#WIPWednesday: What Comes Next
Phew! Wednesday already, is it?
Stitches West has come and gone in its usual blur, and in the last week, I’ve launched two sweater patterns out into the world (Summit and Presidio). These sweaters were really special to me—departures and evolutions in various ways of design ideas I’ve been percolating on for a long time—and it was such a thrill to let them flap their wings, and be so warmly received. The show itself was a blast (as always, really), a weekend full of meeting new folks or knitters I’d met online but not in real life, catching up with former students and dear friends, making connections with new yarnmakers and deepening existing relationships. As an independent designer, I work by myself the overwhelming majority of the time, so I really love having the chance to meet up with colleagues, friends, and friends-I-haven’t-met-yet every once in a while, and it was great to do that in such a concentrated burst this weekend.
That said, after admittedly scrambling a little to get two sweater patterns launched in 96 hours while attending a yarn show, I woke up on Tuesday morning and (pre-coffee) texted my long-suffering sample knitter Jenn and said something along the lines of “wait, what am I supposed to be working on next?” Once I, you know, actually woke up, I remembered that the answer was (a) a bunch of e-mails and (b) my favorite part of the design process: dreaming up new projects.
Because of the ebb and flow of both the third party publication cycle and my own process, I tend to end up with a couple of concentrated times of year when I have no imminent sample-knitting deadlines on my calendar, and have a chance to spend focused time generating new ideas, trying new yarns, and attempting to block out the next few months of work. At the moment, I’ve got a few deadlines for ideas I was asked to pitch to third parties for Fall 2019, in addition to trying to finalize the concepts and direction for the next six to nine months of self-published patterns. This includes one or two spring/summer sweaters, a few neck accessories, and sweaters for the start of fall (yay!). I’m still in the early stages of conceptualizing these projects, spending time looking for inspiration in the ready-to-wear universe and in the natural environment, sketching a ton, and swatching with new-to-me yarns.
In trying to explain what I do to folks who have no frame of reference for knitwear design or yarn or the fiber-arts universe, I often (in an attempt at cheek) explain that knitwear design is kind of the process of making fashion out of sheep, math, and a little bit of materials science. There’s a lot to stitch pattern selection and to the specifics of how we use texture to create fabrics, and to the specific techniques we use to shape pieces of fabric and actually construct sweaters, and how we grade them, but that all comes relatively late in the process. My most successful garments happen when I don’t start with those details, but start with the “fashion” side of the equation. What kinds of clothes do I want to make and wear? What do I want in my wardrobe for next season? What silhouettes resonate with me? As I’ve told many knitter friends, and nearly all my students, you have to want to wear the thing to make it make any sense to [design and] make the thing. This seems like a super obvious point, and yet this “why” often gets obscured when we get distracted by the “how” of making something, but I promise you, “do I want to wear it” is a more fundamental question than “do I want to knit it.” Thinking of myself as a fashion designer (though I’ll own that that phrase feels ridiculous to say out loud) with a particular set of technical tools, rather than a kind of “advanced knitter” (which I’m not, really) who can roll her own from scratch, and taking the time to really think of the problem from the perspective of the end garment first has helped both my design work and my happiness with my own FOs. So, I’m trying to make sure that as I think about this next set of projects, I take the time to do that stage of the process right. If I have a real answer to Tim Gunn’s age-old Project Runway question of “who is that girl, and where is she going in those clothes?”, I’m usually much happier with the result once I start seaming the sweaters together.
What are you working on this week?