Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Anatomy of a Sweater Pattern: Inspiration

Welcome to a new series on how I write patterns! I'm going to go through the steps that I took to write a sweater pattern. This is Part 1: Inspiration.

Something I didn't anticipate about New York that I probably should've: the winters are cold. So cold. So I've been getting a lot of use out of the Talula pullover I finished just after we moved here:

It's the first jumper I've made, and I love it. But there are only so many times I can wear it in a week without it becoming conspicuous, so I decided I needed a new one. Enter the Necessity Jumper.

I came up with the name for a couple of reasons. First off, I made it out of necessity because, well, I'm cold. Secondly, the amount of yarn I have in my apartment is reaching breaking point so I really need to use some up. Lastly, some of the design choices were made because I needed to save my sanity and not knit an entire jumper's worth of stockinette.

I made a Necessity Jumper board on Pinterest with all of the images I used for inspiration. But if you'd like more of an explanation, read on!

First off, a disclaimer: this isn't meant to be a step-by-step on how to make design decisions for a pattern. I'm hoping more to show you how vague ideas, very real constraints and a lot of Googling and browsing can form into a solid plan for a pattern.

So, what were these constraints? First off, I decided to make my jumper out of what's in my stash instead of buying anything new. The only yarn I had jumper-quantities of was the Petite Wool from We Are Knitters. The catch? I didn't have enough in one colour. The two colours that went together the best were Taupe and Pearl Gray.

Cue lots of Googling for variations of "two toned gray sweater". The two main decisions I needed to make were whether I wanted the dark grey or the light grey on top, and how exactly I wanted the colour change to happen. I ended up staring at these photos as my main inspiration, and eventually decided I wanted to go dark on top.

Cassandra Twotone Cashmere SweaterCalvin Klein Two Tone Turtleneck Sweater

Anvil Unisex Two Tone Raglan T-Shirt

I wanted to use The Magic, Custom-Fit Raglan Sweater as a basis for the jumper. I picked it since I felt like winging this instead of writing the pattern out first, which meant I needed something I could try on and adjust as I went. Using a top-down pattern like this one lets you do that. Also, it's a recipe style pattern which means you can make it with any yarn, and it gives you the minimum amount of instructions needed to get the shape right so you can add whatever customisations you want. If you check out the pattern page you can see the vast array of sweaters in different designs that people have made from it.

Raglan is a type of sleeve - it's the style in the last photo above where the sleeves start at your collarbone and run diagonally down to the underarm. Picking the pattern made the decision about where to change colours easier. I didn't really want the colours to change mid-sleeve (like in the first two photos), and I wasn't a fan of it changing along the raglan diagonals (like in the last photo). But the way the pattern I was using works meant that I could knit the sleeves and chest all in one colour and just change it around the line where the arm holes start.

The Magic Sweater pattern comes with a crew neck by default, but I didn't want that. I browsed through the jumper patterns from We Are Knitters, and decided that I really liked the straight boat neck from the Buttercream Sweater, but it wouldn't work since I was planning on using mostly stockinette stitch and it would curl. I ended up deciding that ribbing on a boat neck would look fine, a la the Classic Sweater. Thankfully, the Magic Sweater pattern comes with some hints on how to alter the neckline.

The Buttercream SweaterThe Classic Sweater

The last detail I decided on was to save my sanity. I wanted to make a jumper that was mostly stockinette so it would knit up quickly, but that would've bored me out of my mind. I'd seen some gorgeous images of the Gesture Sweater from We Are Knitters on Instagram, so I decided to do a similar cable pattern down the sides of the sleeves.

That's it! Stay tuned for Part Two, where I get to the fun bit: the actual knitting. Also featuring some silly progress selfies. You can sign up for my mailing list on the right to make sure you don't miss it!