How a design is born

I know when I first thought about going into designing full time, I wondered how designers came up with such fabulous designs. In my career, designs have come from all different types of inspiration. Sometimes I fall in love with a stitch pattern, sometimes with the yarn, and sometimes I see something I really want to replicate.

Last night saw the beginnings of a new design. I thought I’d share with you how that came about.

A few weeks ago I fell in love with a skein of Misti Alpaca handpainted lace yarn. Why yes, it does have some purple in it, why do you ask? It also has some really neat shades of grey, cream, and blue. I love it.

It promptly came home with me and sat on a shelf where I could see it every day. When my projects would get to the happy point where my brain can disconnect I’d stare at that skein of yarn. I dreamed of something light, airy and lacy. I wanted to be sure to use every bit of the skein, so it had to be something big.

Yesterday I took my day off to recharge. Part of that day was spent at my LYS. Most of that day was spent on the bus to get there and back, but I was able to get a lot of work done on a gift I need to finish. But while there at the shop, I wandered, touched yarn, and dreamed. I also adopted two lonely skeins of yarn. Both were alpaca and one was lace weight.

When I got home, I felt it was time to ball up all three skeins of yarn. Now, for those who don’t know, this involves me clearing my work table (already done over the weekend), setting up my big wooden umbrella swift (that holds the skein stretched out) and my yarn winder (which is what puts the yarn into a nice center pull ball). It also usually involves letting the family know I’m about to start winding because otherwise my dad starts searching through the house to find out what that squeaky noise is that he hears.

Anyway, I wound all three skeins down into balls and watched as the colors of the Misti Alpaca yarn blended and sped past me. I finally saw what I wanted and grabbed the closest stitch dictionary to see if it had what I was looking for. And I found it. Actually, I had found it a few months ago and flagged it as a stitch I wanted to do something with.

Swatching commenced immediately. The stitch was going to be perfect, but…I needed to shape it a bit. I stopped swatching with the lace and grabbed my graph paper. I then spent the next two hours sketching the stitch pattern (using standard crochet symbols) to see where I could decrease it down. I’m still not done with that part.

Once I get it sketched out, I will then grab some smooth yarn and make sure I’m correct in how I see the stitch. That may take me another few hours (although knowing me, likely a day). Once I know I’ve got the stitch pattern right, I’ll make another swatch to determine the hook size I want to use. I’ll take the time to block this swatch to make sure it will look just like I see it in my head when I’m done. This part will take another full day knowing me. I’ll then figure out how big I want to make the item, do the math, and write out the instructions. Again, this will take another day. So, we’re now at three to four days from now (keeping in mind that I have boxes of yarn coming to me for new projects with deadlines, so I may not get to work straight through on this one). Once all that is done, then I can pick up the actual yarn and start making the final project.

Since the bulk of my day is taken up with deadline work (since it pays the bills), I often have to squeeze my own design work into small bits of time. Today I’ll take a cowl I’m working on for my line to the clinic for while I wait for my dad’s appointment. So what may only take me a week to make if I were working on it all day, may now take me a few weeks or more to get finished. Sometimes, though, if I really love the pattern and the yarn, I’ll stay up and use my non-work crochet time to get it finished.

Yes, I have work and non-work crochet times. Although sometimes, like I said, there is design work that gets done during the non-work crochet times. Typically, my work crochet time is spent doing designs that are on deadline and need to be worked on quickly (by the way, my deadlines range from two weeks to a month out from when I get the yarn). My work day runs from around 8:00-8:30am to 5:30pm when I stop for dinner with the family (lunch is a 15-20 minute stop to eat while I’m checking emails). Typically I get back to work around 6:00pm and work until around 7:30 or 8:00pm. Some nights, depending on the deadline (or how busy I was with family stuff during the day), I’ll work until 10:00pm. So, as you can see, there isn’t always time for non-work crochet stuff.

I’m hoping, though, that with this lace design I can utilize the time I have right now between projects to get a good push towards starting the crochet portion. Birthing designs is difficult and very time consuming. I haven’t even started discussing what has to be done once the prototype is made. That’s a whole other set of time consuming steps. More on that when we get there with this one.