Focus on Design: Designer Inspirations

After some business support ideas and the dread VAT word on yesterday's Design Week blog post, I wanted to share some more designer inspirations. Today's insight comes courtesy of a very clever designer friend of mine, Kari- Helene. 

Kari-Helene is one half of Purl Alpaca Designs, a field-to-fashion company producing 100% pure British alpaca yarn and beautiful patterns to knit them up in. With Tracy, her business partner, Kari-Helene has taken her background in fashion and textiles and created a company that creates really beautiful (and soft) knitting kits, yarns and patterns. 

Adie hat by Kari-Helene

Adie hat by Kari-Helene

What inspires you to design?

"This is a tricky one to answer. It can be so many things! A fabulous costume drama on tv, a great knitted jumper on someone I walk past on the street, a book full of knitting stitches and techniques, but most of all I feel inspired by knitting itself. Time and time again I will sit with my knitting and whilst doing a stitch or a construction something new will pop into my head and I have to draw it in my sketch book before I forget! Sometimes my designing is spontaneous and sometimes it can be a more structured approach where I gather images of a certain era or style and lay them out in front of me before I start drawing. 

What key skills have you developed as a designer?

The most important skill, I think, is the ability to translate a 3D design into a 2D pattern. Thinking about the body as a 3D object and the knitted piece to fit and flatter this can be difficult. Knit can be seen as a very flat way of designing, and traditionally a knitted sweater was just that, a flat front and back with two sleeves. Today knitwear is a lot more sculptural and the possibilities within knitting to create shape and structure without seams are incredibly fun to play with. 

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

Good coffee and dark chocolate. Jokes aside, my calculator is my best friend. Doing a degree in design I never thought I'd be using maths so much in my day to day work. I also need pen, paper and my trusted mac. 

Lacey Scarf by Kai-Helene

Lacey Scarf by Kai-Helene

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

I always doodle. I have a book with me at all times that I fill with ideas that pop into my head at the most random times, on the bus, in a cafe or in the van on the way to a knitting show (not whilst driving of course, Tracy looks after that part!). Then one day when I have the "right feeling" I'll get my pencils and paper out, put all my inspiration in front of me and start drawing. I always draw ten times as many sketches as I end up turning into final designs, but that's just how it goes! 

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

Don't be afraid of giving it a go! Everyone can draw. Many grown ups are scared of drawing as they might not have drawn since they were little, but it's all about giving it a go. Use a template of the human body to draw from. I do. It makes drawing so much quicker when I don't have to think about getting the human shape right every time I sketch a new design. When it comes to pattern writing, a good starting point would be to read other people's patterns. Just make sure the ones you read are good patterns and from a well known source!"

Niobe Jumper by Kari-Helene

Niobe Jumper by Kari-Helene

With thanks to Kari-Helene 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 swatching, listening and responding. If you're enjoying design week here on the blog, you can catch up with the posts here