Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Designin' Ol' School

I called myself a knitwear designer long before I ever officially typed out my first pattern.  Why would I do that?  Well I assure you I wasn't trying to be dishonest.  Quite simply I wanted to begin seeing my work and the projects I created as having value.  I developed a vision for myself as a professional in this industry to create the movement and steps needed to get there.  That's my process and there really is something to it.  Seeing yourself where you want to be is the first step in getting there.

If you can't see it, no one else will. 
I have been writing my own patterns for years, keeping notes and ideas in what I'd like to officially call my 'knitting journals', but more accurately they are a hodge podge collection of notebooks of all shapes, sizes and colors, containing everything that has run through my knitting brain over the last 15-20 years.

There are inspirational quotes, scribbles, drawings...graphs and charts, numbers and pictures and musings about where I was at the time, how I was feeling, and plans for what I wanted to do in the future.  There are even lists of books I wanted to read or buy and recipes that I wanted to make.
This was written in one of my journals about 8 years ago!  I originally thought The Art of Yarn would be a class on knitting as a therapeutic tool.  Well, you know the rest.  The Art of Yarn actually became my business name.  Vision creates movement and that makes things happen!
And yes there are patterns in those books that I took the time to write out completely.
I can't say back then I did it because I saw them being published one day.  In fact that idea was the farthest thought from my mind in the early days.  I just had the need to organize my creativity, get it out of my head, and down on paper where I could see my art in a practical, efficient way.  To this day I still love the look of a pattern in my own hand writing.  It's quite satisfying to me.

However, if you would have told me then that I would be writing a blog post about my notebooks and patterns now, today, I would have thought you completely crazy!  I wouldn't have even known what a blog was!

The really wonderful part of all of this is how that process has carried over to the way I design today.  Students ask so often where I work and how I work.  Honestly I think they just want a glimpse into this somewhat 'mysterious' career I've made for myself and what a typical day looks like for a knitting instructor and designer (see...say it often and that's what you'll become...*insert big smile*). 

Every day is different and I start by creating a to do list by priority and then get into the flow of things, meaning I remind myself to breathe and just keep moving.  In this way I don't overwhelm myself with all I there is to accomplish.

Designing a pattern, especially for a class, takes the ultimate concentration for me though.  While I have written many things amid the chaos and distractions of everyday life, I know myself well and I do try to carve out designated design time each week that can be solely devoted to this particular endeavor.  I need to.

I am by far a morning person and so it stands to reason that I would have the most energy and creative flow in the early part of the day.  Generally I am up with the chickens and I particularly love the spring and summer months when the sun is up with me.  The light comes flooding into my dining room and that is where I like to set myself up for a little design time.  It's quiet and peaceful and just the right recipe for being creative.
This week I am revising my Finessing Fair Isle Workshop and the pattern and project that go with the class.  Fair Isle is a sub category of stranded knitting and this is by far one of the most popular topics I teach.  In the past, my students learned the nuances of Fair Isle knitting by making a cute headband with a simple snowflake motif.   
I decided for next Tuesday's workshop, I would have the students make a Fair Isle hat instead.  I had loosely written this hat pattern for Week 3 of my 4-Week Knit in Color class and have taught it many times.  I often revamp and refresh tried and true favs with a new detail of some kind and that's exactly what I was working on this morning.
Coffee in one of my favorite mugs purchased at the Brown Sheep store, yarn and needles, a pretty handmade ring marker, glasses, and of course notebook, pencil and eraser all laid out in front of me are the perfect formula for banging out a new idea in short order.  I also had my Kindle Fire handy to jot down blog notes and ideas as I went along.
I cast on and began with the new addition of 2-color corrugated ribbing, which is a lovely detail that is so common with traditional Fair Isle patterns.  The hat itself is a sampler of basic stranded knitting to allow students the opportunity to get comfortable with the new techniques, but it really comes out looking quite impressive and so much fun.  More than two colors could easily be incorporated for those feeling a little more adventurous.

Ol' school designin' is what I would call this for sure!  Even with all of the software and new technology available today, I still find I accomplish the most when I use good old graph paper and a pencil to write the pattern out long hand.  I have created a basic template for my patterns and can plug in the information after it's written.  When I know I am short on time, I will sit down at my laptop and type it out as I go instead.

It all depends on my mood.

Today the warmth of the sun, the smell of the coffee, the wool, and my eraser, were all too enticing.  I didn't want to get out the computer.  That just didn't seem to fit.  I wanted to enjoy the simplicity of jotting down each row, each stitch as I did it, working and reworking the pattern until I was happy with it.  And hopefully in turn my students will be happy with it as well.

Ask me again how much I love what I do...

Hope to see you in class

Knit on,


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