Step One

I have been working on the first of the two sweaters for Megan’s baby for two days, and I am here to tell you that this design gig is harder than it looks. I’m not a designer, nor do I play one on tv, but I’ve been watching the way that they work for a while now, and I thought I had the hang. I thought about the way that my friend Fiona does stuff, and I figured that if I did it like her, I might have the highest chance of success. Fiona has several steps.

1. Draw a sketch. This is harder than it sounds, because the idea has to come before the sketch.

2. Knit a swatch. Ok. Not a problem. I don’t really care for swatching, but it has its uses, and this is definitely one of them, so I’m on board.

3. Do the math.

4. Write the pattern.

5. Knit the thing.

I have followed those steps, my friends, and I have to tell you…. it’s not working. My process so far seems to be more like this:

1. Draw a sketch.

2. Realize sketch is total crap.

3. Draw new sketch.

4. Admire sketch, realize that sweater in picture is not achievable by way of knitting, no matter what.

5. Draw new sketch.


6. Knit a swatch.

7. Realize swatch is at wrong gauge and resulting fabric is flimsy and a smaller needle will be needed.

8. Realize design is total crap.

9. Knit new swatch at better gauge.


10. Feel that new gauge is better, but design elements are still crap.

11. Reject idea to phone Fiona and grovel for help as possibly humiliating, and likely, premature.

12. Knit new swatch.


13. Feel better. Gauge good, design elements good.

14. Decide that decision to not call Fiona was good.

15. Do math, based on new good gauge and design elements.

16. Realize that working knowledge of size of baby would be good.

17. Do vast amount of research on chest sizes of babies while drinking red wine.

18. Do math, based on research.

19. Realize that math and wine are running counter to each other, and that my math skills are so tenuous that there may be no amount of alcohol that can be consumed during math process.

20. Go to bed.

21. Do math under influence of coffee. Feel pleased with result.

22. Write pattern.

23. Write pattern again.

24. Write pattern that more closely reflects actual human anatomy.

25. Write pattern that could possibly result in sweater.


26. Cast on for sweater using pattern.

27. Write pattern, fixing error found during cast on.

28. Rip out.

29. Cast on.

20. Realize that sweater, despite swatch, math and pattern will be very much too small.

21. Rip out.

22. Write pattern, offering up a thousand curses to the skies that gauge has lied again.

23. Realize that I measured wrong swatch.

34. Write pattern.

35. Cast on.

36. Realize that swatch was right, and pattern is now wrong.

37. Dial half of Fiona’s number, hang up.

38. Write pattern.

39. Cast on.

40. Knit beginning of pattern, feeling very pleased.

41. Realize that cables are pulling in sweater and cast on is wrong.

42. Rip out.

43. Write pattern changing cast on.

44. Cast on with new border.

45. Knit first 10 cm of sweater.

41. Realize that cables are pulling in sweater and cast on is wrong.

42. Rip out.

43. Write pattern changing cast on.

44. Cast on with new border.

45. Knit first 10 cm of sweater.

46. Realize that cables are pulling in sweater and cast on is wrong.

47. Rip out.

48. Write pattern changing cast on.

49. Cast on with new border.

50. Knit first 10 cm of sweater.

51. Realize that cables are pulling in sweater and cast on is wrong.

52. Rip out.

53. Write pattern changing cast on.

54. Cast on with new border.

55. Knit first 10 cm of sweater while wondering if perfectionist tendencies are really all that healthy.

56. Regret decision not to drink wine as it doesn’t seem to matter.

57. Drink wine.

58. Rip out.

59. Sit quietly in the dark resisting urge to eat sweater, just to feel it between my teeth.

60. Fortify self.

61. Meditate, chanting “I am smart enough for this”

63. Locate will to go on.

64. Cast on.

65. Knit first 10 cm.



Post to blog, while gloating despite clear indication that this is a simple sweater and my difficulties with it reflect something rather disappointing about my skills. Wonder if edge is still not right.

67. Remember that Fiona has a first step that I missed: Go to design school.

200 thoughts on “Step One

  1. Design school or not – that sweater looks lovely! I’m sure, in the end, it will be worth the frustration. πŸ™‚

  2. This is why I buy patterns or try to get them for free.
    You do make me laugh a lot. Thanks

  3. Why is it always the first step we’re most likely to skip over? That design school thing….pretty big one too.

  4. Oh, man! I thought that was just me. I’m sort of a “designer-in-training”, with a lot of emphasis on the “training”! Way to persevere! Step #68 – celebrate (with wine?).

  5. Thanks for reminding me why I should gladly pay for patterns that someone else has spent massive amounts of time developing! Keep going…it is going to look great.

  6. The number of times “math” came up in that list is reason number one why I do not design much of anything!
    I must say, though, that yarn is holding up very well given all the frogging.

  7. It’s beautiful–are you starting the blue version first since you concede that she may have a boy or will the lass be treated to a lovely blue sweater, too? I’m always so lucky with my designs-I think the fact that I started designing young when I didn’t realize all that could go wrong actually helps!

  8. Having designed but a few, I fully sympathize. Where did you get your research on baby sizes.
    And will you publish the pattern- because, gosh darn it, you’ve put in some terrific effort and the beginning looks great.
    Just hope boy and girl sweaters will be same pattern.
    And – are you going to give the bluish one to the girl – just because??

  9. I see my decision to never try to design a pattern was clearly the right one – only patterns someone else has done for me. πŸ™‚ You did have some lovely swatches though. Perhaps practice makes perfect?

  10. Hmm – I wonder if you made the first stitch a slip stitch, this would tidy up the edges. Coming from a new knitter this is probably a crap suggestion.
    I think more wine is needed.

  11. LOL!!! If I was designing a sweater like that I would still be in the red wine phase! Go get them Harlot, that sweater looks gorgeous!

  12. It will be beautiful; it will be filled with love.
    But as you are learning, design is a trial and error process. Fiona “just” has more experience than you in designing and following through. If you keep designing knitted items, you too will find that you remember things about construction and keeping tract of swatches that will decrease the steps in the process and make it easier. (I’ve tried my hand at designing crocheted sweaters…. some succeed, some don’t. The same goes for designing beaded necklaces and bracelets. Despite a temptation not to draw the idea first, it really does help.)

  13. Yep, that’s why I don’t design my own projects!! Good for you for sticking with it though! I’m sure the end result will be beautiful, especially with that yarn. And I love the cable!

  14. How interesting, I am going through the same exact phase however, two of my steps are reversed… I do make the calculations before casting on the actual project, however, I do not write the pattern. That I do while making the project. I don’t get the idea of writing the pattern first without making it. Anyways, I must say you have done a great job. I like that sweater a lot. Just out of curiosity, what cast on did you use finally?

  15. I think about writing my own patterns and my brain actually hurts. Real pain. So I commend you. And, honestly, the pattern looks lovely and I’m sure the resulting sweater will be beautiful.
    Thanks for the laugh!

  16. Step # 68
    Call Fiona and bribe her with wine and the considerable Pearl-McPhee charm to design and knit said baby sweater for you.

  17. OMG NEVER in my wildest dreams!! I’d just get a lovely pattern I’d fall in love with and knit it. Good for you for being challenged by this and sticking to it. Good luck, so far so good.

  18. I laughed, I cried, I hid my notebook full of such sketches so that if you show up unannounced you’ll never find it, and I can totally pretend it wasn’t that hard. Then I hid a lot of swatches. Then I got a beer, in hopes that I will forget where I hid the swatches and notebook, and all of that stuff will therefore never have happened.
    Seriously, best explanation of design process ever.

  19. Having recently “designed” a sweater for my husband and ending up ripping out an entire back and sleeve I deeply sympathize.It did turn out well in the end though, as will yours, I’m sure.

  20. 1. You’re a braver woman than I am, Gunga Din.
    2. I’m really glad it’s not me doing this.
    3. I really, really hate doing knitting math, so ditto again on #2.
    4. I’m really loving the cable!
    5. And, it may not be the right thing to do, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for the girl baby.

  21. Its lovely. The subtle bluey greeny shades are delicious. I may knot be a knitter, and only half a sewer, but I’ve found I’d rather work through on my own pattern and some coffee then give up any day. GREAT JOB!

  22. Well, it sure is pretty, after all that work! My design system is as follows: get an idea, find a sweater pattern that is similar to what I am thinking of, and then adjust it to work for my idea. This usually works without too much effort on my part (note: usually…) The pattern you drew looks very interesting – does it have off-center buttons? That is really cool, plus (I am sure) very difficult to figure out pattern-wise. I hope it comes out like you are planning, since it is such a pretty pattern –

  23. It’s beautiful!
    And while you’re in this frame of mind, I have some patterns to sell.
    Or, better yet, pull out the ones I gave you at Borders in Bailey’s Crossroads last Summer/Fall.
    By the way, you have no idea how much you amazed me when I went up to ask for your autograph, and you asked for mine!
    That sweater will be STUNNING!
    Good luck, and if all else fails, more wine always helps.

  24. oh, dear – I am wavering between insanely impressed at your determination to design this sweater and insanely happy that I’m not a member of your household right now, LOL! The amount of cussing that this effort must have involved surely would have offended my virgin ears πŸ˜‰
    (I think you’ve hit on a winner with the last re-working. It’s lovely!)

  25. Write a pattern? Oh. So I guess my “I think I’ll just start knitting and cobble together these 3 different patterns I found into a brand-new pattern as I go” approach is doomed to failure…

  26. I can’t stand that I read your posts at work, struggling to keep my laughing self within basic cubicle etiquette, and then I have no one to show your hilariousness to.
    anyway, your sketches and math look just like mine when I’m working on a quilt, what with the scratched out figures and the new figures written in wide lines on top. (thank goodness quilting doesn’t require gauge!)

  27. Thank you for making me laugh.
    And hey, I KNOW my baby is a girl, so if Megan has a boy, you have a place to send the pink one. And it’s a thoroughly unobjectionable pink, I must say, not being a big pink person myself. Gorgeous colourways.
    And you’ve hit on the reason I haven’t designed anything for the yet-to-be-born child: I like to have an actual person in front of me to measure.

  28. I commend you for taking the time, effort and brain power in taking the designer plunge. That deed exceeds my crainial out-put capabilities. I can’t wait to see the finished product!!

  29. I think your sweater is beautiful. So I am biting my tongue. I will not point out that it could be knit it in a neutral non-genre specific colour or that your design could be much simpler. No, I won’t write any of this. I will simply say well done. Celebrate your success and be gentle with yourself.

  30. I CAN do math, but still don’t have the patience for proper design work. Yup, paying the folks who do this for a living is definitely the way to go for me. It looks beautiful!

  31. HA! LOL! I love it! It’s good to see that writing a knitting pattern is actually difficult… I think reading any variety of knitting blogs has led me to believe that it’s super simple, even though it seems ridiculously difficult to me. More power to you dear… god speed… I’ll be drinking the wine- minus the math. πŸ™‚

  32. It’s taken me months to get the maths done for all the sizes for a baby sailor suit. I keep telling people it’s hard work getting it all sorted – I should just show them your post so they understand! It’s a bit like “how many licks does it take to get to the chewy center of a Tootsie Pop?” Depends on how good your teeth are!

    Sorry for shouting. The sweater is going to be great. Quit beating yourself up.

  34. Well I don’t know who told you that designers just think of something, make a swatch and knit it right up. It doesn’t work that way most of the time. Many swatches to get the proper gauge and pattern, needle changes, design alterations, writing it down many times with many cross outs, testing, retesting and more testing with sometimes major changes. Then it gets done if ya stick with it. Yours looks fab.

  35. well, step 66 likes pretty darn fine! so it just might have been worth all the previous 65 steps! but that initial “design school” step probably would have been good to include first!
    um, will you be sharing this pattern once you have conquered it?

  36. um, that is supposed to say LOOKS pretty darn fine, not LIKES!!!

  37. I can totally relate – I have ripped out a self-designed wash rag 4 times, and still have to do it one more time! A wash rag!! You are doing great!

  38. Come to think of it, I designed a sweater for myself a month ago, and didn’t go through nearly as many steps. That could be why the sleeves are nine inches too long.

  39. I know how hard it is to knit for Babies too. And I have an 11 month old at home who will be a model for cuddling sessions. But I just struggle badly, and so far the only jacket I produced was for a friends newborn girl.
    But then I could learn from your approach.

  40. Perhaps every yarn store could post your efforts as a reminder why patterns cost money? (With your permission of course)

  41. Megan and her baby won’t care if the cast-on is wonky. You can fix it with some crochet if you want later.

  42. I don’t know if it was the wine or the math, but the bullet numbers got repeated with 41 – 45. You’re right – I don’t have a life…

  43. I feel your pain, but just think how much more painful this is for mere mortals like myself who knit at approximately 25% of HPS (harlot-knit-speed)!

  44. It’s lovely. Stop obsessing and just knit. Knitting is more fun than obsessing anyway. Everyone will be thrilled with the little sweater and want the pattern you’ve been writing out I’m sure. Design school can be helpful, but it is in no way a necessity for designing a baby sweater. The primary ingredients for a designer are imagination, chutzpah, and persistence. It takes more chutzpah to become the worlds’ first professional knitting humorist than it does to commit to a design and knit a baby sweater.

  45. And people balk at paying $4.00 to $8.00 for a well-designed pattern! Keep trying and telling yourself: “This will get easier! This will get easier!” Just think of all that “entertainment” you’re getting out of that yarn, LOL!

  46. I’ve just been thinking recently that I”m not cut out to be a knitwear designer, as what I like most about it is the knitting part, not any sort of testing or frogging.
    What you show at the bottom is totally gorgeous– looks like you’re on the right track. I’d surely buy a copy of your pattern.
    (dare I mention that you skipped from step 23 to 34? I think this is proof that this is either completely stressing you out or there is too much wine involved in the process-or both!)

  47. I had a very similar experience with just as many steps and frustrations. And I was only trying to incorporate cables on mittens! (In my defense, I’ve been knitting only a fraction of the time that you all have, and I’ve knit about … two finished objects. That weren’t scarves.) Needless to say, I’m sticking to patterns for a while now!

  48. Ah yes… if anyone ever complains about paying for a pattern, I suggest they attempt to write one. πŸ™‚ Not easy AT ALL! Carry on.

  49. I assure you (as a designery type, but not of sweaters) that this is the way designers work. Trust me, design is all about revisions and refinements. No matter how much you design, every problem is different, and almost always involves revision-refine-rinse-repeat. I read Norah Gaugin’s blog sometimes too, and even she (who is a genius, I think we’d all agree) says that she goes through this.
    keep on purlin’

  50. You’ve said before that you can’t count! With repeated step numbers, I counted 72 steps to that beautiful (handsome?), cabley back (front?). Keep it up and report back tomorrow, please!

  51. Okay–somewhere in my UFO stash are a bunch of things that stalled out around step 23…but now that I read your post, I see what I’m doing wrong… design school… who knew?

  52. Wow! look at how you have, re, refined the design process. School, Schmool, who needs it? It’s clear to me that a plan with 66 steps has to be better than a plan with only 4. And you haven’t even got to the chocolate integration.

  53. Oh hell!! Who cares how many times you have to frog? What would you write about, and how much laughter would we miss if you got it all right the first time? πŸ˜‰
    Please keep going… it’s absolutely lovely so far.

  54. Perhaps one (or more) of those steps should have been “Pray to Nyame that this sweater will work”?

  55. Too much wine. After #29 you lost your ability to count for a while there…
    The sweater will be lovely, and give the baby the blue one, even if it’s a girl.

  56. Love the story. Glad you did not give up. Note to self. When cables distort swatch, something is already wrong.

  57. 1. giggle.
    2. Giggle and squirm with recognition.
    3. Laugh out loud, very nervously.
    4. Pour self some wine
    5. Re-read and laugh again with you, still a little nervously.
    6. Sit back an appreciate your work.
    7. Show work to significant other and wonder what this “Design School Is”
    8. Pour some more wine and contemplate the Math Fairy.
    9. Close computer
    10. Thank the knitting Gods that the Harlot is here for us to learn from.

  58. Stephanie….just wanted you to know that I had an opportunity to go to Hill Country Weavers today. I am in AUstin visiting my #3 daughter who goes to school here. That shop is amazing. I was just in yarn and book heaven. I bought beautiful yarn adn several books. They are on my list to make this trip again soon!

  59. Hi Steph. I just got a message today from Amazon that my Yarn Harlot calendar is being shipped. I am SO EXCITED! That being said, I think your design is quite a bit nicer than I could do, and you are sticking with it, which is more than most people would do. Lucky lucky new family/recipient of these sweaters. I love the color!!! I am still back now working on the Tsarina Vintage socks, which are not easy for me. I am really trying to get the socks done well, and I am finding the instructions challenging, so I am going back to your blog pages around the time you were knitting, as the photos are very helpful in figuring out the design. Love, Kathleen in Vermont, where it is raining on a daily basis.

  60. I’ll warn against designing socks. Because you can knit and design the first one at the same time you are writing the pattern, but then you actually have to follow the pattern on the second one, and believe me, you’ll curse the designer soundly for her vague notes.

  61. That must be some NICE yarn to withstand being ripped out. I’m excited to see the outcome, though; all that work will totally be worth it.

  62. My friends and I (and probably many others) have a saying we use when someone has achieved something admirable; the admirable thing is most often something so funny and wonderful that there’s just no topping it. Ever. By any of us.
    That saying is, “You win the internet.” Because winning the internet is the bestest most best prize that can ever be won.
    So, Stephanie, I say to you…
    You win the internet. Because this post was the bestest most best post ever.

  63. My Dearest Ms Yarn Harlot,
    You have just effectively been to design school. You have effectively passed from Design School Class 101-103. Armholes are higher education. Best of luck with your ongoing Design School classes. Graduation Day will be sweet.

  64. It looks like you made it a lot harder than it really was. But it looks fine to me, and it should turn out nicely. I know that when I design something It goes like this:
    1 come up with idea
    2 write random notes on idea so I don’t forget
    3 get yarn
    4 swatch in stst
    5 CO enough sts based on stst swatch (if there are cables inc 1 st for every cable bit)
    6 knit, writing pattern as I knit.
    then I’m done! I’ve only had to frog once, and that was b/c I was knitting w/burly spun and wire held together and the wire was too stiff.

  65. It’s lovely.
    I’d gloat for a moment if I were you.
    Now… I get to follow those steps for my DD. I’m hoping to skip several of the repeats that involve ripping…. perhaps I’ll do more sketches instead (like that’ll make a difference…)

  66. Regardless, it’s more than I’ve gotten done in the past two days!

  67. Oh My! I’m sorry to be laughing at your expense, Stephanie – but you are really and truly funny! You’ve made this design thing real in my eyes. That’s something else you’ve accomplished. We too can make something of our own design! How did the yarn hold up? I was wondering where all those frog noises were coming from.
    Hmmmm. I think I’ll stick to sock designs for right now….

  68. Hey dunno if you’ll read this what with the 80 something already posted comments, but I’m an intermediate knitter, and a huge fan, but I was curious in the second picture of the swatching I didn’t recognise the stitch you used and wanted to know what it was. At the bottom you have stockinette stitch then you have a few rows of rib but above that (before the cable starts) I don’t recognise what you’ve done if you could let me know because it looks awesome, and I’m always looking to learn new things, Thanks so much.
    P.S. when are you coming to Australia to do some book signing?

  69. LOL, and here I was thinking you just cast on the number of stitches you *think* might work, start knitting whilst crossing your toes (because crossing your fingers is difficult when you are knitting), and hope for the best…! Works at least some of the time ;).

  70. I just have two words for you. “Sweater Wizard” If they don’t work for you then how about two more – “LYS patterns.” Best of luck, if all else fails, two final words for you – “more wine.”

  71. I have to tell you, Steph…I missed reading your blog yesterday, and reading the first sentence of today’s post before reading yesterday’s post nearly made me choke. Your daughter is pregnant? Holy crap!
    Ahem. Carry on then.

  72. Well, this makes me feel marginally better, having spent the last two/three days fiddling with the math to make a baby sweater one size larger (size 2) than the pattern goes (size 18 months). It’s bad enough swatching and adding an inch’s worth of stitches to the length ( should I add more? Babies grow so fast, why the *&% can’t I get anywhere near row gauge), and I’m used to lengthening. But as I add 4.5 stitches to the width, I keep having a sneaking feeling that this isn’t the whole story. What about the neck? Doesn’t the neck grow, too? What do I do about the decreases for the neck? And the sleeve? And, oh dear L#rd, do I have to adjust the armholes??
    Maybe it’s time to rethink.

  73. Thank you. Just thanks. Among other things, this certainly explains and validates my tendency to stare longingly at the wine cabinet while knitting…

  74. Hee hee…thanks for the chuckle, from one who designing comes to naturally. Unfortunately, I have no idea how you feel, but I offer my support. The sweater is going to be beautiful. Hang in there!

  75. I am going to reference this post when people say to me. Could you just write up a pattern so I can make an “insert item”?

  76. Oh, poor oosums! Try this variation on knitterly self-actualization:
    1. peruse patterns for basic measurements
    2. knit a small swatch of beloved yarn for basic gauge as ideas will generate as the rows grow under your fingers
    3. make a sketch on graph paper to needed measurements
    4. swatch for cables or other sts if plain stockinette isn’t happening
    5. do a little math
    6. NOW pour wine
    7. get going, with rewarding sips for small tasks sufficiently well accomplished
    Works for me…. jdu

  77. Oh, but what you have planned and begun there is gorgeous! And I love the Blue Moon Colors.

  78. I think you’ve just put me off designing for good! It’s that rip out phase combined with the math that gets me. Not to mention I hate swatching.
    Now, the red wine… she I like πŸ˜‰

  79. Well, it IS a beautiful design. I’m needing two baby sweaters, too. I’ve never in my life knit a baby sweater. I’m sure as Hades not going to try to design one, too!
    Ah, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “You’re a better woman than I am, Stephanie!”

  80. Oh dear – snorted coffee on to my keyboard through that one!!
    And this is why the designers get the big bucks (ROFLMAO!!!)

  81. my personal favorite it step #59. i’m glad to see someone else reaches that stage.
    i’m impressed with your perseverance. maybe it’s not about being disappointed in your skills. maybe it’s about being impressed that you (as a non-designer) would care enough about knitting and the recipient to dive head-first into something that uses so many design elements. i think it’s cool that you’re attempting it AT ALL.
    maybe you should just give yourself permission to knit a pre-existing sweater. take out the pattern. set it next to the yarn. convince yourself that you’re going to knit it. maybe your subconscious designing mind will be offended and step it up!!!

  82. 68. Realize no time for DESIGN SCHOOL (baby is coming!).
    69. Drink wine.
    70. Realize (upon reflection) this is truly beautiful, AND working out quite nicely!
    71. Press on.
    (sometimes it’s a matter of perspective, getting caught up in the details, prevents you from seeing the whole, and beautifully designed, baby sweater)
    P.S. I’m going to have to try the “make a sketch” step. That must be what hangs me up.

  83. I have no idea why you are reminding me of the time I tried to call Rachel and reached you instead.
    “I measured the wrong swatch” applies to absolutely every single area of my life. I think we need a t-shirt with this on the back. On the front it will say “It wasn’t my fault.”

  84. It’s looking fantastic! I think that – maybe – next time you want to design something? You should just knit it and then have someone else write the instructions out. Honestly, you are such a good knitter, and you know how to do what you are doing, you may just be psyching yourself out with the whole math and pictures thing. Even so, just think of how much you are “learning” with this whole process! (Insist on the silver lining, always.)

  85. OK, I’d have been sunk at step 11, as I don’t have Fiona’s phone number as a fallback. Realizing this would surely have led to many more steps between your 10 and 11, including things like searching the Internet for Fiona’s phone number, e-mailing you to get said number, offering bribes and/or threats to get said number, etc.
    I love the final shot though and admire your stick-to-it-ness! (This new term brought to you by Toni of “Neologisms-R-Us.)

  86. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ……
    *tosses red wine *
    *re-fills with a white*
    well now…. cables take up a few so U have to add in more ?? * nudge nudge * wink wink *
    Me …my self …I’m in a knit blue funnk … can’t knit a stitch, right now, but am reading volumns & volumns on “stuff” day I can start to knit again *shrugs*
    Biggie huggss to your 2/3 daughters !
    Piney πŸ™‚

  87. 72. Wash “swatch” and measure again. Do not skip this step!
    73. Laugh (or cry).

  88. I like what you did end up knitting. But I would just go to Fiona’s new book and knit one of her gawgeous designs. I like to knit much more than think! heehee
    BTW, did you find out how to pronounce ADAMAS yet?

  89. Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I went through a similar thing a few months back. Bless your heart for sharing your pain. Know that every time you type in something like this, there are at least 100 knitters out there going “Oh my gosh! Her too? You mean I’m not the only one?” Thank you again.

  90. The sweater is looking lovely! And I don’t think it is such a simple design either. Those twisty cables are a force to be reckoned with–I sure wouldn’t know how to calculate the negative (or positive) ease on those. I always get the two eases mixed up anyway. I still have a sock I’m trying to design on the needles waiting for me to go thru steps 12 to 150 (probably). I got all the way to the heel flap and realized it’s all crap. Trying to muster the fortitude to rip it back to the ribbing. Is there enough red wine in the world for me to bring it to completion? Not likely!

  91. Cute design. From your sketch it looks like it has a center panel that buttons on one side…yes? If so, there is a similar pattern on Ravelry, Presto Chango by Valerie Wallis (no idea how to link or I would). Presto Chango, in a worsted weight gauge, has a center lace panel (though others have replace with cabled panels) with buttons on both sides for complete panel removal. Very cute. Maybe this could spark a few ideas for your sweater.

  92. Oh, Stephanie, I’d hug you through the computer if I could quit giggling long enough to get off the floor!

  93. Oh, and let’s not forget:
    232. Prepare to submit pattern to publisher.
    233. Decide idea was complete crap in the first place.
    234. Try to remember if one bought Knitty Editor ice cream, and if so, if she would remember and therefore fall in love with your pattern.
    235. Style and photograph completed item in the 4 minutes available before leaving the house on a weekend trip, on the day of the deadline.
    236. Stuff item into drawer and try to convince yourself that the next issue makes more sense anyway for the item in question.
    Is there enough wine for all this?
    I’m switching to gin.

  94. I totally understand your frustration! It looks as though it is going to be a very cute little sweater. Sadly, knitting and wine have never went well together for me. Good luck!

  95. Remind me not to read this kinda entry at 11:30 again…may suck the will to knit right out of me!!!
    Rock on, Steph, it looks beautiful. Is that the Nyame yarn??

  96. Sorry about all the ripping and math and so on, but gosh that yarn knits up pretty!
    I especially like the little element in the top-most photo, on the upper left side. The narrow windy bit, north of the garter and west of the stocking stitch. Sweet.
    Looking forward to seeing the ultimate beautiful sweater/s!

  97. I have SO been there, except I skipped the design school part too. When I was finishing up my shawls book, I told my family firmly, if I ever say I want to do this again, take me out and shoot me. Please.
    It’s like birthing a baby, though, you forget the pain as soon as the thing is real and present in the world.

  98. 59. Sit quietly in the dark resisting urge to eat sweater, just to feel it between my teeth.
    I burst out laughing at this, because….btdt…

  99. Oh, I’m so in the middle of that one. Orange cabled cardigan for my five year old. Except now he wants a different sweater. Nice thing about those tiny babies – easier to dress them without their input. (except when they’re crying in horror or flinging everything off)

  100. I love the color. And if I was a girl-baby lover, I’d have started the blue first, too, so I could learn from it and perfect the pink one.
    I’m a boy’s mummy, though, so I hope this first one is perfect, and not just for your sanity’s sake.

  101. ah. great post. all so true. so much ripping goes on in the process. and of course, drinking of wine and then coffee to get the right balance for a good math head…all required for making up sweater designs.

  102. *blink*
    Note to self: do not start at top of page when you have not read the harlot for several days, lest you see the words “Megan’s baby” and have the ENTIRELY WRONG Megan come to mind. O.o
    In other news: the sweater will be lovely no matter what you do. It’s summer, no time for perfectionism!

  103. I think I am at step twenty. You have now saved me the 47 steps. Thnak you very much. Hugely amusing, although probably not for you.

  104. Swatches are lying bad liar guys. It’s true- unfortunate, but true.
    Love the first little bit of the first wee sweater… Knitting is FUN!! Right?!?!?!
    But not for children – too much swearing.

  105. You should TOTALLY sell the pattern here. (Maybe have a portion of the proceeds go to Knitters Without Borders?) It’s gorgeous.

  106. Well I think you are a genius. I am quite sure I would be numbering in the hundreds….
    Thanks for making me realise that my number one will be, remember the YH and don’t number this!

  107. I am in constant awe of the people who possess that particular type of brain to design things. I can follow a pattern but to actually engineer a pattern?! Even altering a pattern is a challenge for me. You, my dear, are a much more daring person than I. Don’t forget to breathe!

  108. Designer math: gauge x unit of measure = number of stitches. Add design considerations (like a factor for cable draw-up) to that figure and manipulate the result till it screams in agony.
    Simple. What I need to do is keep notes, so I can remember if I’ve tried that set of numbers before.

  109. drink more wine.
    the sweater looks lovely.
    the edge looks a little funky but at this point i think it will work:)
    BIG HUGS!!

  110. Here’s my process, and I didn’t go to design school. Think about the project, look at pictures of lots of sweaters to steal ideas. Do something else and mull over pattern/idea. A non-knitting thing by the way. Then do a swatch. Change pattern to match gauge of swatch. Knit up, making changes to modify to reality of human shape as I go and take lots of notes. If it’s funky, hey, what the hell, it’s a Gillian Original.
    By the way, I love girl babies too. Mine is almost 12, getting ready to go camping without me (I’m not wild about this growing up part all the time). A girlfriend of mine has two sons and I feel sorry for her.

  111. You made it 52 more steps than I every have! But I never have added the wine step to any of my designing. I’ll think I’ll try that now! Thanks for the inspiration.

  112. I was thinking about designing baby sweater, but after reading what you went thru. I said buy the pattern and put your personal touch to make it unique. If I do not like the stitch use on the pattern. I always find one that will work for me. Looking forward to your final design.

  113. You’re doing great–it’s beautiful and I love the colour. I’ve never designed anything but I love knitting for babies because they grow. I always make 6 month size things so I can knit away, happily humming Hakuna matata. Unless the mom has a sixteen pound baby, I’m safe. That did actually happen to someone I know. (Yeah, it was a caesarian.)

  114. Hey, you may have taken the long way around, but you appear to have reached the point where you wanted to be! It looks just beautiful so far; you should feel very accomplished! Who needs design school??!!

  115. You’d think a baby sweater would be the easiest thing to design, but no. There’s math and some kind of engineering involved which is why I steer clear of anything that smacks of designing! Call me scared to death about it. The key word is modifying – I find an existing pattern and change it.
    Good luck with the sweater, so far so good. In the end I’m sure it will be a big hit and the ‘most requested pattern’ on the net.

  116. ROFL! You’re a brave one; I would never attempt anything like this, as math and I simply do not get along. At all. The yarn is lovely and I’m sure the finished sweater will be too.

  117. tis friday morning i hope by now
    the lower edge has been adjusted
    the cable looks unhappy for some
    reason -cant read your own writing
    now can you -try graph paper comes
    in all sizes-

  118. Looks to me like it’s absolutely been worth the effort- beautiful:)
    also- what a beautiful thing to do for the new little person;)
    also also— BMFA does know we will need this yarn, or some facsimile, correct? Good.

  119. You know what might look nice in that yarn? Kate Gilbert’s Peapod. Just Sayin.
    I had never realized that writing the pattern would come before knitting it. That’s sort of bizarre to me. I think I would have skipped straight from measurements and gauge to knitting. This might be why I have so much trouble knitting from a pattern.

  120. LOL- yup Steph that’s the way it goes!! Esp the wine drinking.
    The real “trick” is to remember what you have learned from this project so that you can apply it to the next one- that one gets me every time…can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pretty far down a path before it starts to look familiar.
    I guess that’s how/why we develop a style- an attempt to short circuit some of this.
    BTW-infomercial: I have a new design upcoming on Twist Collective when it goes live on Aug 1st- I think you might like it. It’s an asymmetric Celtic Cable- v fun to knit.
    Anyway it looks fabulous dharling so keep going-how many days have you got to finish it?

  121. Dear Stephanie I am proud of you for persevering! Steps 40-54 are why I will probably never design anything other than a purse or perhaps a sock. I look forward to the finished project–I’m sure you do too!!!

  122. I think your 66 steps is actually way closer to the real design process than the first 5 ones πŸ˜‰
    Too funny not to be true!

  123. This makes me feel a lot better about the last design project I attempted…and makes my list of potential designs seem just a little bit intimidating…
    Good luck. ^_^ It looks gorgeous so far!

  124. Sounds like the same process I have tried, except your results are much better!! No one said it was easy…. Next time try provisional cast on to avoid the edging rows at first and remember blocking can really improve the pulling in.

  125. I don’t know, I think that might just be the “real” version of Fiona’s process. Certainly in science writing, what gets on the page as the “methodology” and what actually happens in the lab bear a similar resemblance to each other. I think you are doing this right.
    And it looks pretty good.

  126. 1. Yes, the edge still looks a little funny, but I think it will block out.
    2. I’m sure you added some stitches at the base of the cables to alleviate the “pulling in”.
    3. This looks just like the sweater….nah, won’t go there.
    4. After the third rip-out you really need to switch from red wine to Screech.

  127. ROFLOL so hard I can’t breathe! That sweater is gonna be beautiful! I refer to a book of baby patterns for sizes, because it’s been a long time since I had a baby to observe closely day to day. (Still tend to cast on and rip out a couple of times before I get it right.)

  128. *snort* “. . . nor do I play one on TV . . . ”
    That line was the first of many laughs with this posting. Your persistence reminds me of me. So very happy to be in good company. Also glad you didn’t have to resort to burning sage and waving feathers. Though I’ve considered waving sage and burning feathers with particularly the malevolent.

  129. If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery,
    it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.

  130. Yep this sounds about right. The first and only sweater I designed and knit took about two years and when it was finished I wore it once decided I hated it and it has lived in the back of the closet ever since. Won’t wear it, can’t throw it away.
    I sure your sweater will be wonderful.

  131. I think you could knot that yarn into a ball of crap and it would still look beautiful LOL. I love the way the colour seems to have such depth, even though it is soft at the same time. I could eat it like cotton candy. Having said that, I once “designed” a triangle shawl. The final result? I ate the pattern and the shawl “went away” – and anybody that asks about it is treated like they are insane. Shawl? What shawl? Surely you must be mistaken. Tee hee!

  132. I like Number 17: “Research the chest sizes of babies while drinking red wine.” Are their chests different while they are not drinking red wine? πŸ™‚
    It’s going to be a lovely little sweater with much love knit into it, I’m sure.

  133. Wowza!
    I’ve thought about designing things, but I’m much more likely to just take a random design element I like from a pattern and work a single strip of it on each side of an already vetted pattern.
    It’s not design, but does make a pattern more individual.

  134. OMG – what patience! I knew there was a reason I never became a knitwear designer! Anyhow, if I were you I’d carry on, as the design looks gorgeous!

  135. Step 110: Release design into the knitting world. I so believe in supporting Canadian designers!

  136. Design school might help. If not, it sounds like a lot of fun anyway – it’s on my list!
    But in the mean time, here’s my method:
    1. idea
    2. swatch (yeah, I’d say sketch, but the picture in my head is more accurate πŸ˜‰ )
    3. knit, making it work
    4. reknit, because there’s only so much you can make work
    5. repeat 4 until happy, increasingly cursing not using an already tested pattern!
    6. take sketchy notes jotted while knitting, read the finished garment for the bits not written down, start writing pattern
    7. play the daughter card to get mom to tech edit, beg very generous Ravel-ers to test knit pattern!
    Yeah, it’s a pain to write the pattern from the end result, but then at least I know it works.
    And in my short foray into this world, I’ve discovered designers are NOT paid well for all the work they do!!

  137. Oh, do I feel your pain. I’m working on designing something for a friend’s wedding and I don’t even want to think about how many times I frogged the practice version and rewrote the patterns numbers. I’ll skip jinxing myself by saying how I currently feel about the “real version” that I have on the needles right now. Ha!

  138. *grin* This really made me chuckle (sorry) as it sounds soooooo familiar!
    I won one of the storyteller-knitter prizes last year and 1 year on, all I have managed to produce from my entry is a hat. One Measly Hat!
    My swatch for a wrap, which was the thing that I really wanted to make from my entry, still adorns the bodyform as I am trying to work out a problem with its shaping.
    So keep going – after all, if you finish this and it turns out ok, I may feel under obligation to tackle my very own cashmere wrap design albatross!

  139. Very enjoyable read. What you’ve done would make me mental. I marvel at those who are able to design. I’m grateful that there are enough patterns out there so that I won’t ever have to design. That’s good for all concerned.

  140. Honey, no amount of design school will help you when it comes to edges for sweaters. Have you thought about just doing a plain cast on with the cable going directly up from the cast on then crocheting an edge on it afterward?
    Hang in there!

  141. While I have no advice to offer, it is comforting to know that I am not the only knitter for whom “beginning” is NOT a single step! (The others at my knit night gathering snickered a bit when I told them I was still “beginning” the Afghans for Afghans shawl that I started back in May. Is it my fault that four inches in I invariably think of a better way to do it? I think I’m on start #12 at this point, and only my extreme degree of superstition “may” keep me from start #13!)

  142. hmmmm, I got an idea last month to craete a dress for my granddaughter’s birthday. I didn’t add cables so I was able to ignore a few of your steps. All others applied. Finally got it done, it will fit her well in the future. Forget the wine, go for Prozac.

  143. Wow!! That yarn is so pretty knit up!
    One variable you’ve left out of the design process is Drink of Choice. Maybe there is some property of wine that is messing things up. Have you considered Scotch? πŸ™‚

  144. But this IS design school . . . you’d be doing this very same thing (with possibly a little help from Fiona ;o) when you got your first assignment to design a sweater. So, you’ve just saved yourself the tuition and class time. ;o)
    Looks great! I love the stitch pattern and cable. They look lovely.

  145. A number of years ago, my niece was obsessed with Barney (curse his purple hide!) and being a loving aunt, I thought that I would knit her a nice warm sweater with Barney on it. I enlisted the aid of my good friend Danielle to help me draw up a chart. We figured that regular graph paper was a good idea to draw up a chart cause those little squares could represent stiches so nicely. Well, after copious amounts of tape, the chart wound up being as big as a room and we headed straight for the alcohol. May I recommend a good shot of Crown Royal? Worked for us =)

  146. Wanna know something funny? I’m designing a sweater right now that looks very much like your drawing. I felt the urge to do some charity knitting by way of designing a small sweater, but I didn’t feel like doing all the sizing research and math (props to you for suffering so bravely through it!), so I’m using the Orphans for Orphans sweater as a blank canvas to play with stitch patterns. The pattern I’m using for the front and back panels is a diamond pattern very much like the one in your drawing! I got it from Gladys Thompsons’s Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans.
    Seeing your drawing has actually inspired me to make a change to the pattern. I’m very aware lately of the problems with too-small neck openings (due to a recent fiasco detailed on my blog, with humourous pictures) and I’ve decided to make the sweater into a cardigan, with the button band on one edge of the front panel. Thanks for giving me the idea!
    Good luck with your baby sweater; it’s looking great, so far! I’m looking forward to the finished pattern (you will publish it, right?).

  147. This is one of the funniest things I’ve read from you. And why? Because I suffer the SAME problems. I want to design, have no design background, suffer math retardation and find that my swatches are pathological liars.
    This is so going in my pattern folder.

  148. My mentor in graduate school was a songwriter; she was told by HER mentor that “in order to write the good songs, you have to be willing to write the bad ones.” Both Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan have written about the role of failure in their successes.
    We know you’re a success, even when you forget. Maybe that’s why you invited us in?
    The sweater is and will be gorgeous, filled with almost as much love and talent as its designer.

  149. Believe me, design school doesn’t help nearly as much as the red wine does. My favourite design method is to swatch with my yarn to see what guage I have; find an already existing pattern that bears some vague resemblance to what I want; alter the heck out of it until it bears no resemblance to the original pattern; go through many of the steps you have outlined so consicely; and then blame the original pattern’s designer for my failures. Works every time.

  150. Goodness….this was a funny post! All great plans take longer than one thinks. Perhaps you should have started with 1. Drink wine. I am sure the sweater will be lovely. You are so gifted and funny. Thanks for the laugh.

  151. Everything you’ve gone through IS designing. Starting stopping, refiguring, redoing…it has nothing to do with some lack of smarts. If you’re thinkin’ you should be able to do it in one go–now THAT’s the problem!
    Designers undergo all that for every design because they enjoy the sweet torture.

  152. I’ve been reading you for years, and this is my all-time favorite post. Thank you so much for not making me feel like such a moron. Not that I am anywhere near your knitting abilities.
    Here’s a thought. If someone with your brains and your experience and your abilities finds that something is hard that you classify as “easy”, perhaps it’s the “easy” classification that’s the problem. Bet you never looked at it that way….

  153. Sounds exactly like the method designers use. Perhaps they just don’t like to mention it. I always have to start over and over when I’m designing things. I just hate when I’m a month into a project and realize I’m going to have to start over!
    The current incarnation looks good.

  154. Ooo, that looks so beautiful! Thanks for going through all the agony of designing so that we can enjoy (and laugh, hee hee) at your achievements!

  155. Another method? Cast on what seems to you to be the right number of stitches and … knit. See what happens. Your hands are awfully smart–sometimes smarter than your head. Then, try to write down what you are doing as you do it so that you can make the other part of the sweater (back, sleeve) the same.

  156. I took a design class from the inestimable Fiona and, as delightful and instructional as it was, it taught me a simpler design step:
    By Fiona’s book and just knit from that ;>
    I have come to the realization that if I have an actual pattern written by someone talented in front of me, I can Frankenstein it to keep what I like and change what I want to. But starting from scratch? The last real math class I took was over 20 years ago and I failed it.

  157. Steph,
    Welcome to the hell that is clothing design…it is all the same…you have it right, by the way…including the wine part…all I can offer is “Think twice, write once, think again, write again, then knit…or sew…or cut pattern or whatever. Also works for designing spaces (like kitchens, offices, etc.)
    After a number of years of training and working, it is still the same…some people make it seem mostly easy and simple to do and few people realize the “agonies” involved. Thanks for pointing out that it is not all as seemingly simple as the dear Fiona makes it seem.

  158. I want to print this and pin it to the wall to remind my husband of the process instead of just bursting into tears everytime he says “design not working out huh?” or when someone says “baby clothes are easy to design because they are small” babies are small too and they kick our Mother butts all over town.

  159. >snerk< This is why I am not brave enough to knit a sweater, never mind design one. All right, I did succeed in knitting one sweater that fit an actual human being (I have photographic proof, should anyone require it), but, lo these five months later, I am still girding my loins to knit another one. Maybe I’ll stick to socks, scarves, hats and mittens.
    (Fiona is a lovely person. I emailed her about something I didn’t understand in her cables book and she emailed me right back although she doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall. I’m sure she’d be delighted to assist you.)
    (As a certified cable maniac I long ago made peace with the fact that if your border isn’t cabled and your body is, you’ll need way more stitches for the body. Now I tell you.)

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