardness and protectiveness.

Process photos from my design journal.

The design of the dress itself was a process of draping, tacking on, stepping back, and seeing if it was evolving in what felt like the right direction. I actually found it quite a challenge to be working on a design that was so open-ended – there just wasn’t any exclusivly “right” way of doing things! Slowly, the organic shapes came together, with the angular lines of the pleated bodice balancing against it. The dress doesn’t fully cover the body, but unprotected, bare skin against the angular and hard shoulder-pieces really does express the juxtaposing feelings that were at the core of the design.

It’s become more and more apparent that the issues that guided the making of this dress, are issues I’m bringing into my work, over and over again. In this way, this soft, mechanical dress has been the start of a particularly personal and more focused design aesthetic.

the object of my attention

I thought I’d share the project that is responsible for my relative radio-silence, and is taking up most of my attention at the moment! The cap-stone class in my fashion design degree is the senior collection. Two semesters are spent designing, developing, prototyping, producing, and promoting a collection.

The starting point for my designs was a “bunadsliv”, a part of the Norwegian national costume, that my mom and I found in our attic a couple of summers ago. The national costumes I’ve grown up with as ‘special occasion dress’ is quite clear in the silhouettes of the outfits I’ve designed, with a touch of the Victorian era for some nostalgia.

Design journal pages

The connection to past generations not only through these special garments, but also through hand-work, has become more and more important to me lately. And because of that, I’m planning on incorporating knitting, embroidery, leather work, and silk-screen printing into this project.

Technique samples, color stories, design journal pages.

The start of this project came about in a class prior to the senior collection was begun, so the designs have changed a bit since then. Especially the color palette has been updated, with some magenta and green-brown-yellows in addition to the more “vintage” look of dusty grey-blues, charcoal, and parchment colors. I’m really excited to see how this comes together in the next handful (hmm.. a big handful) of months, and I’m especially excited to start making all of these things. I’ll make sure to keep sharing little snippets of my work as they happen!

draping a texture

Our final project in my draping class was to drape a texture. Or, rather – to drape inspired by texture exploration. In collecting textures for the project, I included a tea-steeped paper towel that had dried in a crisp folded fan-formation. After many rounds of ideas that didn’t really work out, that simple folded piece of paper-towel ended being what worked.

As I was working with the pleated pieces of muslin, it kept looking like rushing water, underwater dunes, geometrically (but oh, so organically) shaped sea creatures, and the insides of shells. That ended up guiding a lot of my decisions about the garment – the ridges created by seamlines and topstitching, the line of the hem, and the curves of the seamlines throughout. I’m not sure it influenced me to include a sheer mesh panel into the dress, but it certainly  plays well together (it’s a bit hard to see against the same-colored muslin, but the sheer piece is stage right on the garment – between the draped organza and the bare shoulder).

I found an origami-folding technique that I thought would work nicely with fabric, making accordion pleats with bends in them. It gave the fabric very crisp edges and folds, and once I started draping and playing around with the it, it turned into something quite magical.

The organza I worked with ironed into crisp pleats, but on the form, they took on a whole different life. The pleats cascaded down, collecting into crispness in some places, and opening up – fanning out – in other places. They rounded, drooped, twisted, but they never lost the sharpness of the folded edges. The layering and sheerness of the organza only gave more dimension to the pleats, physically standing out, but still revealing everything beneath.

My working title (which was only in my head anyways) was “Composition in cream”. I thought it was kind of funny. Especially on a cream-colored dressform. Garment made with cream wool, unbleached silk organza, and nude stretch mesh.