Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rastita Design Challenge Part I: Conceptualizing

For Part I of the Rastita Design Challenge, I wanted to talk a little bit about my design process. ETA: You can check out Ariel's post here!

This process, whether in knitwear or apparel design, can be very different for each person. Some people can draw designs out of thin air; others work with color; others take inspiration from physical objects. For me, inspiration is a fickle beast. It tends to hit at completely arbitrary times, usually as a fuzzy image that appears in my brain. It can be brought into being by any of the previous listed means, or by no means at all, like when you have a brilliant idea right before falling asleep. It's sorta spooky, because it can be so strong and sudden, and yet cannot be repeated or summoned.

The nitty gritty details of how the design comes into being can be similarly complicated. For example, when I was working on the show, I had a hell of a time figuring out how this dress fit together; but, for some reason I knew - even in the preliminary design process - that it had to have a seam down the center front on the understructure. The seam is clearly there in my flat sketch, and several of my teachers asked me about it - to which I had absolutely no rational answer. It just felt right. And, as it turned out, that seam ended up being tremendously helpful when draping and hand-sewing the front detail. So, a certain level of the design process can and does come from instinct.

On the other hand, sometimes you have to make choices that change a technical aspect of the pattern, but preserve the intention of the design. There are darts in that dress for fit, and fewer gathers on the shoulder straps, because the physical realities of the fabric and fit required it. These changes are usually things that I don't realize until I'm actually working with the material. Although conceptually adept people might be able to visualize these kinds of problems before they arise, I'm not one of them: I don't truly understand something until I am looking straight at it, and can turn it over and consider it 3-dimensionally.

And even though shawls and dresses are very different, I find that these things hold true for me in the design process for knitting as well.

So how did I actually start?

First, I had one of those random flashes of inspiration while talking to Ariel about the design project. I knew that I wanted a large shawl with a pink edging and blue body. I knew I wanted some stripey elements, and some textural elements. So I went home and sketched, tried casting on top-down and found out that it needed to be bottom-up, made a gauge swatch, and crunched some numbers. I cast on and knit until I had the border I had settled on, crunched some more numbers, drew up the flat sketch, and used a grid to decide on the proportions of the shawl - which ended up being different than my initial pencil sketch. From the flat sketch, I filled in all of the important design elements, added color, and used it to to decide how many rows of contrast color that I wanted to do.

In general, I find that settling on a design is the hardest part. The inspiration flashes I get are often so fuzzy that it's hard to discern what they are - my brain is just like, "I'll guess I'll know it when I see it...have fun, sucker!" So having Illustrator is awesome for me; I can play with color combinations, proportions, and textures without having to re-draw anything. Once I have the general picture figured out, crunching numbers and trying things out are time-consuming, but not too difficult.

So this is what I have so far. I love it - the colors, the yarn, everything. It's a delight to knit; it's not very difficult except for the cast-on; it's exactly what I envisioned.

The one problem?

I was apparently so excited that I forgot a yarn-over. Very early on. Which means ripping out dozens of rows of 300+ stitches. But I can't leave it, because I am that ridiculous. And honestly, this project is so fun that I don't even mind.

Until next time!