What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?
This is a question I ask my yarn before I start knitting. As many of you know I design my own patterns most of the time. I find it much more fulfilling and creatively stimulating than knitting from a published pattern. I don't mean to knock anyone who mostly knits from patterns. I did the same thing for a couple years and think this is essential if you are going to create good patterns. Besides, who would knit the patterns I create if everyone was off making their own?!
Sometimes I still knit from patterns if I need something quick like I'm traveling and want to be knitting rather than sketching on the plane. Or if it's an item I've never knit before it's a good idea to try a pattern. Case in point, my shawl that came out completely lopsided because I assumed I could design one without ever having knit one before. I failed to understand how lace behaves on the bias or what are appropriate intervals by which to increase.
It does take much more time to design a pattern, whether imagining what I want to knit and finding the perfect yarn or purchasing yarn in advance then trying to envision what it wants to be. Sketching items to get a general idea and knitting gauge swatches and samples (then ripping them out and re-knitting them several times) can be a lot of work. Then there's all the math to work out, the measuring to be done, and writing the actual instructions so they make sense to someone other than me at the moment in time when I scribble them down. It's kind of like anything else in knitting. It can be frustrating at times but in the end I love doing it and also the feeling of accomplishment when the FO comes out the way I've envisioned it.
When I was first teaching JF to knit he saw what I was doing and wanted to design items right from the start. While I admired his enthusiasm and ambition, as I predicted he soon became frustrated when he didn't know where to start. As a beginner (or intermediate) knitter you often just want to start knitting. You need a basis in understanding how to read patterns and in how garments are constructed and the way certain yarns behave when knit up.
I've read a lot of knitting design books, articles online or in magazines, and tutorials on other people's blogs. This gives me a good foundation from which to start creating my own projects. The combination of getting a grip on theories and concepts combined with the hands-on experience of practicing and reading patterns is excellent preparation for designing.
JF and I often work together on designs. Sometimes I ask for his opinion on how certain colors or patterns will look together. If it's an item for him or something we're actively designing together we'll sit down and hammer out the numbers together. It's very helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to double-check that I'm doing the math correctly.
Unfortunately designing is detrimental to my blog in some ways. Sometimes I'm working on a pattern to submit for publication. One of the criteria for acceptance is always that the pattern cannot have been published anywhere else and it cannot have been shown or discussed in any detail on your own personal blog or online photo album. So if it appears that I often just ramble on about my opinions on knitting topics, or show pics of my vacations, or feature new items in my Etsy shop it's probably because I'm designing something that I have to keep quiet in order for it to have a chance of publication. I promise there is knitting happening on this side of the keyboard!