Design Process: Inspiration

Designing for the new year has begun, so I’m going to talk about my design process. Like many artist processes, it’s not plug and play. The first three steps in my process are finding inspiration, sketching, and swatching.


Last year, designing was mostly about building a portfolio of knitwear designs with functionality in mind. (The home knits were from previous publications with a yarn company. Since the rights reverted to me in the fall, I decided to include them.)  Most of the time I design for function and aesthetics, but other times the design takes a different turn.

The Clone Club Cowl was created as part of a challenge. I love (and have several skeins) hand-dyed yarn but really despise color pooling. So, I wanted something that avoided color pooling but showed off stitches. The color of the yarn inspired the overall stitch pattern because it reminded me of Alison out in the woods with Helena and Donnie while cleaning her Glock and talking to Mrs. S. (You can watch the clip below to understand what I’m talking about.) Using information from The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques and Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook, I constructed the cabled stitch pattern. There were some design constraints when using this yarn because I only had one skein.

The Sleepy Time Tunic was inspired by old-time nightshirts and function. My son did not want to wear pants at night, but he would still wear shirts. So, I developed this pattern with some basic ideas and construction. Many of the design books do not discuss how to create that Henley neckline. So, I purchased 6000+ Pullover Possibilities. It illustrates how the technique is used. The book also provides a chart of buttonholes and gauge. That was super helpful. I chose the bamboo yarn because I wanted something with weight and soft texture. It was also breathable and warm.

When I find a block of inspiration I turn to a few places:

  • Yarns (fiber content, construction, etc.)
  • Favorite designers (commercial and independent)
  • Pinterest
  • Stitch pattern books
  • Technique books
  • Knit and crochet magazines
  • Television
  • Movies
  • Books

Sometimes when I look at different designers, it’s a hit or miss situation. One season my response is positive. The next season, I am left wondering what acid-fueled nightmarish trip did they just return from? Most designers have one element of their design I enjoy and assimilate somewhere in my own design.

A good example of this is the directional increases/decreases around the bust of Katy Ryan’s Brioche Bodice. I really enjoyed knitting Heartwarmer by Dani Sunshine but didn’t like the way the short rows made the piece roll upward. This year, I combined concepts (cowl/dickie and directional stitches) from both patterns to create the Sidelined Cowl.

I’m currently designing my first sock and intarsia project based on a television show character, Mr. Meeseeks. I love watching Rick and Morty with my husband on [adult-swim] and Hulu.

Inspiration is bountiful if you’re open to it. As a general creative, I find the best way to get out of an inspiration slump is to try something new. Often, those new things bubble in my brain. Once the bubbles start piling up, I reach for my sketch pad.

My next post will focus solely on the sketches and notes. The post about swatching will talk about yarn choices and tools I use to swatch. Keep an eye out for more.

If you would like to check out some of the books I use, check out my Resources page.

Design Process: Inspiration, Sketching, & Swatching



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Hi, my name is Emily!

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