There have been lots of discussions lately in the Designers group on Ravelry - the talk there is much more open than the Yahoo group, in my opinion. Couldn't say why that is, but hey. Anyhow's, it's all got me thinking (because I need more things to think about) and wondering why, how, when etc with what I do.
One of the first things I wanted to discuss when I got in was the attitude that designing small things isn't as relevant as designing big things. This bugs the hell out of me, as it's mistakenly assumed that I (or others) don't know how to design bigger things like jumpers and cardies (oh, to be so English). It is of course quite true that many knitters and crocheters take their first step into designing with something like a Hat or scarf, and that is a great place to start, but that doesn't mean that anyone who prefers to work with smaller items is limited in knowledge, and nor should they feel compelled to move onto larger things.
In the same vein, just because they are smaller, generally quicker to make and often found to be 'beginners' patterns or floating around as freebies doesn't mean that are always simple to design... there are an entirely different set of constraints to consider and they can be just as complex. In a larger garment you generally have much more room to work in a particular stitch pattern for instance, and that isn't always possible with something like a Hat - there's a lot of juggling that goes in - scaling down isn't necessarily easy when you have limited room to work with. There is of course, or should be, a much wider size range to consider with jumpers etc and whether or not a garment can be realistically resized to fit the whole range, and I wouldn't want to suggest otherwise. Likewise I would continually argue that there is a size range to be considered with Hats and other smaller garments too, and get seriously bugged by the amount of 'one size fits all' patterns out there. It's this latter problem, I feel, that lets the side down for us folk who choose to work on a smaller scale, and goes some way to diminishing professional standards. 'One size fits all' isn't the only problem of course, but it's a common misconception, and a widely accepted one.
Other factors then start coming into play.... clarity of instruction being one. Every designer has been a beginner at some point and all have learnt how to improve and make their work more accessible. I for one like to make my patterns as clear as is humanly possible - it's the teacher in mine that likes to break things down into manageable chunks. This is a skill - explaining something so that it no longer seems baffling and becomes quite easy to execute shouldn't be taken lightly. I doubt any of us could ever write the 'perfect pattern' that please everyone and their individual preferences, but aiming to achieve this makes a huge difference. We never stop learning, after all.
Another interesting discussion that got me thinking is how we go about the whole process. I piped in that I generally haven't bothered to submit to the larger print magazines because of the whole sketch requirement. I can sketch, no problem, I've been to Art college, have taught Art and Textiles which includes fashion design, life drawing and much, much more. I just find the idea of a sketch - commonly accepted as a drawing on paper - to be limited. A sketch is actually a method of conveying ideas, yet understand that 99% of the time it is referred to as a drawing. Now, I think in 3D, not 2D, and am primarily a kinesthetic learner - which means my hands need to be involved - I need to touch, hold, play with the materials and see how they work. Invariably if I'm working on a design that started as such and such idea, it will evolve and turn into something else entirely. That, to me, is the beauty of materials and experimentation.
So perhaps this explains why I don't feel comfortable submitting an idea as a 2D sketch, even with ample notes and swatches.... I couldn't guarantee that the idea I submitted would bear any resemblance to the finished design. And boy, I have tried, and it's incredibly stressful! I have inquired with some of the reputable publications, and they have said they would consider a work in progress or even a finished item (understanding of course that modifications might be needed) but I haven't really put this to the test yet. The deadlines become another problem... they send me off on panic attacks! Many of the big US publishers give rather short deadlines for initial submissions, which for us overseas generally results in email submissions and again you lose that 3D angle. So rather than battle and submit something for the sake of submitting, I carry on on my own merry path. It works for many, but doesn't work for me.
I think there is another point in play that hasn't been discussed - why we do it. I design Hats because I find them to be the most suitable for experimentation in shape, texture, form and colour. You can get away with a lot more in a Hat, they can be kooky and fun, downright weird if you choose. They are the only garment that comes close to the full 360 degrees of possibility, and I haven't even come close to exploring that potential fully. They also suit my somewhat short attention span - larger pieces nearly always end up boring me, I lose the desire to see them through. I used to design larger jumpers and things, admittedly mainly for myself or family and these were never resized or published as patterns, and oddly started on a larger scale and moved to the smaller end of the spectrum, unlike most who work the other way around. I have no wish to go back to that. I design because I couldn't live without the creative process, and have a need to pass on what I have discovered. I enjoy it. I love the challenge of taking an idea and making it something accessible to many. In the same way I don't like to submit a pattern for the sake of submitting, I wouldn't want to design for any other purpose than I do already. I won't jump track to design items that are more commercial or have a higher mainstream appeal, and quite frankly I'm not sure I would know how to. Nor would I wish to keep producing to order. I like my niche market and more than happy that there are people who like my designs enough to buy them.
I suppose you could think that I'm here justifying myself, and you could be right - paranoia is a frequent visitor. But I don't know if I'd go to this length to explain all this unless I felt the need to. Not everyone appreciates or understands or is even aware that there are other ways of doing things, and other reasons for doing so.
Each to their own, as they say.