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!

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!

Free pattern: Elvish Leaves Scarf

I have a pattern to share with you! It’s the Elvish Leaves Scarf I made based on a dishcloth with this same pattern.This scarf with an elegant leaf pattern repeat is a good intermediate lace project. The thin scarf is perfect for slightly chilly days where you just need that extra little warmth and comfort around your neck!

The chart in this pattern is based on one ravelry-user Jadis made, with her knowledge and generous consent.

I made this with some reclaimed yarn in a delicious mohair/angora/other woolly wools blend, making it nice and warm and super soft. I really enjoyed knitting this scarf – and I hope you enjoy the pattern!

Download the Elvish Leaves Scarf pattern!

Ravelry page for the Elvish Leaves Scarf pattern

lace vs. lace

My sewing and knitting work has been fairly one-tracked lately: the collection. I even had to postpone several projects while the needles were in use elsewhere! Now that I am finished with the lace top I’ve been working intensely on for the past month, I can return the needles and attention to my other lacy work, the Elvish leaves scarf (ravelry link).

It might be a bit hard to get a good perspective with these close up pictures, but I was so surprised to find that the scarf project I left as the softest, cushiest, laciest, and most delicate project in my collection of projects, was none of these when I returned to it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still soft, using a thin lace-weight yarn, and lovely and drapey – but in comparison to the impossibly thin Malabrigo lace yarn I’ve been using for my pale pink top, the scarf feels dense, firm, and sturdy.

So at the start of this rainy weekend – just a little observation, a project in the works I wanted to show of, a finished project I am looking forward to showing off really soon, and a couple of pretty pictures.

what I did at school this weekend

I’ve been taking several workshops at school this semester, and this past weekend I did one on high-end and couture seam-finishes and sewing techniques. It was fabulous!

In this first session, we did mostly seam finishes, working a lot with bias strips of fabric. We were asked to get some pieces of spesific types of fabric, namely silk dupioni, taffeta, organza and duchess silk satin. Although these techniques aren’t limited to these types of silk in any way, it was a new experience for me working with several of these expensive fabrics – and I’m completely sold on them now!

Bound edges, top-stitched to the left, and stitched in the ditch on the right. Also, a Hong Kong hem on a piece of velvet – that I managed to sew on the wrong side! It doesn’t change how lovely and beautiful of a finish it is though.

I used the dupioni for most of the bias details, and it behaved beautifully. I also worked with shantung silk for the first time, which is a slightly less stiff and slubby version of the dupioni. They both press like a dream, and it looks so luxurious with these little touches of sheen! I can’t wait to use these techniques on my own garments now, since I’m a total sucker for lovely touches on the insides of garments, as well as on the outside. My local fabric store sells 1/2 yard remnants of dupioni for cheap, and I think that would go a long way for just making bias strips for binding. By the way, Sarai has a nice tutorial on how to make your own, over at Collette patterns.

Self-made piping (not hard at all!), and raw edge piping using a bias strip of organza.

Mitered corners, and a bias tape/bias ruffle decorative sample. The last one makes me think of a harlequin circus princess.

Another thing I got to try, was one of those bias tape makers (Clover is a popular brand).  Sarai uses one in the tutorial mentioned, and I have seen plenty of people in the blogworld sing their praises. Now I understand why – it is easy, and makes really nice bias binding in whatever fabric you want. I certainly want that gadget now!

Next session we will be covering lace, tricks for invisible zippers, and fusible seam tape. I don’t know what I’ll be learning yet, but I’m sure it will be good!