There are two questions I am often asked by knitters and enthusiasts:
1. Where do you get your inspiration?
2. What is your design process?
This month on the blog we will reveal our pattern design and development process, speak to other knitting pattern designers about their relationship with design, and provide some tips and tricks for knitters who want to branch out into design!
INSPIRATION IS OMNIPRESENT
The question “Where do you get your inspiration” is total bollocks.
Inspiration is all around us, omnipresent. In the architecture of the nearby church, in the waves of the ocean, in the retro shirt I discovered at a thrift shop, in the precise green of my husband’s eyes. In the autumn colours on my morning run, or the bright contrasts of neon lights. I could go on, well… probably forever. I find inspiration just by looking around and observing the beauty in my world (and I’m sure you do too… although you may not recognize it as such). It is simply always there, and everywhere!
The difference between designers and people who say “I’m not creative” is that designers recognize the beauty in the world around them as inspiration for things they want to make. It’s not such a great leap… let’s look at the process.
INSPIRATION + DESIRE = DESIGN
For me, inspiration translates to design through the vehicle of desire. It could be the desire to own a beautiful handmade object, or the desire to make something exquisite and unique for a loved one, or simply the the desire to challenge yourself creatively, or answer a ‘what if’ question.
EXAMPLE ::: wave lace > estuary > low tide
Let me tell you a story about a few of my favourite designs.
I love my Mom, and I wanted to make something really special for her 60th birthday (this is the DESIRE part of the equation).
wave lace stitch pattern
Where did I begin? My INSPIRATIONS: my mother has the most beautiful blue eyes, and looks great in blue that brings them out. She is an avid sailor, and loves the ocean, and we have spent some of our best times together out on the water and walking along the beach. So I wanted to use the colour blue and design a lace stitch pattern inspired by the ocean.
Many hours of swatching later, I had developed an organic and original lace stitch pattern, which (with the help of my fav lace yarn, SweetGeorgia Cashsilk Lace), became a beautiful lace scarf.
There was a simplicity to the wave lace scarf, but I decided I wanted to re-use the lace stitch pattern in a larger scale, more complex piece. Starting with the structure and logic of the little lace pattern, I created a larger-scale, more detailed lace stitch pattern, and combined the two stitch patterns to make the Estuary Shawl (free pattern, perfect for challenging your lace skills).
Low Tide Cardigan
While creating these two knits, I noticed that the wave lace pattern had a strong bias to it; and I held it up to my body, and imagined how, as a bodice, it would make a really great v-neck neckline. And so I asked myself “what if this were the bodice of a swoopy, lacy, lightweight cardigan?”.
We were working on Pacific Knits at the time, and I was feeling nostalgic for the beautiful beaches and ocean scenes of my childhood home on Vancouver Island. These inspirations and a desire to challenge myself lead to the design of the Low Tide cardigan; which I knit in a silvery grey reminiscent of the graphic wave patterns left in the sand at low tide.
What does the design process LOOK like?
Once you have your INSPIRATION plus your DESIRE, you can generate a BIG IDEA. When the big idea strikes (often in the shower, or just as you are drifting off to sleep), you must capture it by getting it down on a bit of paper… a sticky note, an index card, a napkin… it doesn’t matter, but don’t let it get away!
BIG IDEA in place, the development of the design is all about details! Picking a yarn (if you haven’t already), making swatches, determining the details that will support the ‘big idea’, the technical process of writing the pattern, calculating stitch counts for an extensive set of sizes (this is called ‘grading’ the pattern), testing the pattern, and getting it professionally edited and photographed!
Stay tuned for our upcoming post about the nitty gritty specifics of the pattern development process – we’ll be giving you a behind-the-scenes peek at what our job really entails.
What inspires YOU? What would YOU like to create?
Everyone, even those who deny their creativity, have the capacity to find beauty and inspiration in the world. What do you find beautiful? If you felt like you have the skills and ability, what would you like to create?
A few of Emily’s favourite Tin Can Knits designs :::
Penny: A collaboration | Tin Can Knits
June 20, 2019 @ 8:00 am
[…] some begin with a baby-sized knit, and others with a bit of text describing the idea in words. Read more on design origins here. In some cases, the originator of the idea will take it and run with it, but sometimes it takes […]
Anthology : a free pattern tailor-made for swatching | Tin Can Knits
October 26, 2018 @ 2:04 pm
[…] When thinking about colour palette, I may have seen a beautiful scarf out on the street, and be inspired to explore a similar colour combination. Often I’m inspired by a beautiful photo I took or found, and pull a colour combination or motif out of there. More on my design process here. […]
How our patterns get made | Tin Can Knits
August 20, 2015 @ 5:56 am
[…] shower together… minds out of the gutter please!). We’ve got a great post about design as the intersection of inspiration + desire. We usually make a little sketch, talk it over with the other person and then it’s time for […]
Time for Another Rainbow! | Tin Can Knits
February 5, 2015 @ 4:26 am
[…] DESIGN = Inspiration + Desire […]
Jane Richmond – modern, pretty, minimalist knits | Tin Can Knits
March 14, 2014 @ 2:01 pm
[…] my recent post about my own design process, I asked Jane about her work as a knit designer, and you can read a bit about her story […]
Leethal Knits – Choose-Your-Own Colourful Adventure | Tin Can Knits
March 7, 2014 @ 2:32 pm
[…] my recent post about my own design process (as it applies to knitting patterns, and my own work), I asked Lee what she thought ~ here is a […]
February 28, 2014 @ 1:32 am
Thanks for a wonderful and inspiring post. I do not (yet) design my own, but looking at your process, it is inspiring to make me look at things around me from a different point.
February 21, 2014 @ 11:23 am
What great insight into your design process! I love that Estuary shawl.
February 20, 2014 @ 5:54 pm
The women in my life inspire me, so this year my goal is to design a unique pair of socks for my mom, my sister, and my best running buddies. I have never designed anything before, but if I don’t try, I never will.
February 27, 2014 @ 6:44 am
What a lovely design plan! Socks are a great ‘blank canvas’ for design, because you can add stitch patterns to the cuff and top of foot, without too much bother. An absolutely excellent design reference for socks is Sock Innovation by Cookie A. It covers every detail of sock design in a clear, user friendly way, I highly recommend it! Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes! ~ Emily
February 28, 2014 @ 4:50 pm
Thanks, and thanks for the tip.