I’ve seen a lot of comments on Facebook recently from people wondering how the actual process of designing and publishing a pattern works. Every designer is different, and each has their own process, so I thought I would share mine with you. Come along on this journey with me as I work through a new design in this series of behind-the-scenes posts.
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Necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s very much true for me. I almost always design to fit a need. Maybe I have a gift giving opportunity coming up, like a birthday or baby shower, and need a gift. Sometimes, I receive some yarn to try out from a yarn company, or in a goodie bag from a show, and I need to make something with it to share. And occasionally, as in this case, I’m answering a direct request. A family member has asked me for a vest for Christmas. A not-too-long, off white, open in the front, no zipper or buttons, vest, with pockets.
The request was pretty specific, but there’s still some room to play. I always start by sketching the general shape. I have pretty horrific drawing skills, so graph paper helps a lot. This usually involves some trial and error and scribbling out as I realize I forgot to include things like…oh…armholes.
Right away I see there are some design elements to play with….What kind of pockets? What am I going to do with the hem? What about the button band? Do I want some contrasting trim around the neckline? How about the armholes? A few rough scribbles tell me I will likely want a 2nd color to play with, to add a little interest. But that’s as far as I want to get into that for right now. If I focus on the details at this point, I’ll never get started. Instead, I keep these questions in my mind for the next few days, and keep an eye out for ideas.
Choosing the Yarn:
Once I’m fairly certain of the general size and how many colors I want, I start looking for yarn. Honestly, this is often one of the most difficult and time consuming steps for me. There are SO many to choose from! Let’s think of weight first: She said she wants it warm – not bulky, but not too light and delicate either. I tend to prefer DK weight for clothing, but I think what she wants is more like worsted weight.
Now the fiber. Alpaca would be warm, but probably too pricey, and also harder to care for. A superwash merino or soft wool blend would be nice and easy, but I’m not sure how she would feel about wool – might be scratchy for her. I think acrylic would be a better call, and I know I can find some that’s super soft.
So it’s settled. A super soft, 100% acrylic (or MAYBE a superwash if I see something I like) and it has to be available in a creamy off-white color plus an accent color – I’m thinking a light beige or taupe. This time the search was fairly easy. Red Heart carries a couple of different yarns that would work well. I’ve used Red Heart Soft, but haven’t tried Soft Touch before…which is softer? I asked my friends online and found a couple people who had used both. They told me they’re very similar, but Soft Touch is slightly lighter weight. So I decided to try it.
Placing the Order:
How much should I order? Estimating is tough, but gets easier with experience. The easiest way I’ve found is to go to Ravelry and search for similar projects in similar yarns. A quick pattern search of adult, women’s vests in worsted yarn (ooh there are some pretty ones!) tells me I’ll probably need somewhere right around 1000 yds. Maybe a little less, but this yarn has a dye lot so it’s better to be on the safe side. So that’s 4 skeins of Cream, plus 1 in Camel, and I’m good to go!
I placed the order on 10/25 and received it on 10/31. It’s luscious and just what I wanted – sooooooo soft! I’m looking forward to working with it, but I had also ordered yarn for a more urgent project, so this one had to wait a while. That’s ok though, more time to think about trims and textures and details!