Archive for October, 2008


Martha: “What is Autumn?”

Jan: “A second spring, where the leaves imitate the flowers.  Maybe it would be so too with human beings that you would see bloom if only you helped them with your patience.”

Albert Camus The Misunderstanding

I love Autumn. It is my favorite season. With a freeze predicted this weekend, I spent most of my time preparing the garden and the pantry shelves for the coming winter months. The garden was a real money saver this year what with the spike in gas and fuel prices. When we added up our grocery bills for the summer we got a nice surprise. Eating out of our garden really did save us money at the food market.  Of course the money saved went to pay gas and electric bills rather than being stashed away for the upcoming holiday season. Still, I am very grateful for the bounty of our garden.

Needless to say, with all the making and putting up of tomato sauce, soups, stews, and freezing vegetables I got precious little knitting done on the Autumn Lace sock. I had hoped to finish at least the baby sample sock over the weekend. I am at the point where I am picking up the gusset stitches. If it’s done by tomorrow I will post a picture.


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“I like to have a plan,” said Mr. Palliser.

“And so do I,” said his wife, —“if only for the sake of not keeping it.”

Anthony Trollope

It’s good to have a plan and wise to keep it flexible when designing.

I often start out with a picture in my mind of how I want the knitted piece to look. I follow this with a rough sketch to which I add many notes and collections of ideas. For me, this is a large portion of the design process. The sketch, the notes, every decision or non-decision is as tenuous as a spider’s web in a breeze. All, some or none of the ideas may reach fruition.

I have been working on designing a knit sock sized for baby up to adult. A mommy and me kind of project. The design had to be cute enough for a baby girl and at the same time serious enough for an adult woman to wear. The sock I designed is called Autumn Lace.

The idea for the sock started with a picture of a lace cuff in my mind. I knew I wanted  a solid knitted fabric for the foot. The knitted foot fabric had to be delicate and subtle. The solid knitted fabric had to fit with the lace of the cuff and not detract from it.

I spent well over a month on this part of the design. Searching, swatching, rethinking. What looked okay the day before did not look so good the next. A step forward, two back and one to the side seems to be the dance of design for me.

This stage of design can’t be rushed for me. I have to be patient with it. My instinct seems to know when everything goes together and it is time to stop searching, swatching, and rethinking. When the design is right I feel the rightness in my gut and in my bones. I enjoy the knitting. I am peaceful. When I rush this part of the design process,  I am uncomfortable with the knitting. I still search, swatch, and rethink in my head. I know I don’t have it right. I feel the wrongness with every stitch.

With Autumn Lace, I let the design process dance. While I need to alter the length of the leg portion on the baby sock to bring the lace cuff closer to the ankle, I am pleased with the way the prototype looks.

I swatched many lace patterns before I found one that was the right proportion for both a baby size sock and an adult one. I was attracted to the lace pattern because it reminded me of Autumn: the lacey edges of the first ice on the pond,  the patterns made by leaves that have fallen to the ground. I altered the stitches of the lace pattern for circular knitting and in doing so I feel I have come closer to what I originally saw in my mind.

The knitted fabric for the leg and foot, I think, works beautifully with the lace cuff and the shell scallops that border the cuff. The knitted fabric is a simple knit – purl combination that adds visual interest to what would otherwise be a plain stockinette stitch fabric.  The knit – purl combination also reminds me of Autumn, particularly the floor of the woods and leaf covered paths with their bumps and ruts.

This weekend I hope to complete the adult medium version of the Autumn Lace sock and get started on the reknit of the baby one. I  hope you enjoy the weekend.

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After a big ship has rotted away, there still remain three thousand nails.

Chinese Proverb

What, did they count them? The nails, I mean. Three thousand sounds like a number that has been rounded. It’s too nice; too easily divisible by more than one number. Two, 3, 4, 5, and 6 divide nicely into three thousand. They don’t leave messy remainders over which a knit designer must agonize.

When I begin a design I swatch. I need to know how many stitches per inch and how many rows. Row gauge can be less precise at first when you are knitting to a length. “Knit until piece measures x inches / centimeters from the beginning.” If you have to make a second knitted piece — sock, sleeve, front or back, whatever — that needs to come in at the same measurement then row gauge is important. To get the same length and have it all even I count the number of rows it takes to get the “x inches / centimeters.” I write down the number of rows on the pattern so that I can duplicate the exact length for the other sock, sleeve, front or back, whatever.

The numbers game in knitting gets challenging when both stitch and row gauge need to come into some agreement with the knitting stitch pattern as well as the size of the piece.  In an ideal world the multiple of stitches needed to complete a knitting stitch pattern would divide evenly into gauge for all sizes. But who lives in an ideal world?

In my next few posts, I am going to show you the behind the scenes stuff that goes into designing a knitted sock pattern. Til then, have a good one.

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