Knitting, crafting, cooking, and motherhood… trying to do it all!

Posts tagged ‘pattern’

Designing a Pattern

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I had a baby in April and I finished the adult sweater for myself soon after.  It’s been almost two months since my last post, but it has been a BUSY two months.  I have a new baby who needs constant attention during the day, three additional boys (all finished with school for the summer), and a husband who was out of the country for part of the time.  To top it all off, I had surgery and spent some time recovering while family helped with the kids.

Nevertheless, hardly a day has gone by that I haven’t picked up my knitting.  In fact, I’ve been working on my largest knitting project to date… designing a pattern that will be tested, edited, and ultimately sold through ravelry.  If all goes well, it should be up by the beginning of August!  This post is to tell a little about my process.

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Before I finished my Right as Rainbow Sweater, I started looking for my next project.  As any mom of young boys knows, sweater vests are one of the most popular dress items.  Hardly a Christmas or Easter goes by that I don’t spend money on sweater vests for my boys.  This seemed like a relatively easy thing to knit, so I started searching the patterns on ravelry.  Unfortunately, the selection I found was somewhat lacking, particularly when I narrowed the fields to children’s sizes and unisex/boys.  There was a selection of vests that came from a publication but were not available for purchase online.  There were a few sloppy looking vests with uneven proportions and armhole ribbing that stuck out from the sweater.  There were girly looking vests.  There were a couple of halfway decent patterns, but there was only one I would even consider buying, and it wasn’t even sized to fit all my boys.  (I’m a sucker for matching/coordinating outfits!)

I was shocked.  How could a clothing item that is so popular in the stores and so (seemingly) easy to knit be so lacking in patterns?  Searches for “socks” or “hats” or “cardigans” give hundreds, if not thousands of results when the field is narrowed to children. My mission became clear– to knit a sweater vest that would look good and allow me to create coordinated looks for all my boys.

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I thought a lot about how to knit exactly what I wanted.  I knew I wanted to incorporate stripes and I knew I wanted it knit in the round with worsted weight yarn.  Some of the patterns I found knit the vest in several pieces and then seamed them together.  Seaming is my LEAST favorite part of knitting, so I wanted to figure out a way to seam the sweater only at the shoulders.  I scoured the internet for similar patterns and checked out books from the local library.  I made notes about elements I liked in various patterns and thought carefully about how to turn those elements into a vest.  Then I began to knit.

Having purchased a variety of colors of the Cascade Sierra yarn, I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of colors.  While the sweater for myself included various shades of blue and gray, I wanted to use different colors for the boys.  I settled on five colors: Tangerine, Deep Turquoise, Aqua, Moth, and Forest Green.  I used Excel to help visualize the pattern I wanted to create.

I began with Jonathan’s sweater, knitting a size 3T guided by a size chart I found online.  The sweater worked up quickly, but I soon realized that my original pattern was not going to look good as a final product.  I tore the rows apart and went to a more basic ABCDE pattern.

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I finished the vest (minus the ribbing) in about a week and tried it on Jonathan.  It fit, but just barely.  I became nervous that it would not fit once I completed the neck ribbing.  I wish this instinct was wrong, but unfortunately it was right.  The vest would not go over his head once the neck ribbing was complete.  Luckily I had not yet started the arm hole ribbing.  I decided to keep the top half intact so I could refer back to it and I cut the vest nearly in half along the thin green line of stitches underneath the neck opening. *sigh*

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This is what goes into designing: lots of trial and error!  I tried again, adding length, more decreases, and using a stretchy bind off.  I was holding my breath as I tried the finished product on my toddler.  It fit!  Not only that, it looked GOOD.  And I had created it.  Completely from scratch and without a pattern.  This was a HUGE moment for me!

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When it comes to crafting, I am a *bit* of a perfectionist.  Okay, I’m just a perfectionist.  And when it comes to putting out a pattern that I’ve created, I want it to be perfect.  Even though I was going to have my pattern tested, I wanted to test it myself and work out all the kinks.  So I made two more versions.  I made a size 6 for my son Adrian and a size 8 for my son Roman.  With each vest, I made little changes to help improve the quality of the pattern.  I used the same colors for all the sweaters, but used them in different band widths and different sequences.  I was surprised and pleased at how different (yet similar) they all turned out.

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After writing up the pattern, my friend Stephanie helped me photograph the boys in their vests.  We got some great shots and I spent a lot of time editing them and putting together a visually appealing pattern to send out for testing.  I sent the pattern to three different people for proofreading and feedback.  Last night I posted the pattern on ravelry to get testers.  I have two testers that have already started and I’m hoping to get 5 more.  I’m so proud of this pattern and proud that I was able to knit such stylish looks for my boys.  It is frustrating to me that so many of the adorable knitting patterns available are only for girls, so I am excited to contribute one for the boys.  Of course, this pattern would also look adorable on a girl.  I will list it as a unisex pattern, but I’m keeping my title: Band of Brothers Sweater Vest.

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Continuing Cables and Creating a Pattern

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you know that at this point I had created a lot of samples and a newborn hat, but nothing for myself.  It was time to change that.  I was on day 4 of learning to knit when I decided to make some fingerless mittens.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted to create a flat panel similar to my sample cable pattern that could be seamed along the side.  While seaming, I would leave a hole for my thumb and I would have a fingerless mitten!  It sounds easy enough, and it actually was.

First, I took the cable sample I had already created.  I planned to use the same needles and yarn type, so this swatch was the perfect gauge.  I held it up against my hand and figured out how many ribs, cables, and garter stitches I would need.  I wanted a rib stitch border along both the top and bottom, approximately 1 inch long.  I also wanted ribs along the side of the cables and, most importantly, I wanted the mitten to be symmetrical.  I knew that making ribs would allow some stretch to the mitten, but I didn’t want it to be too stretchy or too tight.

Here is my first original knit pattern completed:

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And the palm side:

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So, at this point I had created an original pattern.  Did I write up the pattern?  No.  Somewhere in my house I have a notebook with some chicken-scratch notes that allowed me to come up with this creation.  Now that I am hoping to post patterns that I have created on ravelry.com, I need to find that notebook and figure out how to turn it into a pattern that is legible to other knitters.  I plan to make another pair with pictures detailing the complicated steps so that even a beginner could follow the pattern.  Until then, at least my hands are staying warm!

Cable knitting… Easier than it looks!

One of the things that always amazed me about knitting was CABLE knitting.  How in the world do you take two straight needles and some yarn and come up with these BEAUTIFUL patterns that criss and cross and make their way up your sweater, hat, etc.?

The answer is that you will need one additional material (a cable stitch holder*) and that it is really not that hard.  Basically cable knitting is just reversing the order of the stitches every few rows (according to pattern instructions).  It takes a little bit of time to get the hang of things, but then becomes rather easy.  I actually found it fun, looking forward to the rows using the cable needle and I absolutely loved seeing the pattern revealed as I worked through the rows.

Because this blog is not intended to be a tutorial, I would like to share with you my method of how to learn to cable knit.  Put quite simply, search the YouTube videos for “How to knit a cable.”  I watched a few different videos before deciding, “I can do that!”  Then it’s all about practice.

As with any new skill, I think it’s important to start small.  Don’t decide to learn cables by creating a cable knit sweater.  Instead, make a small swatch that will not be used for anything but practice.  Once you have the basic idea, you can branch out to create useful projects.  In my “Learn Knitting” manual, I found a picture of a scarf with a cable down the middle and four ribs on each side.  I didn’t mind practicing some ribbing, but I certainly didn’t need to focus on 8 ribs per row.  My focus was intended to be on the cable.

I studied the pattern carefully, learning the various abbreviations.  Learning to read a knitting pattern can be overwhelming at first, but because I have experience reading crochet patterns I did not find it to be much of a challenge.  One of the tricky things about cable stitches in a pattern is that they can be written with a variety of abbreviations (e.g. 2/2 RC, C4B, etc.).  Luckily, the cable stitch is usually explained in the pattern if you read carefully.  Armed with this information, I created my own mini-pattern that would allow me to practice cable knitting.  The gauge and size does not really matter, unless you are planning to use the sample swatch as a gauge for future projects.  I recommend using cheap yarn (since it’s just practice) and medium size knitting needles (I used size 8).  Be sure your cable stitch holder is thinner than the needles you are using.

   Cable Sample Swatch Pattern

   Special Abbreviation: 4/4 LC: slip next 4 sts to cable needle and hold to front, k4, k4 from        cable stitch holder.

   Cable Sample Swatch: Cast on 26 sts.

   Begin Pattern:

   Row 1 (Right side): K2, p2, k2, p3, k8,p3, k2, p2

   Row 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10: P2, k2, p2, k3, p8, k3, p2, k2, p2

   Row 3: K2, p2, k2; p3, 4/4 LC, p3, k2, p2; k2

   Rows 5, 7, and 9: Repeat Row 1.

Repeat Rows 1-10 until you are comfortable making cables.  Bind off and weave in yarn ends.

This is how my sample looked as I was working on it:

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*The only other thing I should mention about cable knitting is that there are two types of cable stitch holders.  I used the one that looks like a hook.  I felt like it was easy to “hook” the stitches off the needle, leave the hook and stitches hanging in the front of my work without dropping them, and then pick them back up off the other end.  The other type of cable stitch holder looks like a straight line with a dip in the middle.  I have not used it to compare, but I feel like it would make things more complicated and I would be more likely to drop a stitch.  Most likely with a little bit of practice, they would work equally well.  If you have one you prefer, feel free to share in the comments!

One other bit of information that is important for ANY knitter is learning how to count rows or stitches.  If you need help with this, I recommend checking out this webpage: http://blog.lionbrand.com/2013/09/23/the-ups-and-downs-of-knitting-counting-your-rows/  It not only includes basic stitch counting, but teaches you how to use a stitch marker while cable knitting.

Once you’ve conquered the sample, have fun finding your own project to cable knit!