Originally published on 3rd July 2014
Here it is! My latest design for Knitting Magazine, the Little Waterfalls tunic, is in the August issue. It is a casual top with coloured stripes worked within a lacy cluster pattern.
The design process for this garment was a serendipitous one. You’ve heard those stories about designers discovering things by accident, haven’t you? And these amazing discoveries are ALWAYS something resembling genius? Yep. Well, although I can’t claim that Little Waterfalls ascends such lofty heights, something similar happened whilst I was swatching and I wanted to share it with you.
When I received the nautical-themed brief from Knitting, my first thought was of water, not stripes. I rummaged around in my drawer of blue oddments, pulled out some DK cottons and thought about how I could convey movement within knitted fabric. After a bit of doodling I decided my first attempt would involve some sharp decreases, as these would be more dramatic than the bog-standard ‘K2tog’ etc. I settled on double decreases and double yarn-overs, offsetting the pattern to the right by degrees to echo the natural right-hand slope of k3tog. Here’s how the swatch turned out:
The pattern was sort of doing what I wanted: the path of the stitches looked like trickling rivulets, but it felt a bit blah – and a quick conference call to my mum, ever forthright, confirmed that it was somewhat lacking. After staring, feeling a bit fed up, and realising that neither of those things were useful, I decided to cast off the swatch and come back later.
AND HERE IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENED.
I normally begin and end swatches with a few rows of garter stitch. Practically, this makes them easier to mount; psychologically, a few plain knit rows are a good warm-up. This swatch was no different, but I couldn’t help noticing that something interesting and unexpected was happening to the stitches as I prepared to cast off:
It looked as though little clusters were forming, and I immediately thought of sea foam…followed by the plungpool at the bottom of a waterfall. And then my mind raced: my rivulets became waterfalls and I now had no intention of casting off the swatch.
I continued working the same essential pattern, but broke up the smooth waterfall stripe with a ‘plungpool’ of garter stitch each time. Another decision made on the fly was to change colour after each textured plungpool section: I thought this mimicked the change in colour and texture as water is agitated or impacts something.
I knitted on, and, feeling happier with each row, cast off the swatch for good. Here’s how it looked – one of the photos is at an angle for perspective and a better idea of the movement I was trying to create:
My final creative decisions were easy: I knew a simple relaxed shape would suit both the brief and let the stitches do the talking, so I went for a boxy tee with minimal shaping and recommended cottons/cotton blends for stitch definition when submitting the design.
A final touch was the bracket the welts with short stripes of reverse stocking stitch, and to deploy a 3-needle cast-off at the shoulder/overarm seam, adding a bit more texture and ease of construction. Hardly any finishing is needed; you just need to join the side seams. As I knitted the sample garment, I carried my yarns up the side when not in use, periodically ‘locking in’ each one to the edge using the fairisle weaving technique – so fewer ends to sew in.
And that is how Little Waterfalls was born. If you knit it, I hope you enjoy. If not, I hope you enjoyed reading this.