Monday, October 12, 2015

Margaret Radcliffe: Behind the Design

No more losing your little one’s little hat, with this sweet, snug hood!

Lily Pad Hood, designed by Margaret Radcliffe. Photo © Geneve Hoffman Photography, excerpted from One-Skein Wonders® for Babies. All rights reserved.
I am often asked where I find inspiration for my knitted designs. The answer is never an easy one. Sometimes, an image or a feature of the landscape catches my attention and I wonder whether I could represent it in a knitted fabric. Sometimes it’s a geometrical concept that catches my attention. At the moment, I am particularly enamored of a Fibonacci spiral blanket, where the curve of the spiral is integral to the structure of the knitting. (I hope it will be included in my next book so I can’t give away any more than that until it’s published!)

Most frequently, however, I find that it’s the yarn that dictates the design. Like many knitters, I have a stash of yarn I love dearly. I won’t go into just how much stash I have — some things should remain private — but I can reveal that it is in bins, on shelves that cover most of one wall of a room in my house. Within that stash, I have all sorts of odd balls of yarn, many of which are hand-painted, one-of-a-kind skeins from dyeing demos or experiments. I’m always on the lookout for small projects that suit these unique yarns, and the Lily Pad Hood in One-Skein Wonders® for Babies was the result of a confluence of one gorgeous skein of gradient-dyed yellowy-green yarn, a beautiful great-niece, and an idea for a pull-on hood I’d had in the back of my mind for years.

I was aiming for a design that would be fun to knit, practical for a small child to wear and for parents to wash (always an important consideration when children are involved), and that would result in NO LEFTOVER YARN.

With all due modesty, I think I nailed all my criteria.
Margaret’s original hood in green. Photo by Naomi Brill Skena
For the version of the Lily Pad Hood that appears in the book, I chose Tess Designer Yarn’s superwash merino. Not only is it machine washable, but Melinda Bickford’s colors grade into each other beautifully and the segment lengths are short enough to be pleasing in a small garment.

Hoods for small children are not only cute, they’re easy to put on and less likely to fall off and be lost than a small hat and scarf. Wool keeps little ones warm even when it gets wet, and the large yoke covers the shoulders of a jacket or sweater, offering protection from snow and rain.

The Lily Pad Hood is what I think of as a “knitterly” design, one that uses the medium of knitting to its best advantage: no seams, minimal finishing, and easily adapted to suit the knitter. You’d prefer a different border around the hood? No problem! Just choose another non-curling pattern to replace the garter stitch. Want a different pattern stitch in the yoke? Try a simple lace pattern with yarnover increases lined up in spirals instead of staggered. Just for fun (and for cuteness’ sake), I finished the Lily Pad Hood off with one of my favorite decorative bind offs: an edging of small triangles. This embellishment serves a practical purpose: it insures that the bind off isn’t too tight so the outer edge of the yoke stays stretchy and lies perfectly flat. Do you prefer a different edging? It’s your choice — you could just bind off without any edging at all, or add a ruffle. Do you envision a cape rather than a yoked hood?  Instead of joining and working in the round, work the whole thing flat, and increase every other row until the cape is as long as you like.

There are no limits.  That’s what I love about knitting.  This project was so much fun to knit, and there was less than a yard of yarn left over — mission accomplished!

Now, back to the Great Wall of Yarn in hopes of finding another perfect match.

Margaret Radcliffe is the author of The Knowledgeable Knitter, Circular Knitting Workshop, The Knitting Answer Book, and The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques. She lives in Virginia and teaches knitting workshops across North America, promoting creativity and independence in all knitters. Her own designs are published in the Maggie’s Rags line of knitting patterns. Find more from Margaret on Facebook.

No comments: