Friday, October 26, 2007

Few words about designing

Every design process is different.

This is how it was with the Nutcracker, even though it is not yet completed and is still open to some changes. I have done the first one of the sleeves and yet am not sure about the collar. But let me make this clear first, I'm not a designer and highly respect anyone having the right to use that word - but since I do not know a less professional alternative for the word, I'll use it here.

Sometimes a design grows around a new technique I want to try out. Sometimes I come up with a design that has been cooking up in my mind for sometime and has been waiting for the right moment to pop up. The design is composed of various things I have been observing: the colours of the surroundings, the images on the blogs, magazines and TV just to name a few. Then it is just a matter of drawing it and knitting after the drawing. But there are times when there is more to it, more work and more thought.

I have done only a few commissioned works but have established myself some kind of a working/designing culture. So this is not the very first time. Even though I don’t usually document my knitting process this way I thought about doing it for fun and also to keep myself motivated until the very end or the last stitch so to speak… and to have something to blog about. Big solitary sweaters are known to be less inspiring to blog about.

What you read here now is not intended to be any kind of a lesson – and I have not been preparing this presentation for days, this is just one blog entry for your amusement. When I look back on any of my knits (or other crafts, some people may call it art, but I myself think of me as a craftsman, but that again is another issue) I can trace back and see from where the inspiration came.

My inspiration mostly is the nature. It outlines my colour choices, my mood changes like the world outside my windows. The first snow fell October 14th and nothing boosts sweater knitting like cold weather.

The first snow is a miracle.The same as when in the spring the lake is freed from the ice. After the first snow, the world is once again clean and pure and quiet. It calms me down.

And then, there is no denying, my mind wanders off to Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas when all the hustle and bustle has not yet started is the best part of it. All the secrets and fairytales and the smells of cooking are soon here, but not quite yet.

Because genious BrooklynTweed had planted in my brain the thought of knitting Adult Tomten Jacket, I had plenty of grey and a little bit of red to knit this new season. But it was not yet my time to knit ATJ and I had to search for something else. Then I found my theme by having to listen to the music of the Nutcracker.

I researched my theme a bit. Read the story again and printed out few nice nutcracker pictures I could find from the internet and used them for ideas. (The theme is just there to focus on something and to get me going. Sometimes I might not use the theme for anything else but as a starting point.)

I set myself a frame inside of what I was going to work. I wanted to knit another long sweater, long and slender sleeves and raglan shaping. I aimed for a usable everyday garment, possibly to myself.
Here are the blank frames that I started to fill. As you can see there is the basic shape as seen from the front and the back. I use these kind of templates a lot when I’m designing something to wear. This is the place where I dream, if I was living in another place or in another time… or whatever. And keep dreaming until I find something.

Not the whole garment but something. One little detail I can start building to. If I was doing a sweater on a commission (which I don't do) I would need to work out every little detail now but since I’m doing this for myself I leave room for playing later on. The ability to make changes until the very end is very inspiring and the fuel that keeps me knitting to the last stitch.

I have some guidelines that I try to follow, a sort of design philosophy of my own but no matter how well I try to think in advance and sort out the likes and dislikes in my mind, all the designs do not come out perfectly. And if you look at the works of good designers, real ones, there are some designs that are beautiful and some that are not that beautiful and some that are plain bad. I have burnt my wings many times. And learnt a lot.

When I have the design worked out (more or less), then is the time for swatching and establishing gauge and all that pain. While designing is mostly enjoyable, the swatching and stuff is often frustrating and frantic. I have lots (and I mean lots) of needles involved and lying here and there, I hardly ever finish my swatches and they occupy the needles until I get around to tossing them away when I need the needles for something else… talk about a mess. I should start collecting the different swatches with good notes for later use, but for that I would need discipline and at this stage of the process, I lack discipline.

Usually I draw and glue and write down stuff into my notebooks, this time I'm hoping to put together a portfolio but I'm having doubts. When the Nutcracker is done, all my interest in it vanishes and I am most likely going to be occupied elsewhere. If I on the other hand should get stuck in between area of two projects, then there might be a chance to finish the portfolio...

And to tell the whole truth, my sock mojo keeps escaping. I really don't know what to do with it. So I'll be knitting the Nutcracker. Finishing the second sleeve and hopefully coming up with an idea for the collar. Anyway I'll knit something that can be called collar.

Enjoy your weekend and enjoy your wool!


  1. marjorie16:12

    There are so many similarities between your preparation for a project, and mine--just different materials. I too am inspired by what I see, what the weather is doing, etc. And there is lots of drawing and doodling. And studying what other people have done. That is the background part, the prep time that people don't see in the finished product. But for the creator, there is not only the finished sweater, or socks, or painting, but there is always new knowlege gained from the journey. And a desire to continue learning. Good luck with your beautiful sweater!

  2. Thank you for sharing your designing process. You're so right about cold weather boosting sweater desire. I've followed your lead and keep a notebook near by to keep inspirations organized and handy. I'll enjoy watching as your sweater grows.

  3. This is so delightful, reading of your processes in design, absolutely. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Love reading your design progress :)

    Have agreat weekend!!

  5. Thank you so much for such an enlightening post! I so appreciate hearing about your process!

  6. Thank you - I love how you gather your ideas and I like the fact you can change as you go along! The term "burnt wings" - I am going to use that, if you don't mind.
    Thanks for the art - I forget the little dog's name, but she seems to be catching little 'snowballs' on her nose and lining them up on the grass! The first snow is always special!

  7. You are a designer and you can call yourself such. If you get paid to design, then you are a professional designer.

    The term is not a lofty title requiring some sort of certification.

  8. I'm enchanted by the idea of making a long sweater like Nocturne or Nutcracker. I'm looking for patterns that cold easily be adapted to longer length, then I'll experiment and measure (probably 1000 times!) to be sure I get the right hem length and waist reductions.

    Reading about your design process is inspiring. The side panels on Nutcracker are the perfect element there.

  9. Rachel H20:44

    Thank you for sharing your design process with us. I don't think I'll every actually design a sweater of my own, but your process is inspiring me in other ways. Very cool.

  10. thank you for writing about your design process, I teach on the final year of a fashion design course and what you spoke of - beginning with some research, both visual and written and moving to a design space with parameters is pretty much what we encourage our students to do - with lots and lots of sampling, parts and wholes,

  11. What a fascinating look into the mind of a designer. Yes, you are a designer (one who designs). I love to know where inspiration comes from. It's cool to see and try to follow the path from thought to object.

  12. yay! we have drawing again and lessons in finnish; i was missing those!

  13. Nicki13:31

    I loved reading about your process. I've just started knitting sweaters with yarns that weren't called for in the pattern and some changes made as well. I felt like I had wasted a huge amount of time knitting swatches. It's so hard to be held back by tenison details went you just want to create!!
    I also love your drawings, I feel so drawn into them. I could imagine Tina sitting there contemplating the world. Beautiful

  14. I also loved reading about your design process. You are so inspiring. The sweater will be great, you have your own special touch.

  15. Sharon G18:37

    I liked reading about your creative process. I bought an Elizabeth Zimmerman book in large part because of her drawings in it. I'm sure you have inspired many people from your blog. I know I wiped the dust off my drawing table today.

  16. Det var intressant att läsa om hur du gör. Jag stickar ofta utan mönster, men jag kan inte rita så jag planerar allt i huvudet, dvs hur plagget skall se ut, vilka problem det blir och vad jag gör då. Det roliga kommer när jag sätter mig med penna och papper, efter att ha stickat provlapp, och kan räkna ut hur många maskor och varv det blir.

  17. What a marvelous and inspiring post. Thank you.

  18. Connie02:32

    A good word for you and the way you design might be 'improvisor.' Or perhaps (reminiscent of EZ) 'unventor.' So many people do start as you do--people that are professional designers. Take the TsockTsarina!

    And as so many people have said, merely not earning money from designs doesn't mean you're not a designer!

  19. Anonymous04:46

    Lene, Thank you for giving us a framework to design within.....both in a mental and tactile way. All of a sudden I see the starting point, the middle and the end of an idea turned into a project. I like the idea, too, of only creating for ourselves and our family. There in, lies a lot of freedom and adventure! Have a great week! I look forward to your next post. Jeanie

  20. Really enjoy the peek inside your creative process. We all operate differently, but can learn so much from watching each other work. Reading your blog I have learned to honor the gift and the recipient, to honor the wool, to respect the season, to be open to the change the garment asks for mid-knitting. Thanks very much for sharing.

  21. A wonderful look into the process of thinking about something intensely. Thank you for showing us/writing about the steps involved. It is helpful!

  22. Not only did I love your post for the sharing of your process but I loved your comments and pics regarding the changing of the seasons and what it does to you personally. I have been feeling that way lately and I live in a much more temperate climate than you but it inspired me to look for info on your country and more pictures to get a sense of the land. I know most of us think only snow for something that is "above" the Artic Circle.

  23. I love your picture of the first snow and understand your inspiration by nature. I keep being fascinated by the Finnish language and how it combines words into one. Ensilumi is a fantastic word. Keep knitting!

  24. I can't say anything that hasn't been said here before, exept that everytime I read your blog, my hands start itching to begin to knit something for myself. There is something so peaceful in your photos and your knitting, that even reading your blog relaxes me. I am not a winter person, but maybe your way of thinking (and knitting) helps me get through winter. Thank you.

  25. What an interesting blog. I love knowing how others design. Your design journal sounds like an artform unto itself.