I thought I might share with you my design process -- and I'm going to use my next design project to do it. Why? Because I think it will be fun to write it out. I'm pretty sure that writing it out will teach me something. And.... some of you seem to be interested in my tutorial-esque posts. This will wind up being a series -- unless, of course, I get comments telling me you're bored to death with this.
The pattern we'll be working with will be for a simple, very light bolero/shrug sort of thing knit out of fingering weight yarn. Something that will let sleeves gently caress your arms without hugging them and without wrapping your body in a bunch of sweater that is too warm. I'm working this up becasue my dear friend and fellow traveler the Divine Though Blogless Elizabeth keeps knitting up these little nothings, and wearing them. I see her in her sweater-lets, and wish I had one. Frankly, I covet one, but am never quite pleased with something about the ones she knits (not her knitting, nor her yarn etc., but some little something about the design that is just hard enough to name that I don't want to try to figure it out to modify the original pattern). I'm not sure why, but I seem to be calling this one Lionesse -- for now.
So. Process step one (sometimes). Look at existing things for basic shapes. See what I'm liking and what I'm not. Dither for hours over Ravelry searches hoping to find a design that I want JUST THE WAY IT IS, while taking in the different ways the intended garment tends to hang on people. Fiddle with the search terms trying to get a more meaningful response. Here, for example, I eliminated baby clothes. Eventually, I admit that the perfect pattern for my desires isn't out there. Pre-Ravelry, this would have taken less time, but I'd have been sitting on the floor surrounded by knitting books and patterns. I'm thinking the time differential would have been balanced out by needing to put all those books away again.
Anyway, as I look, I make a few sketches of the basic shape I want. Draw up a schematic or two. Hunt for schematics in existing patterns to see if they're simiilar or so radically different that I know I've made either a brilliant and new solution or a gross misjudgement somewhere. Fuss with the sketches some more. Recognize that seriously -- there's only so much you can do with a basic shape, and quit obsessing about it. Take notes and leave them for later.
In this case, I've already chosen my yarn. Sometimes that comes later.
For Lionesse, I'll be working with the Tucker Woods BB Toes that I picked up at Stitches specifically to make a nice light Bolero/Shrug thing.
Yes, this is clearly fingering weight. No, that does not mean that I limited my shapes search to things in Fingering Weight yarn. However, it does mean that the lovely warm looking awesomely cabled shrug is not likely to be a good guideline for this bolero. This yarn simply will not work that way. Luckily, what I want is more whispy, so those shapes aren't interesting to me right now.
With a vague shape idea in my head, I let that go. Obsessing does me no good whatsoever. I let the shape issue (and thus the construction issue) percolate in the back of my mind and turn to the stitch pattern question. The stitch pattern and shape interact with each other, so while the shape is percolating, I swatch around until I find something that works well with the yarn while meeting some basic requirements.
For example, here, I'm swatching a balanced stitch pattern that will work for edges (I don't want a rolled edge) without being too rib like. The bottom of this swatch shows that I started with a simple broken rib -- but it still read too much like ribbing for my taste (for this project). I shifted a bit, and then morphed into a pattern I sort of made up. (Note, I'm not saying it's never been done before. I'm not even saying that it isn't in seven stitch dictionaries. I'm just saying that I've not seen it before, and that I fussed it out for myself without looking it up or browsing through a stitch dictionary).
The top portion of the swatch seems promising, but I clearly need to knit a bit more to see how it plays out. If it turns out that I need to more than double the depth, however, it could be a problem. I don't think I want the edging on the sleeves to be very deep -- but if it has to be deep to look/work well, this stitch pattern won't work for this purpose.
Eventually, I'll settle on my stitch patterns. At that point, I'll fuss a bit to make sure that I'm working at the best gauge for the yarn -- to be sure that I like the fabric I'm getting. That will look at drape, and opacity or lack thereof, and how it feels on the skin. (This will also involve washing the swatch -- things change a lot after a nice soak!) When I've got that right, I'll check my gauge --- and I'll do it both before and after washing. After all, I've got to check the gauge while knitting to be sure to get dimensions right, but you can't exactly check the gauge after washing until you're done....