This past year offered a very nice opportunity for me to share my experience translating fashion trends into hand-knit projects for discerning knitters. I spoke to the Knitting Guild of the Desert in the Palm Springs area.
I have always been fascinated by the world of fashion. I suspect that may be due to my mother making clothes for me when I was a boy. My favorite was a unique shirt that had a mixture of a boat neck and a traditional collar. Watching her turn fabric into clothes and strings of yarn into sweaters was like watching a magician.
My interest in any form of design led me to a career as an advertising art director and along the way to the art of knitting. Today, I'm equally fascinated by how one can take a fashion concept that is executed with woven or knitted fabric on a sewing machine and turn it into a pattern that can be hand knitted. They are two very different processes.
So, I shared with the Knitting Guild of the Desert as well as the New York and Boston Guilds how I approach this creative challenge. Starting with research I study what the world's leading fashion designers are showing on the couture runways, retailers are selling in their stores and people are wearing on the street.
Ideas also come from studying the yarn manufacturers' seasonal offerings and the color palettes being used by designers around the world. As well as what I encounter in daily life.
My new designs frequently start as concepts. Example: can I design a sweater that looks like a classic dress shirt, but is worked in one piece without seams? Can I create a little knitted top that opens up and turns into a transparent summer tunic when one put it on. The next step is a search for yarns that can bring them to life.
After swatching and playing with drape, silhouette and details, I sit down with a pencil and a calculator. In school I wondered what I would do with math in the real world. Now I know—draft patterns.
Test knitting is great fun. I love the interplay between writing a pattern and testing how it works. Once the editing and refinement are finished I finalize a pattern, grade it for sizing and create my unique row checkers to help knitters enjoy their knitting. Then I return to my previous career, directing the photography, designing how the pattern is presented and conceiving how best to market the new creation.
There are lots of little tricks I have learned over the past 40 plus years as a knitter, and 10 years as a knitwear designer. So, I tell discerning knitters that they can learn little tricks too. Then take any pattern and with a bit of creativity turn it into an expression of their own personal style.