Normally we don't talk about our upcoming patterns until we are ready to publish them so it probably seems like they just spring out of nowhere. But really, a lot of hard work goes into every one of the patterns we sell. The original creative idea is just the start and is, in my opinion, one of the easiest parts. Then the designer has to figure out how to turn that idea into something real. Often math, geometry, sketches and planning are involved. And plenty of swatches. Then, in my opinion, the hardest part. Trying to get it all down on paper (or on digital "paper") so that another person can reproduce it. What makes sense in the designer's mind doesn't necessarily make sense to anyone else. Its hard to anticipate the questions that future users of the pattern will have, and the different ways that they can interpret the same directions.
Once the designer is comfortable with the instructions, the pattern and yarn are sent out to a test knitter who works through the pattern, highlighting mistakes, marking confusing language and noting where further explanation would be helpful. Even when the designer has gone over the pattern again and again, test knitters always pick up more things. And sometimes they don't. Sometimes we'll have a pattern tested several times and no one- not the designer, nor the test knitters nor us--will notice a mistake until we've published it and get an email from a customer. Sometimes after the test knitting there are major changes needed, so the designer has to go back to the beginning. Usually, though, the pattern just needs a few minor changes. Then we take the photos of the finished items, neaten up the type and formatting, and, ta-da, a new pattern is created. Often the process takes several months to complete.
Because its so time intensive, and because there is so much great talent out there, most of our patterns are created by independent designers. But occasionally Kelly and I like to stretch our creative muscles by designing patterns ourselves. Lately I've gotten this bug and I've got two designs in the works. One is a cabled toboggan (beanie) hat inspired by my brother. Its got broad black and red stripes- his favorite colors- ribbing at the bottom and "those twisty things" going up the sides-- but nothing too girly, of course. Super Wool is the best choice for that project-- its warm, soft and easy to care for. Winters here in North Carolina aren't so cold that you need a really thick hat, just enough to keep the wind off your skin, so DK weight is perfect.
My second project is a top-down triangular shawl using Sashimi. Sashimi is a great yarn but we rarely get orders for it. I think thats a real shame because its probably the softest yarn that we sell (except maybe for Singularity in Silk). Sashimi is a bamboo/merino blend and that bamboo is an amazing fiber. Its sooo soft and has the neatest sheen. Its not shiny like tencel, its a softer sheen than that. And even though its a very soft and fluffy yarn, its got enough twist to it that it will show off a stitch pattern pretty well, especially if its knit at a loose gauge. Though I call the shawl triangular, its not a true triangle. The ends curve around and will be very long and thin so that it can be wrapped around the torso and tied at the back. I've found that I really enjoy wearing shawls in that manner because it leaves my arms free to do other things and I don't have to fuss with keeping my shawl on and drapped correctly. Though I've only got about 1/6 of it done, so far, you can see the shape in the photo to the left. The stitch pattern is a simple lace stitch from Barbara Walker's First Treasury of Knitting Patterns. The thing that is going to make this shawl really special is that its written for use with our Gradiance color collection. Its hard to tell in the photos because so far I've knit through one of the 6 skeins I'll be using and just started on the 2nd. But if you look closely you'll see how it changes from purple to blue near the bottom. Eventually it will change from blue to green, then to brown and finally to golden ochre on the very edge of the shawl. The colorway is called Insecta and is inspired by the metallic colors found on the bodies of many beetles. I wanted to use deep, rich colors but not just your tradtional jewel tones. I guess I've been thinking too much about our 6 Kingdoms club because insects immediatelly sprung to mind! I'll keep you updated on my progress; since this shawl is knit out of DK weight yarn its moving along pretty quickly. So hopefully I'll have some more interesting photos soon!