Saturday, October 15, 2011

Trick or Treat? Design Elements

Trick or Treat Bags - Lion Brand Yarn
FREE Pattern! See bottom of post.
Often in my classes when students discover they've made a mistake there is a minor panic on their part. Occasionally I find a few students who take it in stride, recognizing that the class is a learning opportunity and that mistakes will be made - it's part of the learning process. But more often than not it seems students grade their success on the perfection of their work in class, and want immediately to fix any issues. Some errors can be readily fixed, and some cannot - without tears and ripping back.

Yes, I teach my students how to correct their work whenever possible. I even teach a class about only that - Knit Research & Rescue - in which students learn to correct knitting without ripping back. But I also try to teach my students that not all errors are bad.

Recipe Fail.  Look familiar Mom?
I think it is important for knitters to understand that a pattern is nothing more than a recipe. Yes, sometimes you can make mistakes in recipes bad enough that the result is no longer food. (Mom, stop laughing!) But you can also make wonderful substitutions that not only make the process, but also the end result, more enjoyable. Take chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for example. Love them. But... substitute those chocolate chips with butterscotch chips and dash in a little orange zest... OMG, get out of my way... I'm eating them all! (Really, try it - very very tasty!!) Did I make a mistake? No. I made something better suited to my tastes. I added a design element. Knitting is the same way.

Design Elements can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional design elements include things like intentionally adding or changing a stitch or the project's structure: 1x3 rib substituted for 2x2, gooseberry stitch for bobbles, moss stitch instead of a stockinette field, shortening sleeves, adding shaping, adding striping, knitting a turtleneck collar instead of a Henley, etc.

Unintentional Design Elements originate from errors. For example - on a recent project I misread/interpreted the pattern and performed a "C4F,C4B" (two cables twisting inward) as a "C4B,C4F" (two cables twisting outward). At the next pattern repeat I did it correctly. Then I saw the error. Yes, I did it wrong. Yes, I could have fixed it. But in fact, I liked it. It made a sort of "O" or medallion. It occurred to me that if I replicated my error, every other repeat, I'd get a sweet little X's & O's pattern... which of course reminds me of Kisses & Hugs, which are never bad... and there, I'd added a design element to my project, making it entirely my own, and more special to me than if I'd executed the pattern perfectly.

Does this work with every type of error? No. If you knit one sleeve 8" too long, making the other sleeve 8" too long will result in a monkey sweater. But, if the error doesn't affect structure, the trick to turning an error into a design element (treat!) is simply this... Consistency. Replicate your error consistently and you've added a design element.

...Oh, and the cool image at the top of the page with the little Trick or Treat Bags - that's a FREE pattern available from our friends at Lion Brand Yarns.  No, I wasn't paid or even asked to link to them - I just love the pattern!