Mormor (grandmother) rarely used a knitting or crocheting pattern, and my mother – on the few occasions I saw her knit (never crochet) – never used a pattern. I never saw either of them write a pattern.
I remember Mormor taking measurements and jotting them down, and then picking up a hook or set of needles and start swatching and designing. I knew she had a shape and pattern in mind, because I watched it evolve toward something coherent and beautiful.
But, I also saw her crochet or knit for a while, then fit the garment on me, and then rip out a section and redo for a better fit. No big surprise that has long been my approach to making my own designs too. Yes, I know how to write out knitting patterns/designs, but as I rarely make the same thing twice and don’t sell my designs … well, maybe it’s just laziness.
To the right is a perfect example of my knitting notes! On the left are my notes on a pull-over cabled vest I knit for Thor last year. The left-hand page of my notes consist of a yarn sample and a picture and the chart of a cable I wanted to use in the vest. To the right are the instructions. Note the right hand page is blank – proof that I knit up my designs a la my Mormor.
Now, I couldn’t help but think of Mormor’s (and my) pattern designs last night when reading Chapter 1 (Planning Your Design) of Shirley Paden’s Knitwear Design Workshop. I bought the book at the suggestion of Linda Marveng – a Norwegian designer whose work I admire and a designer who constructs well-written patterns – about a year ago and read through it then. Now I’m carefully reading through Paden’s book.
I will endeavor to apply Paden’s suggestions but decided I would start with something quick and easy: children’s fingerless mittens. Over the last few days I have been knitting fingerless mitts as holiday gifts for my grandchildren and some of their closest friends (all of whom now also call me Mormor - with accents ranging from broad American to my native Sørlandisk).
I took measurements key to mittens from my grandchildren (age 5 and nearly 8), and decided to use odd balls of leftover bulky weight wool and alpaca yarns (from a friend – I never use bulky yarns) and size 10 needles (I tend to knit lose).
I first followed the pattern design techniques of my foremothers: a quick gauge swatch and, keeping an eye on the children’s measurements, I was off! I made one prototype of each size and then reknit with adjustments requested by the grandchildren. I have a growing pile.
Now comes the hard part: actually writing up my penciled notes into a coherent, reuseable pattern!