a lesson learnt

6 Oct

Anyone who regularly reads loumms or has paid any attention to the blog in the past knows that I love designing knitted stuff.

I love it with a passion I hold for nothing else.
When I come up with a new design, for socks, gloves, jumper, lampshade or anything for that matter I get such a rush of blood to the head I cant even consider doing anything else.

If I’m at work when this happens, I’ve been told a glaze comes across my eyes and I’m in a world of my own.

The design is immediately written down (I have quite often been caught at the empty poker table with a pen and paper and a make shift chart/drawing of my thoughts), swatches are made the second I get my hands on some yarn and needles and the new design obsession begins.

I have been known to ruin a ‘cosy weekend in’ by obsessively knitting or researching patterns for a new design instead of spending (very limited) quality time with my love.

I really can’t help it though, I lose all control over normal thought!

Most of my design ideas come from what I’d like to knit but can’t find a pattern for but a lot of the time

I see an image

future design inspiration

or some colours together

‘robot explosion’

or take inspiration from a song

‘only music survives’

or movie

‘the red shoes’

and try and put it into a design.

This often proves a lot harder to put together than I originally think and a lot of the time it goes wrong.

When me and Emma decided to do Loumms Year of Socks, it was set as a personal challenge. We both loved designing so much that we wanted to give ourselves a reason to design loads of socks.
We never imagined that the interest in the resulting patterns would be so high!

We were both so pleased with the way it turned out, but most importantly for me it brought out a desire to create patterns for others to knit, this in turn brought up a huge heap of problems I have in design and pattern writing.

Which takes me to my first lesson learnt.

Lesson 1: from desire to design

I’m not the best knitter in the world,

I don’t have years of experience,

I’m inpatient a lot of the time,

very often I try to do things that either don’t work at all

fisher price’

(the idea was to have an alphabet of cables ie. One cable for each letter, work their way up the socks. This didnt happen and they became my biggest design disaster. I still like the initial idea so will fix them at some point),

or work visually but not practically,


(the slipped stitch pattern waving its way around the sock looks exactly the way I wanted it too but there is such little give in the resulting fabric that it doesn’t really work for a sock. Houghmary on Ravelry has came up with a great alternative for this which still keeps the initial design idea intact but gives the sock a lot more wearability)

A lot of these problems stemmed from the fact that we gave ourselves so little time during LYOS (a month a sock) that I never really got time to perfect what I wanted to create, but most were down to me.

I need to give myself a lot more time to get the design right, admit where the design may need to be changed to make it wearable, work on my structure and develop my knowledge.

Due to the fact that I seem to enjoy making things difficult for myself I fight with the problem of design instead of trying to keep it simple and quite often, even though my design appears totally unknittable, I manage to create something that I have great difficulty putting down on paper.

Lesson 2: from design to pattern 

This begins to cause a problem when I come to creating a pattern.
At the best of times I’m not a great writer, errors everywhere, broken sentences, spelling mistakes, so most of my initial pattern notes are jotted down with no structure (as I imagine most designers notes are) however mine seem to make their way into the actual pattern in the same form.

I keep my pattern notes jotted on paper, on notes on my phone, as images and documents on the computer and in a design book but nothing is really organised.

I begin writing a pattern on one thing and finish it on something else, which means a lot of the time the middle part is on a piece of paper in a bag somewhere never to be found again.

This becomes a problem when I start writing the pattern up and miss out a huge section only to find out when the person knitting the item PM’s me. Very embarrassing!

I really need to become more organised if I want to take pattern writing seriously.

I started to make sure I put all of my notes for one pattern in the same place, even if it was the same bag, and stared naming my computer files correctly so I could go back to them at any time and know what they were for! I think I will find this very helpful when addressing errata questions from test knitters!

All of the original patterns we did during the LYOS were free and many of them still are. As we had limited time we knew we couldnt get anything test knit or edited before we released them and as they were only intended to be for our own enjoyment we really did not want to charge for them.

Since then we have had loads of support and loads of people knit up the socks, letting us know along the way any errors or problems they have found in the patterns. ( mine more than Emmms)

Lesson 3: What? Can’t you read my mind?

This really made it clear to me that I write my patterns the way I knit them!
People could not seem to understand a lot of what I was asking them to do in the pattern.

To be honest I am really surprised that anyone was actually successful in knitting a sock at all from some of the instructions I gave, I’m sure it’s all down to the fact that the knitters who took on my patterns were very talented people!

When ever me and Emmms did a joint pattern during LYOS I would receive emails in their dozens from Emmms asking “What on earth do you mean by this?” “Why have you written that there?” “Should that round not be 6 stitches longer?” “Why isnt the chart right”
And every email I replied with “What? Can’t you read my mind?”

This is a big problem for me.
I seem to think that the knitter following my pattern has direct access to my brain at all times and that things I see as obvious are definitely not obvious to everyone else!

I have recently had this problem with a test knitter on my current designs and finally have decided to face up to the fact that I really do need to put a lot more time effort and thought into the patterns I write.
I need to make sure my gauge is accurate to begin with (sorry Katherine!) I need to be more constant with my abbreviations, include my abbreviations!  take care with a chart and key, explain in detail any difficult, tricky or just out of the norm sections, and finally write the pattern as if I was knitting it for the first time!!

I’ve been learning this lesson slowly over the past year and have worked on a few original patterns from LYOS.
Both Singing in the Rain and Raspberry Ripple have been re-written, edited and test knit and I am actually very happy in the way they have turned out.

They are both now back for sale!

It does show when you do something properly it gives you more satisfaction so all of my patterns from LYOS will eventually receive this level of attention as since LYOS I’ve been working on so many new patterns, learning more and more as I go along.

Lesson 4: some things are better left unsaid

I’ve also learnt that not everything I design I can turn into a pattern for others to follow.

Take my lampshades.

I don’t think I will ever have enough skill to put my lamp designs into workable patterns! I am going to keep them for myself and give away/sell as finished items!

I have patterns that are written up and designs ready that will never see the light of day due to my lack of confidence in them!

Also I’ve been working on a sweater for over a year, in stages.

At the moment I’m not very far along with it but already am coming across things I know now will cause me massive problems if I ever attempted to write it up!

But I do have at least 25 designs I’m working  on that will become patterns and the more I work on the more lessons I learn and the better my design and pattern writing becomes.

‘labyrinth hat’

‘1926’ socks

’70’s style summer vest’

‘starry night’ beret

‘fiery flowers’ fingerless gloves

So hopefully, with these lessons learnt, I will begin to create patterns and designs that people are able to knit!!! That is my main aim in life anyway so I better get it right!!


One Response to “a lesson learnt”

  1. emmms 9 October 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    25 patterns??!?!??!! You put me to shame!

    I’m constantly amazed that people what to knit my patterns and always so excited and delighted when I see their finished work!! The first time I saw a pair of Edwardian Boating Socks knit by someone else in person I cried, haha!!! It’s really emotional!

    I know just what you mean, though. It can be so daunting when you have so much in your head and you just want to share it! Fortunately, we have some amazing test knitters who are both mind-readers and incredibly patient. Long live awesome knitters!! Now if we could just find time to get everything out of that head of yours and onto the needles!

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