Hi Spud & Chloë Friends,
In the last post I threw out the notion that if any of the designers wanted to share their behind the scenes story of their Spud & Chloë pattern design I would love to share it here. I asked Rachel Russ, who designed the Lulu Leggings, if she had any fun insight into how these playful and colorful leggings came to be. She is so wonderful, I couldn’t have written it any better so I am sharing her writing with you. You will enjoy her thoughtful process of design and how she intertwined her family roots right into the leggings.
Here are the photos and note Rachel sent me:
Lulu Leggings had an interesting start. I think because I am new at designing, and this business, I am figuring it out as I go along! I do a lot of trial, have a lot of error, and occasionally come up with something that works. Everyone’s process is different, so mine is probably a bit more unconventional.
Much of my knitting is influenced by my great grandmother who came to the USA from Riga, Latvia, when she was in her 60’s. She watched me when I was a baby and a young child, and she spoke only in Latvian. We had a lot of one sided conversations! She was always knitting or gardening when we spent afternoons outside in her yard. If the weather was bad, sometimes a whole sock would emerge from her needles before lunch. I loved her balls of yarn and would watch her fingers fly with the needles. My heritage is something that greatly influences my knitting. I put alittle bit of great grandma and grandma in most of what I knit up for myself. They were my two biggest knitting influences.
I have been gifted a stack of old Latvian knitting magazines and booklets that were my grandmother’s when she went to a Latvian Textile School. She recently found lots of knitting treasures in an old box that came out of storage. It’s not hard to read a color chart, so English isn’t necessarily needed to “read” them. Inspiration comes from vintage weaving charts in those old clothing booklets as well. Along with more updated books available on ethnic color work for techniques and particulars, the library is my other choice for browsing!
Fair Isle leg warmers was the concept I was given to work on from Blue Sky Alpacas. They gave me a couple of descriptions with the type they were looking for and then they turned me loose!
I was pretty excited to try out this new line of yarn—not to mention addicted to it instantly after working with it. The new FINE yarn colors were so intriguing to me I started swatching the colors together to see how they looked. For me, swatching is fun!
I’m a “do it” person—and while I may like something I see in a picture, I have to work it out myself to understand the construction and the feel of it. I may not like how it knits up, or I may change something to the stitch pattern to make it workable for the look I’m after.
I make several squares of stitch patterns and color ways, or knit small tubes in the round to try out a new technique. I pieced those elements I liked together to create the Lulu Leggings. After I selected many inspirational designs, I started knitting them in swatches with different colors to see what “spoke” to me. I might combine 2 different designs to come up with a new one on graph paper first. Then I let the yarn and the needles do the work.
The owner of Blue Sky Alpacas was particularly taken with a color swatch and the shapes in it—so I had my main element to work with. From there I swatched and visited the frog pond a lot, to come up with the final project.
The diamonds were in too much of an order in my first attempt, random was more the look needed, so I mixed it up a bit more and came up with the final piece (see above). The cuffs were worked on a separate swatch and I tried until I found one that would be easier on the leg and stretchy, also not be overbearing to the Fair Isle on the leg part.
The striped leggings were much easier to work up. I just took random stripes and colors and knit until the right combination showed itself. While I am not a fan of frogging, I have found I am much happier knitting as I go and writing things down. I don’t panic anymore when I have jump into that frog pond, I just console myself with how much better the design and colors will look after I get it “right.” How things looks on paper, for me, is not necessarily how it looks once it’s knit up. I tend to make a lot of changes as I go along. I cross out, scribble, highlight and jot down notes continually as I go along to keep track of those changes. Colored pencils are a must along with graph paper.
I find every designer’s process of birthing their designs fascinating! Much thought and effort goes into each project differently for everyone.
Thank you for sharing my designing story! Taking a peek behind the scenes may inspire someone else to pick up their needles and yarn and design their own masterpiece!
Rachel, your hard work and efforts really turned into a beautiful project in the end. You must be very proud! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us. You show how thoughtful, purposeful knitting with a little family history wrapped inside can make a fantastic project in the end. I need a pair for me and a couple more for my daughters. Lovely.
In other brief news, I dropped off the giveaway items off to the wonderful Andrea or Selkie on Ravelry today. Turns out she works at the University of Wisconsin right here in Madison. Who knew? It was fun to meet Andrea and she is very excited to try out the yarn and the pattern and the pattern box and the pom tree. Congratulations!