Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finding Your Muse - Design Inspiration


Now and then I am asked how I find inspiration for my designs and I always have to stop to think about how to answer that question, because the answer's often different for different projects. 

Ideas for designs are not something I normally go about looking for, they mostly just pop into my head, my imagination continually bombarding me with more ideas than I could ever process. Not necessarily good ideas, mind you, but a constant 'brainstorming' session. 

These ideas are prompted by any manner of things including my surroundings, perhaps by seeing a great stitch pattern, a new silhouette, or I might dream up some crazy concept I just want to try.

The Sweetgrass Triangle shawlette, shown above, was released last month in the Summer 2012 Knitscene magazine.

This design makes a good contrast to the way I was inspired to design another recent release, my Frostlight scarf design, featured in this post.

Most publications send out some sort of call for submissions that include photos and descriptions of themes they have in mind for an upcoming issue. In the case of the Knitscene sub call, I liked ideas that included warm summer days, boardwalks and beaches. 

I imagined what I would grab to throw in a beach bag as a quick accessory to go from day to night, or would want to wear with a sundress when the sun went down and the air cooled.

I pondered idealistic, lazy days in hammocks, 

and soft grasses swaying in the breeze. The photo below shows one variety known as sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata), common to many parts of the northern hemisphere. 

The plant has a variety of uses, including in traditional basket weaving of the southeastern US.  

Taking all these ideas into consideration, I swatched and experimented with many stitch patterns to find something I liked - a simple airy, open mesh stitch pattern, and graceful knotted fringes that add sway and movement when worn. 

When I'd settled on the stitches, I submitted my proposal and was thrilled to have it accepted, albeit in a very different yarn and form than what I had submitted (the original proposal was in a much lighter gauge Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy yarn). 

If you are trying to design something of your own, there are many approaches to finding inspiration, but if you wish to try doing something similar to what I did, I suggest you start by asking yourself a few questions like Where will I wear this? What outfits would I like to complement with this item? What sort of mood do I want to capture (casual, elegant, sleek, playful)? Then begin to look through your closet, online, or in print magazines for items that in some way answer those questions. 

Put together a collection or 'storyboard' of your ideas including snippets of yarn you like, buttons, or other items, such as old photos or dried flowers for example, that fit the theme. Ponder these for a while then experiment with stitch patterns. Add your swatches to the collection.

Be willing to change up the collection, adding to it or removing things that don't seem to be working for you. Most of all, don't push too hard if the ideas aren't coming to you. Sometimes you need to back up a bit and ponder some more. It might just be that there is a better idea in the back of your mind waiting to pop up!

knitscene:,swing:, palm branch:, hammock 1:, hammock 2:, hammock 3:, sweetgrass: photo by dianne faucett, basket:


  1. Love this sweet color! Thank you very much for advise, Robin!

  2. hello robin! just bought the whole magazine in order to knit your sweetgrass shawl! such a great pattern!

  3. Susanna, thank you so much for the nice comment! I hope you enjoy knitting it, and look forward to seeing it. :)

  4. Gorgeous shawl. Well done. I'm reading a book by Debbie Macomber set in a town called 'Sweetgrass' , Montana. So it was very interesting hearing about your inspiration behind this design. I've been thinking as I was reading this book that 'Sweetgrass' would make a nice design name. lol.

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  6. Anni, thank you so much! I thought of the name last year while researching the project. It seems so weird that suddenly so many other 'sweetgrass' references have popped up! :)

  7. I love hearing how your mind works through your creative process. Thank you so much for sharing a glimpse into your wonderful pattern design. Love that shawl!

    Robin, thank you so much for your prayers. The tender mercies of strangers are holding me right now. Thank you again. blessings ~ tanna