Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Welcoming 2011 with a New Dress

Yarn: Sport weight superwash yarn dyed with natural dye.
Needles: #4 for border motifs, #3 for rest of the sweater.

Two weeks ago, I was doodling for some designs, and one of them made me really itching to start, but I had to make myself finish the project at hand before I jump into it.  The design was a tunic/dress with border design on the bottom, and a knitted belt sitting low on the waist.  I rummaged through my stash and thought the Classic Elite Fresco I had would be good.  I was keen on the combination of orange and light gray in stash.  But after swatching, I concluded that I probably didn't have enough yarn for the design.  So back to the stash digging.  I was mesmerized by the beautiful color of some yarn I dyed up with rabbitbrush flowers last fall so I decided that will be the main color with silver gray as contrasting color.   I still had a few skeins of undyed yarn in the same sport weight and also superwash, so I dug out the Logwood Gray dye. After mordant bath, it was quick dips into the dye as I was very afraid of it getting the yarn too dark. The color combination is lower contrast in tone than other stranded work I'd done, but it was what I wanted so as not to compete with the rather busy motif, and I knew the motif would still stand out clearly enough.

Seeing how tedious it was fore me to design motifs with Excel, Paul started writing a program a while back that is good for drawing designs on grids.  It works better than Photoshop, I think.  I'd been using Excel to make stitch motifs, although tedious, it worked fine with very symmetrical designs. But this time I wanted a more elaborated,organic, floral motif.  So Paul's program-in- progress really worked out much better than if I'd tried to do it on Excel.  It was really easy to draw and edit.  I learned that with drawing motifs like this the best approach for me was to draw out general shape, or even just a blob, for proportion and angles, then refine the shapes to a more recognizable motif.   Basically it was working with more abstract shapes first for general design, then edit the design into something more specific.

The dress was knitted from bottom up because I couldn't wait to get to the floral pattern to see how it will look knitted up.  When I designed the motif, I didn't do much calculation, just kinda eyeballed the width and height, added a few rows afterwards when I realized I wanted the border to be taller.  When I was ready to start, a little math and 4 repeats of the pattern came out to be about 46" around, wider than I wanted at the chest, and 3 repeat would be way too small.  So A-shape dress it was.

I made it 21" long from bottom to the armhole. I wasn't sure if I should make it longer, but fear of running out of yarn had me stopped at 21".  I'm glad blocking stretched it out a bit, to the point that it can be worn as a short dress.

I knew I wanted a funnel neck from the beginning.  Since I don't enjoy sewing knitted pieces, the sleeves were picked up from the armhole first, then worked in short rows and then knitted down in round. Once again, no sewing for this dress, at all !! 

As far as construction goes, this is a very simple knit. No increase at bottom border, after that decrease at each side every inch. All stocknette stitches except bottom edge, neck edge, sleeve edges that are 2 rounds of seed sts.

I really like how it turned out.  The thing with designing my own sweater (and a rather undisciplined approach to design that I have) is that there is always this exciting fear of how it will turn out.  I love the thrill of putting on the FO and it fits fine.  It always feels a bit like gambling, especially when it looked questionable before blocking.  Today when I put it on after it was dry from blocking and after some iron steaming, I was really, really thrilled at how it fitted fine, and it actually looked pretty alright.

The idea of belt was scratched at the last minute.  I actually knitted about 24" of the belt, then I realized the yarn was too lightweight to hold the buckle without any pulling or sagging.  Plus, I'm liking the look without belt a lot, so no belt. 


  1. Thank you for the story of this design :-))
    Beautiful tunic :-))

  2. Thankyou for your insight into graphing. The colors and design of your dress are just stunning.