From Needle to Needle: Introducing a new blog series

Close up of stitches being picked up along a cardigan edge, knitted in a sky blue wool blend yarn.

The inspiration for the From Needle to Needle series came from knitting friends, colleagues and my IG community, but I didn’t think of writing a blog series until I received a text from Sylvia (IG: @withcherriesontoptoo), asking about proportional grading.  She didn’t mean to, but in doing so opened a massive can of worms that resulted in an essay covering nearly 5 sides of paper!  At that point I realised just how much I had to say about grading and the pattern production process as a whole; not only designing, which I am asked about fairly regularly, but the journey that an idea takes from a designer’s imagination to the home of a knitting customer – needle to needle.

I wanted to write this series for a few reasons:

  • To share my experiences as a knitwear designer (eight years’ worth, at the time of writing);
  • To help anyone thinking about designing their own patterns for sale;
  • To tell non-industry knitters something about how things work;
  • To encourage all knitters to have constructive discussions about what works well and what works less well.

It would be irresponsible to discuss anything about designing and producing patterns without mentioning other important people and processes that are part of bringing a design to life as a commercial pattern.  Designers get a lot of attention because they generate ideas and are responsible for the artistic direction of a pattern or collection, but the materialisation of those ideas is either a team effort or the Herculean effort of a designer wearing several hats, figuratively speaking.  Finding out the truth about number of these hats, and how well they may or may not fit, can bring budding designers back to earth with a bump, and many of them wonder how everything comes together.

My professional experience is exclusively about knitting, but much of what I’ll write here is also applicable to crochet.  One notable difference is that pay rates for crochet designers tend to be lower on average – but I suspect that’ll change with the advent of more publications, greater focus on garments, and design innovation.  It’s about time that more space was created for this progress to happen: Moorit, a biannual magazine founded by Alyson Chu, has completely smashed its Kickstarter stretch goals ahead of issue 1’s publication.  The best is yet to come from crochet, and I can’t wait!

Cheerful yellow cotton yarn, knitted in stocking stitch on rainbow wood needles.

To begin From Needle to Needle, I’ll introduce the three key roles or people involved in the pattern production process, their skillsets, and how I see those roles developing to safeguard the future of handknitting.  Together with larger or independent bodies such as yarn companies, dyers and spinners, magazines, periodicals and retail outlets, they have the professional responsibility of keeping knitting alive and accessible.  This context is important to understand regardless of whether you intend to sell or buy patterns; it helps to know something about the environment in which something will be created – or not.  Hopefully what I have to say here will be enlightening if not interesting.

After that I’ll dive into the design process and talk about inspiration and design development.  In these posts I’ll give some pointers about the many ways you can approach design and channel inspiration in a meaningful way – this helps your ideas to take shape and gives you something to think about as your work progresses.

Finally, we’ll come back full circle to the practicalities and I’ll share insights on getting patterns ready for publication, establishing good working habits, and other bits and pieces that are handy to know.  And throughout the series I’ll share resources and give several examples so that you can either go off and find out more about the things you find most interesting – or leave a comment or question for me here or on Instagram.  It’s always good to talk!

The first post in the From Needle to Needle series will be published tomorrow, but I’ll use this introductory post as an index or contents page and keep it updated so that you can find everything in one place as it’s published. That should be handy if you ever need to play catch-up 😊.  After tomorrow’s post there’ll be a new post each Wednesday until the series is complete.

More soon, and I’m looking forward to seeing you back here tomorrow!
– Natalie

Part 1 | The Three Lions of Knitting Patterns: The designer, the technical editor, and the grader

Part 2 | The Case for Professional Pattern Grading

Part 3 | Design Process 1: Inspiration

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