Making it Work – My Design Process

“Nothing ever works right the first time. You have to make it work”

– Thomas Edison

I’m a bit jealous of  designers who can see a sunset and translate that inspiration directly into a  pattern. My design process is always considerably more drawn out, and I often end up with something that bears little resemblance to my original idea.

photo of yarn and needles
So many possibilities!

Here is an insider’s peek in to my design process from my most recent project, “The Springtide Collection”, published by Juniper Moon Farm. For this project, I agreed to make a collection of 4 designs featuring the publisher’s lace yarn. This was the first time I had to create multiple patterns by the same deadline, and honestly I was a little overwhelmed.

The first thing I did was create a long list of possibilities. This was purposefully a vague list, and included things like “crescent with border”, “bias knit garter stitch”, and “top down triangle”. At one point this list was over a dozen ideas. As I crossed off idea after idea, the “top down triangle” always survived the cuts. Top down triangles are fun to design, and the symmetrical shape is a particularly good way to show off lace stitches.

Triolette Swatch #1
Triolette Swatch #1

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to use 2 stitch patterns for this triangle – a small, geometric stitch for the body, and a larger border stitch. I remembered an intriguing 6 stitch pattern that I had found on Pinterest, and quickly worked a small swatch. I was quite pleased with how the large hole from the double yarn over contrasted with the smaller, single yarn over holes.

The double yarn over from this swatch reminded me of a border that I had seen on an old lace doily, which featured 3 large leaves shaped with double yarn overs. I thought this would make a great combination, so after decoding, tweaking, and combining the border with my small pattern, I smugly knit up a combined swatch, thinking I had this design basically finished. After blocking this larger swatch I gave it a critical eye, and didn’t like how the body stitch lost it’s geometric lines in the large scale. I should have known that I wouldn’t be happy with the end result when I kept losing my place while knitting. As my knitting time is often interrupted mid row (by a certain toddler!), it is very important to me that patterns are intuitive.

Triolette Swatch #2
Triolette Swatch #2
Triolette Swatch #3
Triolette Swatch #3

I decided to try enlarging the stitch pattern by 2 stitches. I liked how this preserved the look of the double vs. single yarn over holes, while emphasizing the diagonal lines.

This time I made a complete small scale shawl, to see how the two halves worked together. I also adjusted the final few rows, changed the edge stitches from garter stitch to 1 x 1 ribbing, and realized that using a 2 stitch center spine would make the whole thing easier to chart.

Triolette Swatch #4
Triolette Swatch #4

I was finally happy with this design, and able to move on with the full size sample. The final step of the design process, and one that often takes me a considerable amount of time, is finding a name.  I keep an ongoing list of possible pattern names that includes interesting street names, literary characters, snippets of song lyrics, and anything else that catches my ear. As I was going down this list, the name Triolette immediately jumped out at me, as it ties in with the 3 leaf border. Triolette is a character in a short story by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

As you can see, my design process includes more trial and error than brilliant flashes of inspiration. However, I’m delighted with the end result, and I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. You can find Triolette and the other 3 patterns (Kingwood, Zigmond, and Irima), on

photo by: Susan Gibbs

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