Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blog Tour: Barb Brown's Knitting Knee-Highs

You may recall that way back in February, I did a thorough book review (with lots of pictures) of Barb Brown's fabulous book, Knitting Knee-Highs: Sock Styles from Classic to Contemporary (Krause 2011). Barb's book is full of beautiful sock patterns featuring stranded colorwork, textured stitches and cables, and the patterns give you the option of selecting a knee-high version or a lower option, like mid-calf. So it's a great pleasure for me to take part in the official Barb Brown Blog Tour.

Since my previous review told you a bit about the book, I thought it would be fun to talk about something that went into the making of the book. So I asked Barb if she would mind discussing her inspiration for two of the patterns in the book. (I let her choose which ones.) Here is what she said (with a few comments from me in italics):

Barb Brown on Designing Art Deco & Maid Marian

This would be a good time to point out that the knee-high samples were knit to fit an “average” length based on a huge survey of women. I forgot that models are so unusually tall, with long, long legs!

Carol: When we were working on Knit So Fine, they asked us to make the sleeves a little longer than normal to accommodate the longer length of the models relative to how skinny they are!

Art Deco Socks

Often people will ask “where does your inspiration for a design come from”? Art Deco is a good example.

Art Deco socks

Some time ago, I acquired an espresso coffee set from the early 20th century, in an art deco pattern. I loved the set, but honestly didn’t know what exactly Art Deco was. Being a research junkie, I went on Google spree, looking for pictures and information. In the course of this, I came across a picture of some fabric. And I saved it in my “ideas” folder. Often, something like this sort of “dings” in my brain, but the idea needs to simmer around for awhile.

About a year later, I began playing with it. As I was graphing, I began adjusting the width of the blocks of colour, and the length. I thought the varying sizes would be interesting, depending on which block the dominant colour was used for.

Carol: Below are the alternate version of the Art Deco sock shown in the book; it's fascinating to me to see how different the pattern looks in different colorways.

Everything on the design now seemed to flow downwards, either straight down or at angle. What I think of as a “zinger” seemed to be called for. (A “zinger” is a bit added to the design; colour, line, texture etc; that doesn’t quite fit, so draws the eye and adds contrast.) The horizontal stripes in the ribbing added the final touch.

Maid Marian

These were inspired by a challenge I set for myself. I wanted to design a pattern using a very simple lace, something that would be achievable for new lace knitters. It also had to have something a bit different about it, something challenging to design, but easy to knit.

The Baby Horseshoe pattern is a very elegant frothy lace, and it’s just a 4 row repeat, with 2 of those being plain.

Usually, shaping in lace seems to be done along a line in the centre back of a knee-high, or possibly along the sides. It seemed that this lace was perfect for doing a panel in the same lace stitch, shaping within the lace. It took a bit of fiddling, and grading 2 more sizes added to the challenge.

Once I had the basic design, it seemed that it needed a bit of order. Stripes down each side for shaping provided that the best. More stripes in the swing knit heel flaps seemed called for. Because of my early childhood immersion in Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs) design, I like things to be symmetrical, so added the striped pattern to the toes. (This stripe pattern also adds strength to these areas without a lot of added bulk.)

I like my designs to flow into each other, each piece setting off the next. The ribbing pattern was again a challenge when it came to grading. (My poor test knitter wore out her email sending me notes beginning “but, but, but’) The fiddle faddle was worth it in the end.

There it was: frothy, feminine and an easy knit.

Carol: I added a photo of the blue version and the gold version so you could see the pattern stitch in different colorways. (You're welcome, Barbara.)

The Eye of Partridge was added to heels and toes (I like my socks to match).

Still, it needed that little “zinger”. I thought of the truly feminine women I know; sort of light and frothy on the outside, yet with an almost invisible spine of steel. A nice tight cable down the side seemed to be the answer.

For the foot, only one repeat of the pattern is carried down each side. This seems to be more comfortable when worn in a pair of shoes.

Carol: I am so glad Barb had a chance to share her design process with us. It's fascinating to me to hear about how other designers and knitters work. If you haven't already picked up a copy of Barb's book, you really should -- it's even available in e-book format so if you're like my husband and carry your I-pad around with you, you can download the Kindle app (or the Nook equivalent) and have it with you always.....

1 comment:

Marie said...

Very intriguing. Helps me understand why some designs make me nod and smile and turn the page, while others make me nod and smile and stare at the page. The angels in the details.