Today we welcome Marnie MacLean to the blog to share her thoughts on the process of creating Lusca
I'm going to tell you a secret, a large number of my designs are designed after I receive yarn. I actually prefer designing this way. While I'm occasionally hit by a bolt of design inspiration, plucking a design out of thin air is harder for me than being able to craft something around a yarn. The downside is that I've now added the design process to the short period of time I have between receiving yarn and needing to hand it off to the tech editor and I need to produce something nice enough that the publication and yarn supporter won't regret trusting me to come up with an idea without approval. It's basically design for procrastinators: wait till the last minute and try to cram everything in, between bouts of weeping, before deadline.
Lucky for me, Twist Collective always assigns the nicest yarns. I can't say I've ever worked with a dud, and the Tahki Yarns Cotton Classic used for Lusca is no exception. This shawl features a gradient kit unlike those I've used before. With a 100% Mercerized cotton yarn in a DK weight, it's both thicker and more robust than the light wool-blend sock yarns I've knit before. But the challenges and charms of working with gradient yarns remains unchanged, for all of them. How do you make the most of a series of closely related shades, over the length of project? It's a fun problem to solve and one that took a little trial and error for Lusca.
Like basically all gradient yarns kits, some shades are closer to their neighbor than others, and I wanted to find a way to visually trick the eye into seeing more of a gradient and less of a jump between colors. My first thought was to try a slipped-stitch pattern.
First attempt at a design, using a slipped-stitch pattern
I like this idea and it's one I might come back to for another design, but I didn't have the yardage to knit it to the size I would have liked. So, I ripped out several day's worth of knitting, not to mention the hours spent charting, and started wracking my brain for other ideas. Then I remembered an unpublished hat design I knit myself a few years ago.
A hat I designed for myself that became the jumping-off point for Lusca
It used a type of feather-and-fan stitch pattern as well as stripes at the color transitions. This worked to help the eye see a more gradual transition between colors in a couple ways. First, the undulating pattern of the feather-and-fan stitch eliminates the straight lines that might be easy to spot as color transitions. Then, the garter stitch rows at the color transitions alternate knit bumps from the previous color with purl bumps of the current color, helping to further blur the line between the different skeins. Up close, you may clearly see the different colors but the further away you get, the greater the number of shades you see in the gradient.
I am pretty reluctant to ever design a single-stitch shawl, so I paired it with a border pattern that I modified to be evenly divisible by the feather-and-fan stitch pattern repeat. For the knitter who has more or less yarn to work with, they can easily adapt the pattern without having to do a lot of fancy math. Cast on as many repeats of the border as you'd like and follow along with the pattern. As long as you have enough yarn, it should all work out just fine.
The final shawl uses stripes, feather-and-fan and garter stitches to blend the gradient shades
The cotton yarn has a lovely weight to it, making the shawl feel substantial but also squishy and lovely against the skin. The whole shawl can be knit with the five skeins in the kit, with a bit of yarn to spare so it's a fast project, too. I can't wait to see what colors other people use to make their own version of the shawl.