Design Diary: Learning Knitwear Design with Craftsy

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When I began Make Ready I thought it would be the place where I documented my attempts at  knitwear design. And for a short time, it served that function. I wrote about swatching (or not swatching) before diving into the knitting part of my first design project, and I extolled the virtues of garter stitch. It seemed like I was headed down the right path.


I even completed a second design project – a wooly little lace-bibbed dress that momentarily fed my resolve to create a knitting pattern from start to finish. Eighteen months later and that knitting pattern has yet to materialize.  Somewhere between plotting numbers and pouring over reviews of knitting pattern charting software I stopped moving forward.  Here I’ve sat ever since, ogling the top 20 in Ravelry’s “Hot Right Now” list with envy.

Why the paralysis? For starters, I really didn’t know how to move forward. It’s one thing to usher a concept into becoming a single garment. Translating that process into schematics and stitch counts is something else entirely. And that something else mystified me. Add to that the fact that I don’t have to think very hard to come up with excuses to stall (the primary one being the precious little time I actually have to knit). Since Addie’s birth I’ve favored instant gratification knitting and crafting. Churning out a quick hat or jam jar cover gives the illusion that I am getting the most out of my time. Even though these small projects end in a finished object I can admire, they don’t feed my long-term knitting goal to create original pieces and translate them into clear instructions for other knitters.

Only in the past couple of months have I even considered knitting larger projects. And even though my progress is slow, I’m cycling back toward my original knitting love – garments. Just thinking about all the sweaters, tunics, and dresses flying from my needles has me excited about designing again. But instead of diving haphazardly into the process like I did last time, I decided to enroll in a suite of knitwear design and pattern-writing classes on Craftsy, an online platform that offers courses in all kinds of crafty disciplines.

I knew that for me to successfully see a design from concept to pattern, I probably needed a bit of hand-holding, especially when it comes to the math. Yes, even I, the lady who spends my workday hours surrounded by Excel spreadsheets, budget planning documents, and database reports, am afraid of pattern-writing math. I also knew that I didn’t have the time or cash to attend workshops at my local yarn store. In this regard, Craftsy is kind of perfect. Once you enroll in a class, you get lifetime access to all the video lessons, course worksheets, and other supplementary material. If you have any questions, you can simply ask on the class message board or even at different points during each video lesson, and the instructor (and often, others enrolled in the course) will respond.

Then there’s the matter of cost. I received one of my classes, Shirley Paden’s Handknit Garment Design, for the low, low price of free (a perk of signing up for their Affiliate Program, which, if you are a knitting/sewing/crafty blogger you should do right now) and the other two, Faina Goberstein’s Sizing Knitwear Patterns and Edie Eckman’s How to Say It, I snagged on sale (these happen often on Craftsy). In all, I spent far less than the cost of a single workshop at my local yarn store for three comprehensive classes on knitwear design and pattern drafting. This means I have more money to spend at my LYS on actual yarn.

My plan is to create a pattern from start to finish as I view the classes and soak up all that expert knowledge. Since you must begin at the beginning, I started with Shirley Paden’s class. While some of the information in the first couple of lessons I already kind of knew, I’ve enjoyed seeing how an accomplished designer works through the process. It’s already changed my approach. For one, it made me realize how stingy I am with my swatching. I’m loath to waste much yarn on something that won’t become a finished garment. This may be okay when I’m swatching to check gauge, but seeing the generously sized swatches Paden displayed as she spoke about how they helped her make important design decisions, I realized I’m doing myself a disservice.

I’ve already taken to heart that small bit of advice. For the project I’m designing now (from a written pattern first!) I’ve already created two swatches, and before I’m done, I may create more. Not only that, but I’m in the midst of grading the tunic I wrote about earlier this month and the bibbed baby dress I knit so long ago. My Craftsy classes have played a big role in my burgeoning confidence, and I know that I’ll return to them again and again.

And now for a giveaway! I’ve partnered with Craftsy to give away a class to one of my readers. All you need to do is click on the link below and sign up (or sign in if you’ve already got an account), and you’re entered. The giveaway is open to everyone, and its a perfect opportunity for you to try out a full-length class. Good Luck!

Enter to win a Craftsy class!

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