Mini-Series: My first sweater pattern design, part 1
Welcome to the first post of the ‘My first sweater pattern design’ mini-series! I’m really excited about this as I have been not-designing-a-sweater for a number of months and I think this series will keep me properly focused on actually designing one. There is nothing quite like public commitment to aid concentration.
In this mini-series I’m going to take you through all the steps I go through as I design & write my first sweater pattern. I estimate it will take me somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks (and about 5 posts) to do this but that is finger in the air for sure. I’m doing it in real time so that it’s completely unvarnished and absolutely true to life (tears and tantrums will be shared, swearing not so much!).
As I have been thinking about it I have a vague idea of the style of sweater, the yarn and the sizing. In this post I’ll share how I got to those.
My starting point (aka my lack of experience …)
All of my designs to date are either single size, socks or easily resizable. I’ve only designed one sweater and given that it was my entry for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, while it might be possible to grade it, I’m not sure it’s quite every day wear!
Not quite daily wear!
As described in the blog post about designing my Totally Tweedy hat, designing for me is a lot of going back and forth between everything. It’s definitely not a linear process. The following is where my thinking is right now and how I’m going to get to ironing those details out to get to an outline design for the next post.
Why a sweater?
I am at heart a garment knitter. It might not seem like it given all the socks that are on needles everywhere in the house but I really love a sweater knit and I want to design a sweater I'd really like to knit and wear. I also want to move on from just designing socks as I don’t think I’ll really feel like a designer until I have a sweater available in my Ravelry library!
Why has it taken so long?
To be honest, two reasons. Firstly, I’m not sure I know what to do and secondly I’m nervous about not getting the sizing right. People come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and shapes within those sizes and I want everyone to feel like I am designing something they could wear. I want to do this from the outset, even if slightly hindered by my lack of experience / skills in this area. It’s part of the reason I am writing a blog series while I do this, so people can see how a novice designer goes about a) designing something they haven’t before and b) tries to fit as wide a range of folk as possible.
The current thinking
I keep a Pinterest board called ‘Someday this will be a knitting pattern’. This includes any picture that has any element I’d like to knit into something for myself. Originally the plan for this series was for a sweater dress and you can see from that board that I just love a sweater dress!
However, that changed based on three factors:
- 1. The skill & time required to design a sweater dress
- 2. The potentially cost for others to knit it
- 3. I saw my cousin wearing a gorgeous batwing sweater and it reminded me that I just love a batwing sweater (I have two dresses, identical design, in two different colours because I love a batwing sleeve so much)
So that decided me on the overall style and then based on my dubious skills, I have decided it will be quite a relaxed fit which will hopefully make it relatively easy to resize.
The sweater dress I long to knit! (Sadly no credit as image is linked to multiple sites on Pinterest)
There are many options for constructing sweaters – top down, bottom up, side to side and construction choices are often the bit I get caught up in when I’m designing anything.
I debated top down v. bottom up for quite a while but I think a batwing sweater doesn’t lend itself to top down so it’s going to be bottom up. I’m currently debating whether I can knit it in the round to the sleeves but I’ll have to swatch that. It may be that it’s easier to write it as two pieces to be seamed together and include tips to make seaming easier and how it might be done in the round. That is one of the first decisions I’ll make once this post is live.
I really want to make this in mohair, like really really but this marmite yarn is going to have to wait until I have a working design in a more reasonable yarn!
I have two options at the moment, all from Banshee Yarns bases (current or coming soon). Tibetan DK is a magnificent silk, wool, yak base that I am trialling at the moment or there is an option for Silky Singles held double with Mohair (aren’t we all holding double at the moment?!).
DK is a great yarn for a sweater, particularly if I can match the tension with less expensive DK yarns so people can substitute and Silky Singles & Mohair are great together and possibly quicker as they’ll use a larger needle size. I’ll have all my swatching done for the next post! Many swatches I feel!
Should the pattern go well, I’ll swatch to see if I can do a 4ply version but I’ll try not to get ahead of myself!
Yak gives this yarn a beautiful grey shade so it doesn't even need dyeing before I cast on!
This is definitely at the front of my mind. I like how the recent discussions around size inclusivity have made this stick in my mind. I like to think I’d have delivered a number of sizes but up until a year ago I definitely wouldn’t have even thought to have as many as I am now going to include.
I’m going to start with a sweater for myself in my current size (I am rarely one size for very long!) and, if this pattern is to become a mainstream pattern, rather than a recipe, I’ll work on grading it in sizes from approx. 28 to 60 inches. Looking at posts on Instagram that appears to be a good starting range. I must also read Karie Westermann’s recent post about not just sizing but styling within sizes!
The sweater is going to have quite a bit of ease, I’m not currently in ‘fitted sweater’ humour (or shape (entirely my own opinion of myself!!)), but just how I much I'm not quite sure just yet. Some self measuring and sketching ahead!
And that’s where I am right now, Thursday January 16th, 2020! The next post will be next Thursday January 23rd and will include, all going to plan: initial measurements, swatches, final yarn & needle decisions and an outline design/pattern, as well as how I got to all of those details! It will also include the techniques and ‘direction’ of knitting that I’m going to go in. I have downloaded a croquis (more about those in the next post) from Pret-a-Template and am ready to go!
Even my below par sketching skills are improved with a croquis!
Wish me luck!
A little advance action! While I am going to go through the steps in logical order in this mini-series, there are a number of actions that should be take place at the same time as a design (entirely my own opinion, may not apply to others). For me, one of those is booking a tech editing slot. I’ve emailed Deb at Find Me Knitting (who has tech edited all of my tech edited patterns and who saves me making a show of myself) to ask if she might have space for me mid/end Feb with an outline of what I’ll be sending. Good tech editors are in high demand.
If you haven’t worked with a tech editor before, get recommendations from other designers and approach them for their rates and to book slots.
There are other actions I should probably be doing asap but I’ll include those in the next post!