Stitch Craft Create Blog

Design Inspiration and the Knit-Along Winner(s) with Barb Brown

Hi everyone! As we near the end of National Craft Month, we’re wrapping up our knit-along as well. All of the entries arrived by March 25, and we were impressed by the creative use of color and the colorwork technique demonstrated. So, without futher ado, the winner is…Anne!

Barb picked Anne’s submission because she loved her use of blue and pink, calling it both “creative and subtle.” Congratulations, Anne! We will be contacting you shortly for your information so we can send you a copy of Knitting Knee-Highs and a skein of Fiber Optic Yarns Foot Notes. When the new issue of Stitch Craft Create comes out this summer, you’ll also receive a copy of the magazine! 

Barb had a hard time picking just one winner. So, we decided to throw in some prizes for not one, but two runners-up! Here are our two other outstanding submissions:

Barbara’s gorgeous marigold and fuchsia Bonnie Birds.

Andrea’s beautiful brown, blue, green and yellow Bonnie Birds

Barb has graciously offered two additional prizes for these winners: Barbara, you will receive a skein of sock yarn from Black Bunny Fibers. Andrea, you’ll receive a skein of sock yarn from Ancient Arts Fibre.

I was also able to complete one knee-high during March, and I had a great time working the pattern. I just loved how the birds began to “appear” as I completed each row. So sweet!



To all our participants, thank you for participating! We hope you had a lot of fun.

And now, here’s Barb!

Where Does Design Inspiration Come From? 

It suggests itself in the colors in the sky, a photograph of a fence, or an old embroidery pattern.  Sometimes, it pops into the head, fully blown, and all you have to do is choose the yarn and knit it up. Once in awhile, it comes in a dream, and you pop out of bed, rummaging around for yarn so you can do up a swatch before the idea is gone.

Once the idea is born, there is a lot of work remaining to be done. 

First, the design has be tweaked to make it knit-friendly. There isn’t much point in designing a pattern that no one has the courage to attempt, especially if you are considering marketing it.

Consider stranded patterns. 

First, how many colors would you need to use in the row?  Most knitters don’t care to use more than two, and most traditions follow this “rule”. If the original idea has three or four, can it be shifted around to leave only two, and still retain the effect that charmed you into wanting to design it in the first place? For example, Mary Wilson’s Gift Knee-Highs were inspired by a century-old Coast Salish basket. The diamonds were white, while the “key” pattern was a dark colour.  Shifting the white into the background took care of the problem and still retained the flavor of the original idea.

Mary Wilson’s Gift Knee-Highs

Second, how long are the floats?  In general, five stitches is the maximum that knitters care to cope with. In Eric’s Path Knee-Highs, there would have been a carry of ten stitches in part of the pattern.  This was solved by adding a small cross in the that area. Little dots were added into Sweetheart Knee-Highs for the same reason.

A small cross was added to the design to avoid a carry of 10 stitches.

Eric’s Path Knee-Highs

On Flora Knee-Highs, stamens were added around the flower petals and a wee stripe was added in one set of petals. But then I knit up the shaping panel in the back, and realized that the carries reached as many as eleven stitches. And I broke the “rule” and left it like that, because I was so charmed by the dramatic effect.

Flora Knee-Highs shaping panel

The third problem is determining how many stitches are in a repeat, and structuring the pattern to fit more than one size. If the repeat is only four or five stitches, there isn’t much of a problem. But often the repeats are much wider and don’t accommodate multiple sizes easily. On Eric’s Path Knee-Highs, only two repeats are used, so extra stitches could easily be added on the sides of the pattern for the larger sizes. Katya’s Fancy Knee-Highs, a traditional Russian pattern, originally had a repeat of nine stitches. But adding nine stitches to each size would make symmetry on the knee-high a difficult thing to achieve. So the medium has a repeat of ten, and the large a repeat of eleven stitches. The pattern, from size to size, becomes fraternal rather than identical.

Once the leg is designed, the top border must be decided. Ribbing? Eyelets and a garter? How do these stitches flow into the leg pattern? Does it relate to the pattern? Enhance it? On Bonnie Birds Knee-Highs, once the sample was originally knit, it just seemed to require some little additional feminine touch. The faux-ribbon stitch around the top adds that. The traditional designs in Omar’s Carpet Knee-Highs reminded me of ornate jewelry, and this theme was emphasized by the picots at the top. In lace, the Maid Marian Knee-Highs have the ribbing flow down into the lace so that a little pitchfork shape seems to form, adding depth.

Picots give an ornate feel to Omar’s Carpet Knee-Highs

Omar’s Carpet Knee-Highs

Next comes the heel.  Patterned or plain?  Stripes or dots?  Should I carry the pattern right down the heel flap? All of these options were used in Knitting Knee-Highs. Also to be considered is the postion of the heel within the main pattern of the sock.  How will the leg look from the front, the side and the back? 

Should I place a pattern on the top of the foot? Or leave it plain?  Pattern the toe to match the heel?  Or make it with it’s own design element?

And of course, for knee-highs: Where should the shaping be? On one side?  Both? In the back?  Within the pattern?

So many problems, and all of them are such a pleasure to solve!

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To discover all of Barb’s lovely designs, page through Knitting Knee-Highs, on sale for 50% off the retail price through the end of March!

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