One of the ways I like to learn this design gig is by working through patterns published by designers I admire. One of those is Kitman Figueroa. She mostly designs shawls, many of them fairly intricate. She also has other levels of difficulty in her pattern selections, which can be seen HERE, but it was the intricate shawlery that caught my attention. I love making shawls, and designing shawls and am fascinated by all the different variations that can result by combining fairly simple shapes and increases with lace patterns. I have been using MS Word to create tables of symbols for my graphs, but my more recent in-progress designs are beyond the space each page can provide. I am hoping by switching to Excel I can work on a smaller scale and fit more info on page, but I had some trouble exporting the designs into a pdf last time I tried. Still, this is a newish version, so perhaps I am missing something. I have located a few tutorials on using Excel to create knitting charts. One is from Fleegle (Susan Glinert Stevens), another from Marnie MacLean. If it turns out neither of these methods work for me, Fleegle has done a terrific review of a fairly inexpensive program called Intwined Pattern Studio that is very powerful, including the ability to draw your own symbols which may help a lot with creating charts for crochet patterns as well.
(Marnie also has other fabulous tutorials including using Excel for designing patterns and grading them into different sizes, how to create a pdf with the necessary graphics without having a humongous file and creating schematics in MS Word.).
I have lots to learn, and I decided a good way to add to my knowledge was to work one of Kitman Figueroa's shawl patterns this summer. As luck would have it, she started a Mystery Knit A long this month :-}. (All photos are at the end of the post in case others are working on the same thing and want to preserve the mystery). After selling off a lot of my stash, it was harder than I thought to find the right yarn for the task but I finally stumbled across some beautiful merino silk yarn in fingering weight, in a warm celery color. Not usually a color I wear, but as the shawl will likely become a gift for a slender friend or relative this was not a concern. By using a smaller set of needles than that specified ( and I like the look of the fabric on smaller needles, too) my 720 or so yards should be plenty to make the shawl.
So far we have received instructions for a test swatch, worked to determine the needle size we wish to use for the shawl, and perhaps more importantly for me, to give us a chance to work some of the new and intricate stitches required while familiarizing ourselves with Kitman's set colorful symbols. It was my first time making nupps (pronounced to rhyme with 'soups') and twisted stitches to any great extent. The nupps are the little bobbly things near the bottom, the twisted stitches have a very sharp-edged effect and can be seen in the top half. I am excited to get the first instructions for the Knit A Long on Friday.