One of the most important things I have to consider as a designer is the yarn I'm going to use. What weight is it? What fibre content? What colour? Will it drape? Will it pop in a lace pattern? How can I best use the colour in the design? Can I place beads on it? Will it stretch? Will it hold its shape?
There are probably more questions, and probably things I consider without really thinking about them, things I know/understand by now that I don't state explicitly, but which I'm likely considering as I handle the yarn and think about what I want to do with it.
So -- what about the indigodragonfly Linen/Silk yarn that I got to create a new design? Let's have a look:
First of all, ignore the colours -- I am not skilled enough as a photographer to remotely get them right, and to be honest, colour is not necessarily the primary thing I consider at when I'm coming up with a design (I'm working on a post about colour in my designing for AnnieBee's ColouRIOT series, so I'll expand on that more there.)
The Linen/Silk is 65% linen, 35% silk. It is incredibly soft, mostly smooth -- but the linen gives it the teeniest bit of texture, almost tweedy, but very, very subtle. indigodragonfly lists it as a "heavy lace/light fingering" weight, and I think that's a pretty accurate description. There are 653m/715yds to a 115g skein, which is pretty generous if one were going to make a lace shawl.
Which I wasn't. Or at least, not entirely.
I was going to make a shawl, but I really felt that the Linen/Silk would be gorgeous and drapy in stockinette, and thought of putting small bands of lace between sections of stockinette. I decided to avoid a triangle, since the last few shawls I'd designed were triangles. I settled on a half circle shape (first mistake -- more on this later), and began knitting.
And knitting. And knitting. My first attempts were actually more like PI shawls, with increases spaced evenly across certain rows to make the shawl grow in size. But no matter what I tried, I couldn't get a nice balance between the lace and stockinette portions. Also, I found what I was producing was much less drapey than I would have liked. So I decided to abandon the PI increases and use a half-circle swirl shape.
As I started knitting it, I wondered what it would be like if, instead of keeping all the sections even, I made them all different sizes -- so that each of the four panels would be progressively bigger than the one next to it (S/M/L/XL). Mr. Purldiving helped out by creating a spreadsheet that listed the varying increases in each section, and I kept on knitting.
And knitting. And ignoring the voice in my head that said, "You know, you really don't have enough yarn for this design." Well, ignoring that voice until the last week.
This is probably the moment where I muse a wee bit about order and chaos and the design process. For me, both of these things are necessary steps in taking a design from an idea through to the finished product. But for me, things only work if chaos comes first, and then order. The chaos -- for me, anyway -- is all the stuff that goes into coming up with the design idea in the first place. Remember? All that reading, watching, listening, looking -- somewhere along the way, an idea pops out, and then I can think about what it might want to be in knit design terms. In my case, that usually means a shawl, because that's what I enjoy designing most.
After I have an idea, I think about what yarn I want to use, what shape I want it to be, how best to interpret the idea using stitches -- either existing ones, or stitch patterns I adapt to suit the purpose (which I'm doing more and more of). What elements do I want to put together? How will I start? How will I end?
Once I've done all this -- well, this is where the order part comes in. I generally write out a first draft of a pattern, from beginning to end. At the moment, my charts start out hand drawn (by me), but I often give them to Mr. Purldiving to create pristine charts and insert them into my draft pattern. I might make changes as I work, but generally, I have the order of it all settled before I even start knitting.
By now, you will have noticed that that's not what I did with the Artist in Residence design. Oh, I tried -- the first couple of attempts were mostly written out beforehand. But from the minute I decided to abandon the traditional swirl shape and change the size of the panels in the shawl, I was pretty much working things out on the needles as I was knitting.
There are positives and negatives to this. There's something to be said for breaking out of your usual method of working - remember the saying? "Do what you've always done, and get what you've always got." I rather suspect if it weren't for this experience, my next few shawls would still have been triangles, and I would have been firmly stuck in a rut as a designer.
The downside, though, is that, because I was juggling a number of details and decisions on the fly, I wasn't really thinking about important facts, like running out of yarn. Which I was.
So, what does one do in such a situation? Where you've come up with a decent idea, but you know there's not enough yarn to execute it as it stands, and anyway, the idea was to come up with a one skein idea?
Well. I'm sure by now that you might have an idea where this is heading. In the next post, I'll talk about what the options are, and what I've decided to do.