Monday, May 11, 2015

Three Fates Design Challenge Part I: Swatching


What ho, friends! Is it time for another Design Challenge with the lovely Stariel, knitter, designer, and sock knitter extraordinaire? I do believe it is!

A while ago, we chatted about the idea of doing a similar design project to our Rastita Design Challenge, and although it got waylaid by ballgowns and the usual life stuff, we connected recently and made a game plan for the new challenge.

I really enjoy Ariel's work as a designer, and she's such a fun, inspiring and engaging collaborator! It was really interesting to see our processes in parallel throughout the Rastita challenge; although we both started with similar materials, our creative brains and resulting workflows are very different, which takes us each down different and wonderful paths. I'm really excited to start working on this new project!

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For this challenge, we'll be working with Aquae Fingering, a luminous single-ply with amazing yardage, dyed by Stephania of Three Fates Yarns - who is not only a talented fiber artist, but also an Oberlin alum and friend. I'm using the colorways Netarts (turquoise) and Mt St Helens (coral), a bright and summery combination that cheers me up every time I look at it.

So for the first post of the new challenge, we wanted to change it up a bit from last time. I've already covered my conceptualization process - which includes both concept development and sketching - so instead I wanted to talk a little bit about swatching and its role in my design process.

(I can practically hear the chorus of groans and sighs from here, but it will be fun, I swear!)


It's a funny thing, because as a knitter, I'm not much of a swatcher. I've come to realize that I am a lazy, lazy maker, which often makes me resistant to swatching for my usual projects; however, this is an advantage as a designer, as I'm always looking for simple, elegant solutions to complex problems - and I'd rather do it on a tiny swatch than on a whole project, because, y'know, lazy.

As a homeschooled kid, I learned how to be fastidious in this kind of process from my mom, a mathematician and teacher; from my dad the engineer, I learned how to make an educated guess, then glue stuff to other stuff and see what stuck. Both practices are extremely useful in swatching (and design in general): through fastidiousness, I'm able to focus on and change small details that can really kick a design up a notch; through educated guesses coupled with seat-of-the-pants experimentation, I'm able to create a yarn 'sketch', then let the materials express themselves as I work.

Because of this, sometimes my swatches end up... well... really, really ugly. And that's something I've had to work very hard to embrace. As a perfectionist, it's easy to become paralyzed by imperfections right at the beginning of your process, and to judge work before it's fully realized. And so, I've had to learn how to not only push through the imperfect part of the process, but also to really sit with it: to reach through the anxiety and discomfort of creating something objectively bad, to listen instead for the things that the work is trying to teach me.

It's a constant challenge, and one that I'm only just starting to get a firm hold on.

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So what of this design? Well, this swatch was actually surprisingly easy to execute, and done a pretty long time ago. I was originally planning to have this piece - a lace-edged, striped cowl - be completely reversible, with different stripe combinations on the right and wrong sides of the cowl. The lace edge pattern is almost perfectly reversible by virtue of its construction, and I thought it was a cool element to take advantage of.

And although I still love this idea and might explore it later, I realized after working this swatch that the doubled fabric would not give the piece the lightness and fluidity that I wanted so much - even though it does look cool. It's a prime example of swatching as a rich source of information, as well as the importance of understanding the character of your materials.

And so, with slightly less muttering and cursing under my breath than usual, I swatch on.

For Ariel's take on swatching, take a gander at her post on the subject over here. And stay tuned: we will be posting about this challenge again in a few weeks, and there is the sweet, sweet promise of a giveaway at the end.

Happy Monday, friends... and happy swatching!

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