Designing a sweater: sketching.

About the process . . .

Sketch your design!

You can’t know how to proceed if you don’t know what you’re going to make. Sometimes I get something right on the first sketch, other times, I make a dozen. If you plan to submit a design for publication, they’re probably going to ask for a sketch as part of your proposal, so you might as well make one in the very beginning. It’s also good to always sketch if you’re designing for someone else to make sure you’re on the same page.

When I sketch, I use a croquis, or template. It keeps your proportions right and allows you to focus your attention on creating the design rather than drawing perfect arms. Whether or not you color in the garment is up to you (although with stranded or intarsia designs, you’ll want to bust out the colored pencils, markers, or watercolors.)

Speaking of perfect – your sketch probably won’t be! This is absolutely fine. My first sketch is always just for me to work from – if I plan on submitting a proposal, I re-sketch. Editors aren’t really looking for flawless sketches; as long as the design details are clear it should be fine. You can also label your sketches if necessary to remind yourself of important design ideas – I’ve been known to draw an arrow and write “seed stitch collar” and other similar things.

Remember, your sketch and your finished garment may be different – sometimes you get into the process and discover that something needs to change. (I recently changed a cardigan to get rid of a v-neck that didn’t seem right). There’s a little room for improvisation in sweater design, so do give yourself wiggle room as you proceed.

About my design . . .

The sweater I am sharing with you is pretty vanilla – a plain sweater vest, inspired by the one Benny Goodman wears on the cover of this album. (Yes, I know this is sort of re-inventing the wheel, but I couldn’t find a pattern that suited me, and I enjoy writing my own patterns.) My husband wanted a sweater that he could layer over a collared shirt but still wear under a blazer if necessary.

Here’s my sketch:


The croquis I used is from New Fashion Figure Templates by Patrick John Ireland. I decided to color in the sweater vest for two reasons: to differentiate the knit design from the collared shirt I drew underneath (sometimes I sketch a full outfit, others just the knit item) and because it was important to Craig that I use army or olive green yarn. Because I have a very clear idea of what I want to make, and don’t plan on submitting this design to a publication, I only made one sketch. I also didn’t feel that it was necessary to label anything on this sweater, although I suppose I could have pointed out the ribbing is going to be 1 x 1 rib.

Step two is coming later this week, and tomorrow you’ll learn the long-tail cast on in another Tutorial Tuesday!

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