Knitters who like to design (whether professionally or for fun) absolutely love stitch guides: books stuffed with nothing but stitch patterns. Not patterns for finished items, but patterns for stitches which are the building blocks of fully-realized designs. The more exotic and obscure the patterns, the better. I recently discovered a treasure trove of new stitch patterns by designer Annie Maloney.
Many of her stitch guides are available in PDF format only, which means you can download them immediately after purchase. I love that – no waiting for the mail! Other collections are spiral bound hardcopies which need to be shipped.
My first purchase is Cable Innovations: Volume 1, which contains 33 stunning cable + lace combinations. I am plotting on how I can incorporate these into a future sweater design.
Here are a couple that I’ve already swatched:
Stitch #8 (above) has a slightly masculine fee, with double columns of knit stitches forming criss-crossing X’s.
Stitch #7 above is one a favorite, as it incorporates a little bit of lacy yarn overs with undulating cables and central medallions. It’s bold yet delicate.
So how will I use these kinds of stitches in a design? My process is fairly straightforward. First I think of a basic shape and construction for a garment (say, a pullover worked flat from the bottom up). Then I decide the type of neckline – an extremely important detail. V-neck? Scoop? Then I ask myself if there will be waist shaping. Once I have a framework for the design in my head, I’ll visualize how the various stitches I’m excited about would fit within that framework. I’m usually not a fan of allover stitch work (too busy for my tastes) so I’ll scribble up some rough sketches, playing with placement of stitches like #7 above. Maybe I’ll have a main panel of the stitch running up the center front, and then split apart and travel up each side of the neckline. Or I may space out several panels. On and on, I iterate over the possibilities until I come up with something I like. Then I’ll create a “final” sketch, put it away for several days, then pull it out again and see how I react. If I hate it, then it’s back to the drawing board. If I still love it, then I create swatches of each stitch to be used. I usually modify any stitches I find in stitch guides (making them wider, narrower, changing the row count, etc), so I need to work all that out first. Then I write out the basic pattern for the garment and start knitting!
You can find Annie Maloney’s stitch guides at Needle Arts Knitting. I am not compensated for promoting her publications – I just love her work.