Focus on Design: Designer Inspirations

For the second post in our design inspirations focus week, I've invited another designer to talk about their process. Yesterday, Louise talked about what helps her commit ideas to stitches and in turn write a quality pattern. I've really enjoyed asking the same question of each designer and seeing the different responses I received and the obvious overlaps. It shows that when it comes to process, there's no hard and fast rule but when it comes to good quality pattern writing, some points are worth sticking to. 

Today's featured designer is Lara Neel who is a designer, teacher and blogs at Maths4knitters so knows her way around a well written pattern. She recently produced (with Cooperative Press) the much raved about 'Sock Architecture' workbook that is a gloriously exploration of all types of sock construction and possibility. 

  Checked and Square Socks , Toe Up by Lara Neel

Checked and Square Socks, Toe Up by Lara Neel

What inspires you to design?

"Some of my designs come about when I learn a new technique and find a way to use it. That's been a lot of them, lately! But, I also find inspiration from specific moments in my past, memories and photographs. My phone is invaluable. I take little snapshots with it all of the time. Still other ideas come directly from the yarn I've chosen. There really are moments when yarn kind of "speaks" to you and you feel a design jump right into your mind. 

What key skills have you developed as a designer?
It's important to learn from your mistakes and swatch, swatch, swatch. It's one thing to make something look good on paper, but strange things can happen when wool hits the needles. The true test of any design is to knit it and wear it. 

  Firebird Flight Shawl  by Lara Neel

Any tools you can't live without when you design or pattern write?

I use spreadsheets to keep myself organized, even for a very simple design. It's amazing how hard it can be to untangle things when you haven't properly documented your work. I also MUST write notes as I knit. It does me no good at all if I work up a nice design, then have to do all of the work over again to figure out what I did. Working up a pair of socks is a good test. I'll knit the first one, taking notes the whole time, then actually write up my notes into the best pattern I can write. After I've finished that, I'll let myself cast on for the second sock. If I can follow the pattern, without thinking about it, I know I'm close to being finished. 

When it comes to committing designs to paper, how do you start that process? 

The more writing I can make myself do before I knit something, the better! Ideally, I would just knit from my notes and make a few corrections as I went. That rarely happens because I kind of "think" better with my needles than with my pencil, but I think if I really made myself do it, I would save a lot of time in the long wrong. Knitting is still more fun to me than writing, even though I love writing! A lot of designers are too busy to knit all of the designs they write, but I hope that people starting out in designing will have time to actually knit their designs themselves. 

  Hold Me Close Shawl  by Lara Neel

What advice would you give designers developing their design and pattern writing skills?

Read Kate Atherley's Pattern Writing for Knit Designers. Then, work with a technical editor as early and often as possible. If you are designing for a publication and you have to develop a design in sizes, talk to the technical editor first to work out the general sizing options. It's horrible to have to resize your XS because your idea of an XS is 4 sts larger than your editor's!"


With thanks to Lara for taking her time to share some insights into her design process. If you're inspired to get designing, please do join us for the Designalong

Tomorrow's blog post is all about setting up a small business, useful links and resources and the dreaded word VAT!