June 01, 2013

Designing Teardrop - Issue 2


Text by Tokuko

amirisu featured @ Teadrop


Before designing…

Whenever I spot people walking through the city streets, or look through a magazine, or watch TV and think “I want to wear that,” or “I want to knit that”…I draw a simple sketch somewhere. Really very simple! I’m not good at drawing, so I just doodle something out quickly with a few strokes. Sometimes I take another look at it, and from there I decide what it is that I really want to knit. That’s how it starts.

amirisu featured @ Teadrop


This piece started because I’d always wanted to make something with a large, teardrop-shaped opening in the back. (I mean, it’s super cute, right?) I thought that maybe making it with some yellow stripes would make it more casual and easier to wear. For the look of the stripes, I checked a bunch of magazines and decided on a rough sketch.

After that, I doodled some more while thinking about how to knit it. 

Of course, it’s important to consider how the piece will be worn, but it’s essential to consider how it will be made too. Will it be too boring to knit? Will the techniques be too difficult? Will the pattern be easy to write? These three points are very important.

Then, next comes the swatch!


Making a Swatch

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Once I have the yarn, I get super excited.

You’re supposed to choose your needles while you’re envisioning the knitting, but I always try out about 3 sizes.

There will be needles that feel good when I’m knitting with them. Those are the ones I choose. Then, I test the pattern elements.

I tested to see how wide the stripes should be and decided that the yellow should be on the thin side after all.

It makes it look more adult that way.

I pressed it with and iron and did a gauge check. I measured the stitch gauge precisely, and figured I’d find out the row gauge as I went.

That part was a little lazy of me.


Sketching it Out

amirisu featured @ Teadrop


I decided how I was going to knit the piece, then I drew a simple diagram. Since the things I’d knit recently had the bodes and sleeves knit first, then joined them all to knit the yoke in the round, I thought maybe I could make it that way, but I felt like the teardrop-shaped opening in the back wouldn’t work out very well, so…

I rejected that idea. I decided to make it with regular set in sleeves. I wanted it to have a casual feel so I didn’t add waist shaping, but I didn’t want it to look sloppy, so I made the neckline sort of boatneck-ish. How to knit the body, how to make the teardrop-shaped keyhole opening, where to put the stripes? Once the knitting has been mostly worked out by doodle, it’s time to start! 

I thought I’d be able to knit the hem on US size 3s, but it didn’t work out so I switched to US 4s. When I start knitting, I have to redo it a whole bunch of times. Turns out, sketches and the real thing are different.

Partway Through the Body

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It looks like I tightened up after starting the stripes, so it was too small.

Okay. Time to fix it! Check gauge, and start again from the beginning. Right?

Just as it happened this time, when knitting the body in the round, each round is so looooong that if your gauge isn’t even it can be hard to get the sizing right. It just goes to show that everything has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

But look how far I’ve gotten! I didn’t use a paper pattern this time, so I’m using a shirt of mine to check it against instead. The shirt is one of my favorites. I wear it all the time. So, if the sweater turns out the same shape it’s guaranteed to become a favorite of mine too. There’s only a little left until the armholes.


Done with the Back!

amirisu featured @ Teadrop

After knitting around and around in the round, I split the body for the front and back and started knitting the back. The heart of this design is the teardrop-shaped opening in the back, so after drawing a detailed diagram, I made some calculations.

I fiddled with the timing of the decreases and things to make it easier to write the pattern and adjust for the different sizes.  There, see? Even when I shift it 1 stitch per row it’s no big deal!

And in the complicated sections where the decreases pile on top of each other, I write the pattern as I knit it. That way, I know it’s right. Writing it afterward would be a task of Herculean proportions.In this way… Knitting along… Writing as I go… Calculating as I go… I’ve finished the back!

Knit fabric is stretchy, so I can’t say anything until it’s fastened together though… I’m a little worried on that point.


Finished with the Body

amirisu featured @ Teadrop


The truth is, after I’d finished the back, I realized that my gauge had changed when I switched from knitting in the round to knitting flat. No matter how much I measured, the teardrop-shaped opening was too big!

I cried and cried as I frogged back, and I started my calculations over from where I started knitting flat.

I always think that people who don’t find frogging painful would do well as knitwear designers. But the part that I frogged back knitted up to my newly thought out plans. I’m satisfied. Thank goodness!

I seamed the shoulders and immediately tried it on.

Yup. It looks like it’ll work. I feel like I’ve made it over a mountain. Relieved, I’ll be able to sleep.


Finished with the Sleeves

amirisu featured @ Teadrop


Compared to the body, the sleeves were a snap. Knitting two was no problem!  I hate sleeves (I mean, they’re so long!), so I hardly ever knit them.

For making regular set-in sleeves like this, you need some knowledge of schematics, but once you’ve memorized it, it’s simple. It’s not all that difficult at all.

Now, once they’re attached to the body, it’ll be very nearly complete.



amirisu featured @ Teadrop


Well, well. I finished it! Of course, I tried it on right away.

It’s an exciting moment.

I worried over how to finish the neckline and keyhole opening, but a plan came to me in the bath and I decided to knit i-cord around the whole thing. It’s a little bit of a pain, but it finishes off the teardrop-shaped opening nicely, and I can make the buttonhole at the same time. It’s a great idea!

This technique came from a pattern by another designer I knit a long time ago.  It’s in this way that the more I knit, the more my own designs can grow and mature.

I’ll have to knit lots and lots in the future, right?

Now, all that’s left is to write the pattern. I’m not good at calculations, so my head hurts…


Writing the Pattern

amirisu featured @ Teadrop

The time has come for the math I hate so much. I need paper, a pencil, and a calculator.

After I get the pattern for the small size I knit for myself down perfectly, I work on expanding to other sizes. First, I decide on the sizes, and I write out a chart of the size details. Then it’s nothing but math, math, math. It’s all decided by math. I work to keep the details coherent and fine tune the sizes.

Every time I do this I curse myself, wondering why I’m doing this kind of work when I hate math so much.

Once I’ve written and rewritten so much that the paper is completely black, it’s done. A technical editor will check it, so that’s a bit of a relief, but I redo it over and over to make sure there aren’t any huge mistakes.

No one taught me how to expand the sizing, so I do it based on my experience knitting a lot of English language patterns. Though I wish there was some way I could learn how to do it properly…

With that, the pattern “Teardrop” is complete. I hope lots of people will knit it. I’m looking forward to wearing it in the spring!