Sunday, 20 April 2008

Design Your Own Knits

As you know, I've been having a go at my own knitting designs for the past few months. I guess knitters have always adapted and altered patterns to some extent but there can still be an element of following slavishly someone else's ideas. Going beyond patterns and exploring my own creativity is a big part of how I want to explore knitting today. My impression is that this is also part of the zeitgeist of the resurgence of knitting in the modern era. So I've been really pleased this week to acquire a copy of Debbie Abrahams' long-awaited book Design Your Own Knits.
Although there have been some US publications on this topic and also Alison Ellen's excellent books, this is the first UK publication to offer a really straightforward introduction to knitting design. The book is clear and well laid out, moving from creative inspiration to putting ideas onto paper, then knitting swatches and mapping out a design project for completion. There is advice on using proportional graph paper and on how to use different yarns and needle sizes for particular projects and to get the look you want. I particularly like the fact that the book covers bags, cushions, hats and socks as well as sweaters and cardigans. The sections on calculating yarn quantities and writing up patterns are very useful, especially if you want to be able to make your designs available to other knitters. One obvious omission is how to work out the number of stitches to be picked up for the front bands of a cardigan, and the font size, which varies a lot, seems unecessarily small in some cases. Overall, though, this is a generous book, building on the design courses Debbie runs around the country, and offering a professional's guidance to the amateur knitter who wants to express her or his own creativity.
On the actual knitting front I have made some progress on my throw, moving from brown to yellow on the big piece and, because it is getting a bit unwieldy to carry about with me, starting a smaller side panel in Irish moss stitch. I've not done any spinning: this is becoming a hurdle to be overcome. Although I've booked another lesson with Carole next month, there's a wider question about commitment to learning to spin that I need to think about.
Meanwhile I've finished off the socks I was knitting for my sister-in-law's birthday on Wednesday.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Nurturing the Artist Within

Not a whole lot to report on the knitting front this time, as I'm working on the main part of my throw. This is the workhorse bit of the project - solid knitting of ball by ball across 200 stitches on circular needles. There's something satisfying about this; I'm trying to do at least 1000 stitches a day. It's a good thing that it's an interesting stitch pattern, though, otherwise it might feel quite boring. I'm really pleased with the look of this diagonal moss stitch, which I adapted from a pattern in Knitting magazine.

Apart from this I've knitted a pair of socks in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and have been browsing a lot of books and magazines for other ideas. I'm particularly enjoying a book called Design, A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists & Craftspeople by Steven Aimone (Lark Books). I highly recommend it for anyone involved in any kind of artistic endeavour, from painting to photography, pottery to patchwork. It's a book that works on several levels, whether browsing the wonderful illustrations for ideas and inspiration, reading the text on different aspects of design, or working through the exercises to develop your own skills and technique. Another book I've discovered recently is Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered by Quentin Blake and John Cassidy (Klutz). Blake is one of my artistic heroes anyway, and this is a terrific book for anyone who wants to draw but thinks they can't, or who, like me, had their early artistic efforts ridiculed in childhood. Here are my efforts at rain and umbrellas...