Sketches, wool yarn and knitted swatches for designing a modern knitting pattern

Sheep-Skein-Sweater: behind the scenes of knitting design

Since last summer, I’ve been intermittently working on a sweater design collaboration with Black Isle Yarns in conjunction with the relaunch of their Killen sock yarn. In addition to this sweater project, I ended up creating the Oregano socks pattern, which actually uses an older batch of this yarn. But this larger project has been in the works for some time.

After chatting to some Patrons over on our private community Discord server, several people mentioned that they’d be interested in seeing even more about the process of designing my knitting patterns. I thought that this project is the perfect opportunity to document the process from start to finish. Join our Patreon community in order to read the blog series, and keep reading for a preview of what will be featured!

Moving from the sheep towards the sweater

The lovely thing about this collaborative project is that Black Isle Yarns is a small company working directly with farmers in the Scottish Highlands to source breed-specific wool fleeces, before arranging for spinning and processing into yarn, and finally hand-dyeing the finished hanks using plant dyes. On my part, I’m imagining the best ways in which to transform the yarn into a wearable garment which shows off all of the yarn’s technical and aesthetic properties, simultaneously imprinting my own taste, style and vision into the design. As you can see, the brief is fully led by the yarn itself. In documenting the process, I’ll share the ins-and-outs of how a sweater knitting pattern is made, from concept to sample and finally to the .PDF instructions.

Anticipated contents

When designing, things often occur in a non-linear manner, take much longer than I anticipate – and plans tend to change! Here’s an indication of upcoming blog posts. These are subject to change, and this list will be updated for links along the way.

0. Introduction (this post)

1. Negotiating a collaborative brief

2. Exploring the yarn

3. Devising the concept

4. Responding to inspiration

5. Fabric development (aka swatches galore!)

6. Focus on Shape: sketching and visualising movement

7. Number crunching, the sample begins

8. Working and re-working the sample

9. Describing action, directing movement: writing a knitting pattern

10. On real toiles and imaginary bodies

11. Photography

12. Preparing for the pattern launch

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