Archive for August, 2014

The designer in me wanted to go with the “hot” turquoise, pink, and lime green found in the bedroom picture.

Notice the check pattern peeking out from beneath the coverlet of the bed.

Notice the check pattern peeking out from beneath the coverlet of the bed.

The three color combo said 1960s fun and bold. Alas,the trio was out of my comfort zone of colors I like to work with. I also kept having the urge to switch out the pink for coral. But I knew that changing to coral would update the palette to 2014 colors. I carried an argument around in my head for days over whether the substitution would cancel out the 1960 retro feel of the piece. Did I want the piece to feel truly retro or did I want it to give just a nod and a wink to 1960s? The more I wrestled with it the more the answer eluded me. When that happens I know I have to put it on a shelf and have patience while it works itself out in some behind the scene area in my mind.

Stuck on one thing, I moved on to another. What about the shape, the silhouette of the piece? I had a vague picture of white vinyl go-go boots, A-line shape, bell-bottom sleeves and then I saw this:


No go-go boots. And yes, they are maternity patterns. But they had the details and the silhouettes I wanted for this smock. The details that particularly interested me were the collar and button work on the yellow one. I really fell in love with the button placement on the yellow outfit and the Nehru type collar. The more I looked, the more I loved the idea of a Nehru collar with this silhouette. However, that decision presented some immediate issues.

My design range was babies from 0 to 24 months. But babies from 0 to 9 months don’t have necks. I knew a Nehru collar wasn’t going to work for them. On the other hand, I strongly felt that the Nehru collar was integral to making the silhouette work. That meant the smallest size would start at 1 year. Now I had to start thinking about the piece not as a cute retro baby smock, but as a cute, but not too cutesy retro garment for a child.

I was sketching the smock and watching TV news when the cuff of the TV news person’s jacket caught my eye. The jacket she wore was ho-hum, but the cuff made it zing. Turned back and in a satin checkered fabric, it made the jacket interesting and eye catching. The retro smock appeared as a whole unit in my mind. The main color was turquoise and the checkered detail would be stranded color work alternating the pink and lime green. The checkered detail would be used at the hem, the Nehru collar, the cuffs and the two patch pockets I now wanted on the front.

I researched the use of checks in 1960s clothes and found a treasure trove of pictures and ideas. Yes, there is more than one way to design with checks. See my Pintrest mood board here.

After all was said and done, the rough sketch I came up with was this:

sketch girl's 1960 smock 1

Once I added the patch pockets, the angled button detail wouldn’t work. It’s a feature I will save for another design. But what about all that fabric between the color work borders? Did I really want that to be all Stockinette Stitch? All Stockinette would be relaxing at first, but beyond the first five rows it might drive me mad.

Speaking about the color work borders, did I want all the floats to be exposed on the reverse side of the garment? The hems of a garment get a fair share of abuse. It’s easy to snag a float and pull the stitches out of line. It was time to think about and plan for a folded hem to cover the floats.

In the meantime, I had to find a stitch pattern that created a fabric I liked and that worked with the checkerboard borders. But first I had to come up with stitch counts and measurements.

More on that next time.

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Sometimes I wish I didn’t design knitwear. I wish I didn’t have the need to sketch, draw, and ultimately translate feelings and moods into knitted socks and sweaters. Why? It’s a whole lot of work, time, effort, thinking, planning, knitting, ripping, knitting again, altering, researching, sweating over large and small details and decisions, decisions, decisions. All with no guarantee that the end product will be successful. Successful meaning I might make back at least the amount of money I put into the pattern.

This is the background, the stage set, against which the creation and realization of a knitting pattern takes place. It’s not often talked about in knitting blogs. Instead most blogs let the reader in when the pattern is in final form and ready for sale. In other words, break out the champagne and let’s celebrate the launching of yet another knit pattern moment. All the sturm und drang happens off stage. Rarely shared, hardly mentioned.

But it’s the off stage struggle that interests me. How did the designer get from holding two needles and a ball of yarn to creating this piece of knitwear? What was he / she thinking? What were the influences? What did the initial sketches look like? What did the final sketch look like? Why this knit stitch pattern and not that knit stitch pattern? What did you want to say with this piece? What moods and feelings were you going for? How many times did you knit and reknit before the swatch mirrored what you wanted? What characteristics were you looking for in a yarn? How many did you sift through until you decided on this particular yarn? Did the creation of the piece travel in a straight line from A to Z or do you create by meandering?

I thought it might be interesting to let people in on the off stage happenings. This next monster piece I am creating is a girl’s smock. The idea for the smock was a famous 1960’s model called Twiggy.


One day I woke up and I couldn’t stop thinking about Twiggy and Carnaby Street fashions of the 1960s. Words like colorful, playful, happy, carefree, and mod kept flitting around my mind. So I decided to create a mood board regarding what I was thinking. The mood board is here. In my mood board I was looking for pictures to represent those words but in specific ways. For example, colorful led me to wondering what were some of the fashion colors of the era and how were these colors grouped together. What feelings did these color groupings create in me? What moods did they create? So I started to edit my color group choices so they would represent playful and happy. After all, it is a child’s smock. Through out all the color gathering, I kept coming back to the turquoise bedroom with the lime green and hot pink and to the 1960 oil painting called Into a Clearing by Wolf Kahn that is also on my board.

The next question I asked myself was did I want “hot” versions of the colors like in the turquoise room or did I want the more muted colors as shown in the Kahn oil painting. Could I find these colors in all one brand of yarn? I didn’t want to have to mix yarn brands to achieve the effect. So I started collecting pictures of yarn by colors, including only those brands that came closest to the “hot” and muted versions of the colors.

While I was busy playing with colors I still hadn’t decided on the shape or look of the sweater. I’ll explain how that came about in my next post. Till then….

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