The design process

First off, thank yous to everyone who replied to my last post.  I took all the comments to heart, and I think I have a game plan now.  My original instincts were too defensive before they really needed to be.  Anyway, I’m going to wait and finish the jacket as it is now.  Then I’ll ask Liam if he still wants a pink edging.  If he does, we’ll go ahead and do it.  If he’s off the idea, I could make him something else in pink for later.  I’m going to arm him with all the great anedotes and stories people posted so that he can use them if anyone teases him.  I don’t want to reject his idea and teach him that it’s not OK to like pink.  So, thank you very much!

Onward!  I’ve been working more on schematics and pattern writing than knitting in the past couple of days, and I thought it might be interesting to other beginning designers to hear a little bit more about how I do that and how it’s changed over time.  I’m a lot less slapdash than I used to be, though I know I still take a long time.

Most of my recent designs have been far more planned than in the past.  I’ve been sketching a lot more than I used to, and then swatching from my sketches.  However, I’m working primarily on Maude Louise right now, which has already been knitted, so let’s talk a little about grading and schematics.

Grading, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the process of taking a pattern written in one size and translating it to many sizes.  My Maude is knit in a size small, with a 32″ bust, but now I’m writing the pattern for a range of sizes, starting at a 28″ bust and going up to a 52″ bust.  I started from scratch on this process, because I wasn’t happy with the proportions of the sweater as it was previously written.

In sizing Maude Louise, I’m referring to many excellent articles by other designers.  I’m using Ysolda Teague’s sizing charts, Jenna Wilson’s articles on multisizing from Knitty, Marnie MacLean’s tutorial on creating schematics in Illustrator, and Pam Allen’s article on set in sleeves from the Winter 2007 Interweave Knits.  I’m also studying well written patterns that are designed in pieces, and that utilize set in sleeves, like Maude Louise, to see how other people handled the steps needed to create a good fit.

When I was knitting my Maude, I kept copious notes, and I tried to keep them in the form of a pattern, to save myself trouble later.  This meant that when I was done, writing up the size 32 pattern was essentially a matter of transcribing into Word what I’d already written down.  Once I had the size 32 written up, I made myself a chart and plugged the numbers in.  I used those numbers to figure out how much ease there was in each section of the pattern and to calculate the width and length for each of the other sizes.  That chart is one of my master documents now.  Based on the chart, I made a series of smaller charts calculating how many stitches and rows are required in each section and then determining how much of an increase or decrease it is from the previous section.  For example, from the waist to the chest requires a decrease in the number of stitches, but that decrease varies considerably from one size to another.

I made a schematic based on the measurements for the size 32, and have printed it out, as seen above.  I’m a visual person, so being able to plug the numbers for the different sizes onto the schematic helps me understand the shaping as I deal with different numbers of stitches to get the same basic shape.

With both old and new Maude, my bugbear is the set in sleeves.  There are very different numbers of stitches to cast off at the sleeve point, and I want to achieve a similar curve on all the different sizes.  I’m hoping again that the visual schematic will help me understand how best to manage that curve and make sure that all of the sleeves, for all the sizes, fit in a way that is figure flattering.

So that’s where that’s at for the moment.  A number of folks currently working on Maude Louise have asked about the new button bands.  I am waiting to release the new pattern until it is finished for all sizes, but if you are working on the sweater and would like instructions for the new bands, let me know and I’ll be happy to help.

One Comment

  1. Interesting, what a lot of work sizing a pattern is! Interesting reading on the comments last post too. As to pink – I think your decision is a good one. Kids are funny – some don’t care what others think, and others do. My brother wore sweatpants and rubber rain boots till he was about 13 or so, and I think everyone thought he was really weird, and probably teased him too, but he kept right on… I on the other hand was mortified when people teased me about my clothes. I think kids change and evolve their clothing style when they’re ready to. If he likes pink, go for it. You could let him know that if he wants to change it later, he can (after all, an I-cord edging just rips right out.)

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