Wednesday, November 03, 2010


The owner of Knitty City, Pearl, has asked me to say a few words at the store when Trisha Malcolm, Vogue Knitting's Editor-in-Chief, makes an appearance in a few weeks.  I told her I wouldn't have much to say and if she wanted me to say anything in particular to let me know.  Pearl, the sweetest woman to ever live, just replied with a nonchalant, "Anything you say will be great.  We're so proud of you."

As sweet as her reply was, I had no idea what to say.  I still don't know what to say.  I asked around and my knitting friends replied over and over with, "What's your inspiration?"  And, "Where do you get your ideas?"  My first response was a shrug.  I honestly didn't know.  It's a question I've had to think about long and hard.  What is my inspiration.  Can any of us answer that question?  What ignites that initial spark of an idea.  I think it's rare to have the lightbulb flash on from being off.  Mine is always sort of flickering like an old neon tube.  Sometimes brighter, sometimes darker.  Occasionally, it will flash on for certain solutions - like - getting the symmetry right for a stitch pattern across a certain amount of stitches.

But as I started to breakdown my own process, I realized that I'm overloaded with inspiration.  I'm not walking through life completely void of inspiration, and pow! there's one inspiring thing in front of me, staring me down, daring me to use it.  Instead, it's everywhere and constantly flitting about.

So to not bore you with a list of every little thing I come across in my daily life, I've decided the question I should answer is, "What is your starting point?"  This may mean the same thing to some, but not to me.  Inspiration is rare.  Inspiration can be seen through many creations, not just one.  A muse inspires, and muses usually stick around for many seasons.

My starting point ends up being the swatch.  I don't think this is very special nor very insightful.  I would guess that most designers start there.  And not just handknitwear designers, but most designers that use fabric as their medium.  I had started to write that yarn was my starting point.  And I guess you can take it back that far.  But, really it's the fabric.  And it's so easy to forget that what we're creating is fabric, and simply forming it as we go.  I read an interview with the Olsen Twins (yes, I love them) and they were talking about their clothing line "The Row".  It's a beautiful collection with impeccable tailoring and clean lines.  All they could talk about was the fabric as they passed swatches back and forth between one another.

It's not that clean and simple for a hand knitter, because that fabric consists of a stitch pattern, and is made up of a particular yarn.  But, if I had to say what my "inspiration" is, I would have to say it all starts with that fabric.  And, that fabric starts for us with a swatch.

With that said, it has been incredibly interesting to design for a publication.  They have a business and partnerships to protect.  So, after spending so much time and energy creating swatches, it is sometimes challenging to use the yarn they've chosen for your design.  I like experimenting, being challenged and playing around with yarns I otherwise wouldn't given a second glance.  It has been a growing experience for me.  The Zealana Tui that was given to me for the Cabled Poncho that appears in the Holiday issue is the perfect example.  

I don't usually have time to figure out whether or not they made a better choice for my design.  But I happen to have some free knitting time at the moment.  So, I couldn't resist trying out the Poncho myself in the yarn I had envisioned it in.

So far, I've completed the back of the poncho in Cascade 128 Superwash Chunky.  I can't wait to compare the final result.

P.S.  I could only smile to myself when my next design was assigned this Cascade 128 yarn.


Fer said...

Lovely words of knitty wisdom. Good luck with your talk!

What do you do with all your swatches? Have you ever thought of using them for a patchwork rug or something? :-)

Anonymous said...

Vogue Knitting has great taste! Your designs are absolutely wonderful. And I love the color of the yarn you originally selected.

yodafatkitty said...

That grey is simply beautiful! I'm all about grey right now. Very chic :D

Mandy said...

Really nice work. I have knitted a scarf once or twice, but it usually comes out holey. Love your patterns!

Croby said...
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Croby said...

I found this post interesting because your poncho pattern was the motivation for my purchasing the current issue of Vogue Knitting. I really like the fabric and stitch definition of the Cascade Bulky.