December 10: Behind the Design

A few weeks ago I introduced you to my latest design, Mariposa. I spent the better part of the year working on various aspects of the design. While it is a joy to knit, the design process was quite complex.
Upon planning a great adventure to the Riviera Maya region of Mexico, I immediately knew I wanted to design a modern take on a traditional Mayan huipil.
One of my favorite designers is Mexico’s Pineda Covalin, and they have a sensational silk take on this classic design.
The next step was to select the perfect yarn. I wanted to create a garment appropriate to wear in Mexico’s warm humid climate, so I marked wool off the list. The fiber needed to be light weight, so cotton wouldn’t do. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it must be knit with silk. And in order to get the color combinations this design would require, we would be dying it ourselves.
The silk search was on! After sourcing from around the globe, I finally located a perfect lightweight Mulberry Silk from Europe.
I spent much of the spring knitting random swatches in doctor’s offices, piano lessons, etc. Naturally that is when folks want to know what you are making. Since I was just playing around with various directional techniques using whatever yarn I grabbed out of the scrap pile, I did look a bit odd. After months of playing around, I determined this garment would be created through the use of short rows.
Next I pulled out my sewing machine. The first muslin “mock up” looked like scrubs. The second, like a choir robe. Fortunately the third time was a charm and finally I had shape to work with.
After blowing the dust off the trigonometry section of my brain, I started laying out all of the numbers and nitty-gritty of the design. This is the part of the design process that took extreme math skills. I am often asked if I was on drugs when I came up with some of my designs. While I was indeed not on drugs when coming up with this kooky design, I saved the complicated math part to work on while recuperating from major surgery this summer…and yes drugs were involved! Since we have already established that I am insane, this won’t surprise you one bit.
I determined the piece would be knit in four pieces: two identical and two mirror image, consisting of five wedges each. The prototype was knit with undyed silk.
I tried out every short row variation, and determined a modified Japanese short row looked best. The Japanese method uses removable stitch markers, which makes it easier to keep up with where your short rows happen, making it much easier to knit.
Now that I knew what I wanted to knit and how I was going to do it, I started simulating my color options. I decided four of the five wedges would be knit alternating between 2 shades, with a final solid wedge, for a total of five colors. I chose a vibrant color palette to reflect the Mexican inspiration.
This summer we had a fun day of dying yarn. The final colors were beautiful!
I started knitting like crazy so I could have a finished piece to show everyone. It is hard to get the full feel of a design just by looking at my sketches and notes.
Although the design process was quite involved and complex, the final product is not that difficult to knit. It is engaging and interesting, with an easy to follow pattern. One half of the design is knit garter stitch, the other purl garter stitch. Yes, there is a purl garter stitch and it is needed for this project. Garter stitch isn’t reversible when knit in two color stripes. There is a definite right and wrong side, and in order to create mirroring pieces the purl version was needed.
I have thrown a lot of killer techniques into this project, that make for a cool design that flows together beautifully. Throughout the design process one of the top things I considered was how to take what otherwise seems like a complex project, yet make it easy to knit with logical construction and clear instruction.
I realize the cost of this project is not small, however over â…” of the cost can be attributed to the lovely mulberry silk yarn. The nature of this design does not make it suitable for yarn substitutions. It also requires nearly 40 specially designed beaded stitch markers for the Japanese short rows.
If you are interested in signing up for the Mariposa Project, the deadline is December 31. Check out my post from November that details the costs and what all is involved.
Wanting to know more about Japanese Short Rows? My gift for you today is an instruction card from our technique class on this topic. Download it today for it will be gone tomorrow.
We’ve taken a break from our technique Flash Classes over the holidays, however they return to the schedule in the new year. You should really join us sometime!


  • karyndm

    10.12.2014 at 04:47 Reply

    Got the instruction card and I am really looking forward to this class. I had no idea the process to design this piece. Not only will I end up with a beautiful piece to wear I will also learn some new things.

  • JudySmith

    10.12.2014 at 09:02 Reply

    I am excited to make this. I hope to have it finished to wear at the resort when my daughter gets marries in June. I just know everyone will be so impressed.

  • KMunger

    10.12.2014 at 15:23 Reply

    I love hearing about your design process!

Post a Comment