Me, a knitting designer? Inspiration from Vicki Square

The Paisley Hat by Vicki Square (available as part of Knitting Creative Details: Designing Original Knitwear with Vicki Square)

I didn't used to fancy myself a designer. I've done a few designs for Knitting Daily—a cowl, a hat, and a pair of socks—but because they were small, easy pieces, I never identified myself as a designer.

Then I saw my projects on Ravelry, with my name listed after "by." I was shocked and excited when I first discovered this, and it's inspired me to think more like a designer. What will my next design be? What will inspire me?

I've been training myself to be aware of my surroundings in case there's something that excites me and makes me think of a new design idea.

As I was walking my dog Poppy a couple of weeks ago I was enjoying the fall leaves. Spokane is a city of trees—maple trees, oak trees, magnolia trees, all kinds of fruit trees, Hawthorne trees, and every kind of coniferous tree you can think of. (Fall is fantastically beautiful here!) As I was closing in on my house, the bright red leaves of our magnolia tree caught my eye. I started thinking of fall socks and how I could incorporate the colors of a Spokane fall into a pair of socks.

So, a simple thing like walking the dog inspired my next foray into sock design.

Speaking of knitting design, I received a new Knitting Daily Workshop last week, which is what prompted this post! It's called Knitting Creative Details: Designing Original Knitwear, and it stars one of my knitting gurus, Vicki Square. Vicki takes us through the inspiration, design processes, and knitting technique that she's used in her years as a knitting teacher, author, and designer. It's really fascinating to see her creative process. Her sketchbooks should be published!

Here are some of the topics from the workshop that really resonated with me.

Inspiration: This is so important. For me, inspiration leads directly to action. In knitting this means that when I get inspired by a yarn or a pattern, I get the yarn and start swatching! Vicki gathers inspiration from all kinds of places, including museum pieces, fabric, travel, books, online sources, nature, motifs, architecture, and so on. Keep your eyes open and a sketchbook in your purse or pocket. (I actually use the camera on my phone a lot because I can't draw very well.)


Five Things I Learned from
Vicki Square

1. How to make a Chinese Knot closure.

2. The many ways to use I-cord .

3. How to anticipate fabric drape.

4. How to use chain-stitch crochet to embellish knitwear.

5. How important the details are!


Swatching: One of the things Vicki emphasizes is swatching to find out how a yarn is going to work with different needle sizes and stitch patterns. She shows a neat sort of knitting sampler that starts with stockinette, goes to a textured pattern, continues onto a lace pattern, and ends with a rib. It's really interesting to see how the gauge changes (it gets wider with the lace pattern and tighter with the ribbed patterns).

She also shows swatches knit in the same design out of different yarns, which is crucial in the design process. (I didn't do this when I was working on a scarf design and I found that my cables really didn't show up. So that one's in the frog pond until I decide on a single-color yarn. Lesson learned: Swatch, swatch, swatch!)

Taking notes: "Make copious notes," Vicki says. What kind of cast-on did you use? What are your stitch counts at every stage? What is your construction method? Did you change needles or stitch patterns? What are the garment measurements (use a schematic with detailed notes)?

Learn New Techniques: Have as many techniques under your belt as possible. If you want to design something that's shaped with short-rows, you can do that only if you're comfortable with short-rows, right? Same with slip-stitch colorwork, cabling, cast-ons and bind-offs, duplicate stitch, intarsia, knitting with beads, and on and on.

So practice your techniques! You could use Vicki's knitted sampler idea to do this. That's what I did when I started knitting; I used the same yarn and needles and practiced all kinds of different stitch patterns and techniques. (The bobble section is hilarious because it took me quite a while to get the hang of it.) Vicki also says, "Learn to love crochet!" You can use it in so many ways to embellish your knitwear.

Have fun! According to Vicki, "This is not rocket science, this is fun! That's what knitting is—fun!" Some of you probably do think rocket science is fun, but I love Vicki's advice. It really is fun to learn new things and to challenge yourself.

Here's a preview of Knitting Creative Details: Designing Original Knitwear with Vicki Square:

I encourage you to try your hand at design. Begin with a scarf or a pair of socks, starting with a basic pattern and then adding your own stitch designs. Knitting Creative Details, Designing Original Knitwear will help you along the way.


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