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A Peek Into the Design Process

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A Peek Into the Design Process

Swatching is an important part of the design process. Let’s say we decide to design a striped afghan knit with Vanna’s Choice. The variables are infinite! How many of the 49 colors do we want to include? How long should each stripe be? What colors should be placed next to each other?

When designing the afghan, we make all of these decisions, by experimenting with mini-versions of the ideas in the form of swatches so I can see how each possibility looks.

Color sequencing is very important and I’ll share with you the inner dialogue that I have as I knit. First I knit a few rows of one color. I started with Chocolate (bottom right of this swatch). It’s dark so I figure, “Let’s brighten it up a bit now.” So I try a stripe of Magenta. I like the way the two look together, but I think we need something at this point to give it some “pop” so I add just a little of the Pea Green color. Now I want to do something unexpected so I put in Cranberry, which doesn’t really “match” the Magenta but looks great just a little further on, in between the Mustard and the Silver Gray. Deciding when to shorten the stripe and when to lengthen it is part of the process and there is no formula. You think it through visually, execute it by trial and error, coming up with a combination that works.

We swatched up a number of other combinations that you can see below, but thought that the swatch above was the most successful one in terms of achieving the look we wanted.

It’s like making soup–start with a basic idea and start adding. “I think it would taste good with some onion. Carrots? Yes, but not too many–I don’t want carrot soup. The carrots add some color, body to the flavor of the broth, and a slight sweet undertone. Can I put in an unexpected spice like jalapeno pepper? Sure, but just a tad because, like the Pea Green color in our swatch, it’s meant to add a touch of excitement and could easily overpower the result.”

The way we do colorways is part of our mark and swatching is our form of research. When you try creating your own color combinations, you’ll discover a look that encompasses your favorite color combinations and expresses something unique to you.

Here’s why I like the swatch we went with for the afghan and the qualities that I believe make it a successful effort:

  • It’s interesting and unexpected in the ways the colors sequence
  • It has “personality.” It’s unique and interesting.
  • It looks home-made (we call this “sign of the hand”) and is not seen in mass-produced knits. “Making it human” is particularly valuable in a high-tech, mass-produced world.
  • It breaks the rules of matching by putting a red next to a yellow and then a magenta.
  • It looks random, but it’s actually carefully planned out

I hope this gives you some ideas and the confidence to do your own experimenting with color. Remember, there is no right or wrong combination. It all depends on the look you want.

This swatch includes some new colors of Vanna’s Choice, which we will be presenting in an upcoming newsletter. Visit this blog on June 20th to see the afghan we designed based on this swatch experiment.

This is the first in a series of posts about swatching. I’ll be sharing our swatch experiments with you and showing you how to work with color, stitches and pattern to enhance your creativity with yarn.

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  • Hello,

    Thanks for your posting about “yarndorphins”.
    Yes…I totally agree with you!!! For myself, knitting combines a need to be creative and work with color, along with a greater need to reduce stress and clear my mind.

    At first I did not think that knitting would be theraputic for me, but I have been able to deal with difficult issues (people too) with the help of knitting simple projects and practicing yoga.


  • Do you hand knit your swatches? Sounds like a silly question, but I’m dying to know. I figure you Lion Brand folk love to knit, but are there shortcuts you take in your design work?
    Thanks for posting, all the best, Jenni Mansfield Peal

    Zontee says: Hi Jenni, we do hand-knit our swatches most of the time. We hand-knit swatches with new yarns so that we can test the tension of the yarn with various needle sizes and to figure out gauge. We also hand-knit and crochet swatches to match colors and to try out different stitch patterns, when designing.

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