As our Bang Out a Hadley knitalong enters its last (official) days, we look back to the beginnings of this pullover design. We welcome Véronik Avery, the designer of Hadley, to share highlights from her design process.
–Kay and Ann
When Melanie Falick emailed me last spring to ask whether I’d be interested in participating in a new project she was fielding for Mason-Dixon Knitting, I said yes immediately. You see, my career as a knitwear designer has been influenced as well as encouraged a great deal by Melanie. Melanie’s tenure at Interweave Knits magazine and her book Knitting in America were instrumental in fostering my interest in knitting.
Sewing had been my work and hobby for a quite a while, and I long thought that knitting wasn’t for me. But coming across Interweave Knits at a newsstand piqued my curiosity about its editor-in-chief, and I sought out what else Melanie Falick had worked on. This led me to Knitting in America, which remains one of my favorite knitting books. A little later, when I decided to submit some proposals to knitting magazines, it was natural – but nerve-racking – that I would send ideas to Melanie.
To make a long story short, Melanie did call. I designed a few things, and she suggested I send her a book proposal after she moved on to book publishing. Melanie’s approach to editing a collection meshed very well with my design process. While I was brand-new to knitwear design, I’d once wanted to be a costume designer and had designed for a few plays. In the theatre, the director has an overall vision and the costume designer interprets the concept through the clothing. The director may steer the designers in a particular direction by describing the environment and period where the play makes place.
Like the director of a play, Melanie works with mood boards which clearly impart the tone of the collection she is putting together. We often spoke on the phone, brainstorming and emailing images simultaneously.
How Hadley Came To Be
When I designed costumes, I most often had functional directives to follow. For example, a line in the play might dictate that a character wore a red dress. I still work best when given a direction, so I asked Melanie if she had anything specific in mind for my Field Guide contribution. Melanie had already gone through many images with Ann and Kay, and they all liked a design I had knit for her book Handknit Holidays, the Sugarplum pullover. In addition to being a yoke pullover, Sugarplum had feminine shaping and a scooped neck. I don’t remember the exact details of designing this sweater, apart from being inspired by an image of a berry-covered wreath from Marie Claire Idées, a French lifestyle and handicraft magazine that both Melanie and I read at the time.
Melanie and I spoke together about what we found to be appealing in Sugarplum. We agreed that abstract colorwork motifs, which weren’t directly influenced by any one knitting tradition, were a key element. While the technique of purling in stranded knitting was innovated by the Bohus Stickning movement in Sweden, I would never dare to say that I’ve ever designed something equivalent. I do love purling here and there when I strand colors, as it adds both texture and nuanced shading.
With these ideas in mind, and Melanie’s mood board, I began to sketch and play with colors. My Zoom Loom swatches of Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter shades came in handy, and not for the first time in my design work.
My sketch at this point was merely a rough idea. I was happy with the overall shape, and definitely wanted to retain some waist shaping. Because I intended on having about 6 to 8 inches of ease at the bust, the shaping wouldn’t hug the waist but would delineate it instead. The scale of yoke pattern was too small, however. It might have worked in a finer yarn such as Loft but my schedule was a little too full to accommodate knitting a fine-gauge pullover in time. The decision to use Shelter proved to be a wise choice when the yarn was delivered to the wrong address and got to me almost two weeks late.
While I waited for the yarn, I began to chart the yoke repeat using Illustrator software. Because it is the industry standard, Illustrator is my tool of choice. I can easily make changes in Illustrator, and the final chart does not have to be converted for publication.
Illustrator isn’t magic software that eliminates the need for swatching, however. My early swatch didn’t quite work. The overall pattern was too tall, and the palette too warm.
But the initial chart was a proper departure point, and showed me what needed to be amended for the design to be more successful.
As I was working on a deadline, I completed the body of the sweater and resolved to address the problems once I got to the sleeve.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to undo my work too many times.
I did miss my deadline by a day, though. It might have been later if not for my fancy drying rack with a shelf!
Editors’ Note: We did not notice that Hadley was a day late–it wasn’t even a tiny bit damp on arrival. In any event, it was worth waiting for.