You'll often hear different folks define what they think is professional or the right way to go about getting the job done in this industry; in any industry. One thing that crops up again and again is the design process itself. The idea that we can plan out all of our designs ahead of the making/production is one that's often touted as professional; a more streamline and productive process. That we will sketch, swatch, calculate and write before the sample is started. This might work for many, but it doesn't work for everyone.

I've rambled on before about being a kinesthetic learner and that means I work on the needles. If I get a query asking about an aspect of a pattern, I problem solve on the needles. I could sit and sketch and plan until the wee hours but as soon as I cast-on and get stuck in, it's gonna change. And to be more efficient, I've given up trying to work the other way. 



Only my camera phone is around this week, so please excuse the not quite stellar shots. This is a design I've been on working on for Classic Woolly Toppers - I spent some time swatching and calculating gauge to decide how the fabric should work for the form desired but it wasn't going to mean anything to me until I got playing with it proper. And that section of the body after the brim has been ripped out and reknit countless times, despite supposedly knowing how it was all going to work beforehand. Now I'm happy with it, although without any of my head forms with me I'll still not guarantee that the proportion is correct. I'm a perfectionist, and unless it's right in the fabric, it won't move on.

Before I cast-on I will have calculated whether the design is feasible, and whether it's gradable, and there will be a rough plan. Occasionally some designs work themselves out entirely in my head, although not often, and I always know where the design will be heading before I start. And when they do work themselves out in my head, if it can't go straight onto the needles I write everything down, and make notes about it's form. But otherwise, I design on the needles and write as I go. I couldn't possibly sort out the fine details otherwise, it's the fine tuning that finishes a design. It's what works for me. For many people, this wouldn't be good use of their time, and for larger garments I could totally understand that. But planning and writing before casting on is the bigger waste of time for me, because most of that work will be discarded once yarn meets needles. 

On the rare occasion when I've found that I have to stick to a design proposal that's been mapped out on paper, one that can't be altered or be allowed to follow it's own path, then I find those to be the least interesting pieces, they always lacking that something. And if I had to work like that all the time, I'd have walked away from this job a long time ago. I can't design to commission, and rarely can I design to fit a theme. I need creative freedom. And if that means I'm not a proper 'designer', then so be it. (if I'm not a 'proper' designer, what am I?)



The standard submission format is sketch + swatch + details. Whenever I've submitted in this format, I've been rejected. Every time. Whenever I've submitted a knitted sample, I've been accepted. Every time. These days, I tend to not bother if a publication insists on the sketch route; it's not how I work and it really interrupts my flow, and what's the point if it's not going to get in anyway? I understand the logistics of the sketch submission process, it's the most practical way for clients to gather information, and as the majority of the population are visual learners, it often works pretty well. But it isn't a one size fits all scenario.

It's not as if I can't sketch - I'm a former Art teacher. I used to have to teach kids how to draw, and when it came to applying for university, I used to have to make them have some kind of drawings in their portfolio, because that's the unspoken rule. This reliance on drawing has always puzzled me. And I could ramble on about the different types of drawing and how we have preconceived ideas about what a good drawing is (everyone nearly always picks the repesentational type as a 'good' drawing) and how, really, a drawing is another way of communicating and expressing and that, truly, there is no right or wrong way. I find drawings that are expected to demonstrate a 3D idea (because, yes, bodies are 3-dimensional, as are knitwear designs) difficult as a concept. I think in 3-dimensions, and trying to convey those ideas on paper is a translation I don't see the point of.

There is a 3D equivalent of a sketch - a maquette. It's a to scale model of a sculpture or installation or piece of architecture or anything that makes use of space. And to me, knitting the sample directly is simply making a maquette. The Hat itself is the sketch, and given the wonderful nature of the medium of yarn, that allows us to rip out and start again with little waste of materials, I get to perfect that maquette on the needles. And seeing how gauge isn't a constant, there's no more accurate way to calculate measurements than from the finished fabric itself. The Hat is my swatch and sketch in one.

Some might say I'm lucky that I work with Hats and can work this way. Except it's not luck. 

I've been over and over this post, as my tone seems a bit off. But that's how the words are coming out I guess. I have my surgery this coming thursday, the day when they perform a multitude of minor surgeries and surgical tests, and that's weighing pretty heavy on my head right now.

AuthorWoolly Wormhead