Pattern Design…an Excuse to Slow Down and Pay Attention to the Details

My entrance into knitwear pattern design was a mixture of inquisitiveness and necessity.  I hand dye yarn and fiber for my small company, Snow Capped Yarns.  Last December I had 3 new colorways coming out for a winter release and I felt that it was time to show off the yarn in something beyond a simple swatch. Rather than searching for the perfect pattern with a matching gauge I thought I’d start from scratch.  I love to knit and after knitting other people’s patterns for many years.

Swatching on the Ferry

Swatching on the Ferry

I felt ready to give designing a try myself.

My first design was a headband and a cowl, knit in the round.  It can’t really get any easier than that!  No increasing, no decreasing, just a textured stitch built on knits and purls.

I self published the pattern several weeks later at the yarn release and lo and behold people actually bought both the yarn and pattern!

I uploaded it to Ravelry and just like that I had rather unceremoniously entered the world of design.

Now a year in, I find that designing is actually on my mind quite a lot.  Beyond the utilitarian function of showcasing Snow Capped Yarns and providing patterns that pair well with the hand-dyed yarns, I find I am now drawn to the challenge of trying to translate an idea into a wearable garment. To think about the structure, sizing, style, and then to make it by hand…what fun! Even if I stopped dyeing yarn I would still want to write patterns.  There is a unique satisfaction in watching it all come together.

Pattern design feels like great creative exercise for both sides of the brain.  I like the math that happens behind the scenes and how designing requires me to slow down and focus on the details.  It’s a layered process that takes time to really come together, both a structural building and an artistic ripening. I keep learning that it isn’t served by rushing. Honestly, what is?

As a designer I’ve just begun collaborating with other professionals.  I completed my first garment design that is graded for six sizes, and it really illuminated the fact that if I wanted to take this seriously I needed to work with a tech editor.  This may be obvious to others but before this pattern I didn’t realize the importance of that.

 It’s all a process. 

It’s hard when you’re just starting to make those initial investments in your creations.  I’m feeling that even though I’m just a beginner it’s necessary and worth it.  If I’m going to go to all the trouble of creating a pattern I want to feel 100% wonderful about it when I release it to the public. That extends to the photography, design, schematics and of course the pattern instructions themselves.

Snow Capped Yarns- Icelaska HatI want people to know they are purchasing a quality pattern.

One of the biggest challenges for me is wearing so many hats: being the designer, the mathematician, the knitter, the editor, the formatter, the stylist, the photographer, and the marketer.  Phew…no wonder the process is so time intensive.  I think I’m learning where to collaborate, where to hire out for help and how to make a more realistic timeline of the process.

Some of my obstacles thus far have been rushing through the inspiration and planning phases, failing to take enough notes or to think very carefully about sizing. All of this has created more work for myself.

I hope to go slower at the beginning and lay down a better foundation from the start.

Initially I also thought my designs had to be complicated but I’ve realized that sometimes the most appealing designs are simple. I’ve noticed myself drawn to simplicity and texture in other designers’ works.

I’m excited to keep designing, the more I work on one design the more other ideas start to germinate and sprout.  Pictured above is the hat design from my latest collection, The Icelaska Collection.  This winter I’ll be having fun adding simple and functional designs to this collection.


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