So last week was all about roughing out some new shawl designs, but I have been trying to reflect a bit on how I go about coming up with a design. It has been pretty hard to pin shown, as I guess most creative processes are. It is also a pretty personal process and so this is just how I manage to do it and I am sure it is a process that I will refine as I do more of it.
I tend to start off with a bit of a concept that I am trying to explore. Often I will sketch out (usually on a piece of scrap paper with a biro) the type of shawl (or other garment) that I want to try to achieve. I have a think about the stitches I could use to achieve the shape or to create some texture in the pattern. At that point I have to grab some yarn and a hook and start to play with some opening stitches.
At this point the yarn tends to inform how the pattern and shape of the shawl will develop. Often I succeed in recreating in yarn the design I had in my head, but somehow it lacks interest once it is made up, and I will end up frogging the work to start again. Free-styling stitches until I find a combination that pleases me seems to be the best way to develop a project. It feels a lot like I am still sketching, but with yarn rather than with pen and paper.
Once I have a few rows nailed I can start to write up the instructions for the pattern as I go. I have to work a few rows at a time, as sometimes you realise that Row 10 isn’t working because of something about Row 8 which needs to be tweaked. For the shawls in particular what I am aiming for is to find a set of rows which can be repeated (and memorised) and which will maintain the shape and texture that I want to achieve.
I don’t always have a fixed shape for the shawl in my head. I like to try out different shapes, just to see how easy they are, and sometimes I will see how the shape develops as the shawl grows I enjoy playing with the overall shape of the shawl and the shapes I can create within it. I try to keep the stitches fairly straightforward so that a beginner could achieve the final project. Often it is the use of hand-dyed or variegated yarn that makes a pattern look special, or the use of colours (as in the Beating Heart Wrap), rather than the complexity of the pattern.
I wish naming shawls came a little easier to me. I find that part really hard. It is hard not to come up with something really obvious or really naff. So here is my challenge to you: give me some new shawl concepts to work with by suggesting some names that could inspire me to create a shawl around them. Maybe that way it will be easier, and you can join me on my creative fumblings!