Friday, 4 May 2012

Design Digest: Ammonite - Part I

Ammonite and the Grey Cone...

If you are reading this post, I suppose you have seen Ammonite on Ravelry or on Flickr and you might want to know a little more about the design process and my inspiration for the pattern. Perhaps you have merely stumbled upon this blog because you are interested in knitwear design or maybe good, old Google directed you to this page because you are interested in fossils.

If you are looking for fossil - related information (and I don't mean the knitted kind), I have to disappoint you, as I am going to talk about a knitting pattern and, unless you are interested in knitting, what follows will not be a great deal of help to you.

So, Ammonite...It's probably best to start at the beginning. Roughly a year ago I was browsing in a local charity shop and found a cone of grey DK - weight yarn. There was no further information regarding the identity of the yarn, only a label inside the cone stating it was an acrylic / wool mix (30% wool, 70% acrylic). Having done a bit of research, I now believe that the yarn was manufactured by Yeoman Yarns in Yorkshire, an interesting yarn manufacturer, especially for the thrifty knitters amongst us. Yeoman's yarns come wrapped around cones, presumably targeting machine knitters. (And the big advantage of yarn on cones is of course the fact that you won't run out of yarn during your project.)

Mietze inspecting 

As this poor, grey cone was looking a little lonely, I decided to buy it at a bargain price together with two others, one in heather and another in a light creamy brown. The lovely people at the shop must have been glad to see them go and included a pair of knitting needles at the till. 

Here I was with my yarn bargains. I took them home, where they were subjected to the usual "scratch and sniff " inspection by a member of the feline quality control squad. 

Grey Cone and Friends

They passed the inspection and were subsequently locked away in the knitting supply cupboard, the by far biggest cupboard in the whole house. This is where they stayed for the next eight months - locked away, neglected and unloved - for I was simply not able to match the yarns to a project.

All that changed towards the end of last year. I was in the midst of knitting a shawl, Citron by the wonderful Hilary Smith Callis to be precise, when I was gripped by the urge to design a garment myself. This was a pretty rough and uncoordinated idea; and in the beginning I didn't even know what type of garment I wanted to create. Probably because I was in the process of knitting a shawlette, I adopted this as my point of reference and eventually settled on a semi - circular shawl.

Having closed in on the garment type, I went into a swatching frenzy, trying all sorts of weird and wonderful stitch combinations only to be disappointed when confronted with the outcome in the end. Nothing seemed to look pleasing or suitable for the type of shawlette I had in mind, at least not to me. 

Just as I was about to shelf the whole design idea and turn my attention to a less soul-destroying past time, I revisited some of my swatched stitch motifs, their texture and, above all, their compatibility with a semi - circular shape. My emphasis shifted to the question of whether stitch motif and shape were able to complement one another in harmony and whether there was, as it were, a natural fluidity in respect of texture and shape. In the end, I chose the simple cartridge rib stitch from a swatch I had produced some months prior for an entirely different project. This stitch motif, I figured, would give the shawl a subtle texture but was at the same time able to both seamlessly align with and complement the overall shape of the garment.

Next came the choice of yarn and that's where we meet our friend, the grey cone, again. I wanted a neutral colour for the shawl at first; and I needed a relatively light yarn, which would also give sufficient expression to the texture I envisaged. With my stash lacking sock yarn at the time, 2 ply DK weight yarn was the next best thing and, given the price I paid, a frugal option for a first test - knit.

Fast forward several weeks and the body of the shawl was more or less complete. Now it was time to start thinking of the outer border. In the end I decided to let the cartridge rib stitch flow into a stockinette stitch border. This would produce a stretch of relatively plain fabric, which could then be offset against a playful picot bind - off. 

The picot bind - off would add further volume to the appearance of the shawl and also provide added drape. For a very short period of time, I toyed with the idea of adding beads to the bind - off but decided against it in the end. I didn't think that it was necessary to draw more attention to this part of the garment, which in itself was dramatic enough thanks to the picot edging. As I was busy binding off (and there are a lot of stitches to bind - off), I noticed that the fabric started to curl into a circular, spirally shape, resembling an Ammonite and this is how I came to name my pattern "Ammonite".

Following blocking, the shawlette was completed and I was able to admire the finished result. At this point I met additional obstacles, which I had not really appreciated beforehand. Whilst I was quite proud of my finished object, I had the feeling that, even after intense blocking, it was a little too ruffled - undoubtedly a result of a kfb increase frenzy combined with my choice of yarn, thereby resembling an Elizabethan collar rather than a shawlette. My yarn choice also gave rise to a second problem. As I was unable to clearly identify the yarn's origins, I was not in a position to publish a reliable pattern, a prerequisite to enable other knitters to create the same look or at least an approximation thereof.

So I returned to the drawing board and what I did next will be the topic of another post, due to be published very shortly, if you are still interested...

The pattern for Ammonite is available here, instructions for the cartridge rib stitch can be found here and Part II of my Design Digest is now available on the blog. 

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