The most important question is, “would I wear this?” St. Paul native Kjersti Campbell, an emerging knitting pattern designer with an eye for complex compositions, worked her way through high school at the local bead store where she was especially intrigued by bead weaving and making vessels. She was drawn to the threads twisting around each other, looking into and through and she slowly realized there was a medium for which this process is central; knitting. As she learned to knit she began to see the medium as a method for expressing or experiencing her desire for beauty and pleasing visuals in practical everyday objects.

Flores GloriaFiber, with is tactile nature, has warmth and comfort Kjersti finds irresistible. She likes knitting because of the breadth and depth of its options. She can create virtually anything with its flexible structure. Her current overall theme is inspired by the unique way nature presents the elements of art. Many of her designs have a botanical name as she uses the curves, tips and points and color changes found along hiking trails and in parks as elements in her knitting composition.

purplbear ravelryLike many Millennials, Kjersti’s iPad is a tool that’s highly integrated into her life. It’s knitting design central.  Tapping into her art classes (she was an Art History major); Kjersti approaches her work in the systematic way of an artist who thinks about the construction of the piece. She weighs her options, potential alterations and how she can vary the design elements. When I asked for her opinions about how high art differs from craft she replied, “The difference depends on the intention you hold about the object as you make it.” Neither category is mutually exclusive or inclusive—there is simply overlap.

Using drawing software Kjersti begins the process by sketching the concept on her iPad just as one would use paper and pencil. I sat next to her at a Minnesota Knitters Guild meeting and saw firsthand the usefulness of this tool. Take a picture, upload the image to the drawing software and begin the sketch. Or just begin the sketch—it was really helpful to my understanding short rows! She translates this into a knit structure with a step by step design process.

Kjersti collageOnce Kjersti has the concept drawn, she begins knitting stitch pattern research. There are literally thousands of stitch patterns in the knitting ‘common knowledge’ base so this part of the process is Prototyping—Phase One. Each knitting stitch pattern has its own structure and personality. Some have loft, some are longer than wide, flat, directional, stretchy, include holes (lace work) and all will look very different depending on what type of yarn is used. A highly dimensional stitch pattern may look best with a solid colored fiber but it may not represent the subtle color gradations that are a hallmark of the natural world. (For example, and this is the writer’s example, a knitter is inspired by the tree bark of their favorite oak tree in the front yard of their childhood home. Oak tree bark is heavy and looks like it could be peeled off the tree very easily. So, if a person were interested in knitting a sweater inspired by this tree, one may think of including many types of cable knitting stitch patterns in an all over composition. And perhaps one would think of using a greyed heather brown fiber.) As you can see by the images in this article, Kjersti’s compositions are much more subtle and complex. This prototyping phase is critical because the selected stitch patterns must create the structure of the desired object.

7856KCPrototyping—Phase Two is bringing the stitch selections together to knit the piece. But Kjersti isn’t knitting the piece—not yet.  Many knitters use charts; a pictograph of the pattern with each stitch represented in its own little box. Being a rather literary type person, I tend to like patterns written out, but this is where Kjersti goes back to design central and uses software to her advantage. Excel spreadsheets are a flexible tool to make a knitting chart. By building off smaller knitting stitch pattern charts, the overall pattern can be made with plug and play versatility. Also, a judicious use of color blocked boxes reveals the entire composition. Version control and change management are easily tracked, too. I also want to mention one of the more critical components of this phase—tension. Not the stress related kind, although that does occur, but gauge. Each knitting pattern has an underlying gauge that sets the parameters of the size of the piece. Most commonly referred to as ‘stitches to the inch’. Basically, knitting in the same gauge as the pattern was written will result in the intended outcome. In this stage, Kjersti is determining the gauge.

All this is happening while Kjersti knits the piece for the first time. When the piece is knit to her satisfaction and pattern is written up (charts, gauge, suggested fiber and pictures), Kjersti sends her patterns to volunteer editors on Ravelry for review and tech editing. (Ravelry is an online community of knitters, crocheters, dyers, spinners, farm folks whose numbers topped 3M a while ago.) This socially mediated phase, or usability, is critical to the success of any quality pattern that is published. Kjersti also volunteers as a tech editor on Ravelry. After this, Kjersti publishes her patterns on Ravelry and offers them for sale.

The last phase and one that is very rewarding is when she wears her beautifully designed pieces to the Knitters’ Guild meeting. We all acclaim her brilliance, fabulous skills and inspiration!

KCLinks:

kjerstiknits@gmail.com

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