Designing Knit Objects
Hi everyone! In this guest post I’m going to detail out how I design and construct knit objects – these can be toys to play with or display, or just quirky random things.
The first step is to start with a vision. I spend a lot of time doodling at inappropriate times, so most of my dolls start out on pages of sketchbooks, notebooks, napkins, or any other surface, really. I like to keep a blotter page on my desk at work that I doodle on when on the phone. Whatever works for you! The important thing is that you need to have a good idea of what you want. Sure, changes are usually necessary, but the less of an idea that I have about something, the more likely I am to drop that project in exchange for something that has a stronger vision.
So, here we have a bit of a page COVERED with doodles. Any one of these can be a knit toy! Let’s start out with the big ole’ ballerina – She’s actually a character that’s been floating around my head for a while. I originally thought her up during the 30 Day Character Challenge that I tried (and failed) in November. Nina Ballerina!
So, now that we have our vision, the next step is to deconstruct it. Nina’s head and top bun are spheres; her body is kind of bell-shaped, with a tutu; her arms and legs are very thin, and end is big ole hands and feet. Hm, I know how to make all those shapes!
At the end of the day, knit toys are really just combinations of shapes! So, how are we going to combine these? I like to draw up a schematic – it’s my engineering background. The schematic breaks down the character into it’s basic shapes, and then I can start to form a game plan for how I’m going to make this lady. You can do this in your head when you get good enough!
First, I think I’m going to knit the head and body. Then, I’m going to pick up and knit each arm and leg. Then, I’ll pick up and knit stitches around the bottom edge of the body to make Nina’s tutu. Finally, I’ll do the embellishments – embroider the face, hair, and sew the knit top bun onto the top of her head.
Notice that I have more than just the basic shapes! I’ve got directions for which way I’m going to knit (the arrows) and a symbol for sewing. I think the best way to combine the shapes for the head and the body would be to make two separate shapes, then sew them together. This sketch is easy for me to do – it only takes maybe ten minutes. The best part is, if I don’t want to make Nina right now, the sketch will stay in my notebook or I can upload it onto my laptop and it will live there until I feel like making her! I won’t have to re-invent the wheel from the original doodle.
So, how do you get good at doing this? Practice, of course! My best advice, though, is threefold:
1.) Knit A TON toys.
When I started knitting again in highschool, I knit toys almost exclusively, because they are so quick and rewarding! And my original designs were improved a hundredfold by knitting objects from designers, especially Hansi Singh. Doing these sometimes difficult projects allowed me to develop a feel for what does and doesn’t work. Should I make the project in one piece, or in separate pieces and sew them together? This isn’t a question about skill – the two finished projects will have different shapes! Have you every tried to make a cube in the round? Don’t get me started.
The second benefit of this is that you develop a repertoire of shapes. This is helpful because then you can do what I call “Frankensign” (frank-EN-zine) – splice two or three toy designs together to make something new. This is the easiest way to make toys – and you’ll see it on Ravelry forums when someone asks “How do I knit a (blank)?”
2.) Design, Design, Design.
Draw schematics. Doodle things. Recreate your favorite video game or TV show characters. Whatever! The point is, you don’t get experience unless you do it! You don’t HAVE to make every toy you draw up, in fact, I probably draw out thousand times more projects than I’ll ever have time for – but, you get a little rush when you finish thinking a design through. “Oh, yep, I could make one of those.”
3.) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
This is important with everything, but it’s even more so with designing. Don’t just rip out your mistakes – keep them, if you have the room or the money. This might not make sense with a sweater or a pair of socks, but with a toy, you’ll never know if you will need that shape again! So, take good notes, make down what works – but also keep track of what doesn’t. It goes back to building that repertoire.
Anyway, those are my bits of advice for everyone! Thanks for reading!