Studio Talk: Sketching Your Designs

Studio Talk is a series of discussions on topics related to knitting and designing knitwear patterns. For an index of previous posts, click here.

SKETCHING YOUR DESIGNS

Did your heart stop when you read that title? If so, you're not alone. Sketching is probably the most dreaded part of designing and submitting designs to publishers. It really is too bad for those of us who can't draw much more than a stick figure that it's so extremely useful in design - not to mention a crucial way to present your design to a third party. So let's look at two ways we can manage to get our ideas on paper in a way that is meaningful and can help take us to the next step in the design process. 

I. MODEL SKETCH a.k.a. PAPER DOLLS

The problem with the current mode of sketching garments is that "high street rendering" or "fashion sketches" encourage designers to portray women with proportions that ... I won't say aren't unrealistic..... but perhaps belong to .0001% of the population. Anyone who has been to a fiber festival, yarn cruise, or local knit night, will tell you that knitters- the people who will be making and wearing your designs- come in ALL shapes and sizes. To design for this limited "fashion" model does a disservice to you (by proving that you are completely out of touch) and them (for wasting their time and money on a badly thought design).

aliengrasshoppers.jog

Luckily, the folks at Trace Real Body Models came up with a solution (one that I hope by the end of this, you will consider participating in!). They asked people- real people- to submit photographs of themselves in just their undergarments, which would in turn be sketched for designers to use as traceable croquis. 

That's more like it.

That's more like it.

Very simply, what you do is print out one of these sketches, lay a clean sheet of printer paper on top of it, trace the outlines, and start sketching your design to the best of your ability. I start with a mechanical pencil and get the basic lines. Then I go over what I want to keep in pen or a thin marker, and take a big eraser to what's left of the pencil lines. If I muck up the pen line, sometimes I'll tidy them up in Photoshop before turning the image in to a jpg which I'll include in my pdf submission. 

When I first started designing, I designed for myself, and using these templates were a HUGE help. The model above is so similar to my body type that it's freaky. I used this model to sketch my first sweater design, WOODSMOKE, to see what it would actually look like on me. 

First sketch of Woodsmoke in pencil.

First sketch of Woodsmoke in pencil.

Woodsmoke knit by one of my test knitters, bonissa and modeled by her beautiful daughter. 

Woodsmoke knit by one of my test knitters, bonissa and modeled by her beautiful daughter. 

Later when I wanted to submit a design to a third party publisher, sketching on a real body model was no question. However, to be completely honest, I do use what is one of the more sample-sized models for my submissions. This is a debate I have with myself quite frequently- my desire to be body positive warring with what I know the publisher is looking for, which is a representation of a sample sized garment on a sample sized body. My (somewhat lame) compromise is that if it's a design that I am really intent upon publishing, I'll sketch it on 3 or 4 models to get an idea of how it would fit a variety of shapes. I might only submit a sample-sized sketch, but in my mind, there are no surprises. 

So that covers sketching for a submission, but what about when you are sketching to generate ideas? Well, here's what I do. I take a model that I know really well and copy that image 6-8 times on a word document, and then print out loads of those. Then, as inspiration strikes, I take a colored marker and draw the garment right onto the model. This is essence becomes my sketch book. A lot of times when I'm thinking about designs to submit for a particular mood board, I can flip through these preliminary sketches, then flesh out ones I find promising onto a full page model. 

Doodles

Doodles

II. FLAT SKETCHES

Flat sketches (sketches resembling a schematic) are useful in plotting the front and back and showing exactly where design elements fall. When I first started drawing my ideas, they were all flat... but the funny thing is, when you draw flat, you miss things like boobs and tums and hips, and it's really difficult (for me, anyway) to picture how this flat garment would look over a 3-dimensional shape.  I like to know what the garment is going to look like on an actual person before I start worrying about what it's going to look like on a clothes hanger. 

Also- if you've ever looked at a schematic, you'll notice that there are parts of the garment that are perhaps not so visible when worn-- the underside for the arms and the area around the side seams for example. If you draw flat instead of on a model, you may have the impression that those areas are available and visible areas for design elements, or misjudge the proportion of the design based on all that space. 

That being said, the easiest thing to do is find a schematic for a garment with a similar silhouette and trace it. Or, for a less rigid sketch, you can look at the countless online catalogues that have garments laid flat, and trace those. 

A nice cable knit sweater from Balmain

A nice cable knit sweater from Balmain

Sketch of Quiver, published in Twist Collective Winter '14

Sketch of Quiver, published in Twist Collective Winter '14

I hope this gives you some good workable ideas for how to sketch your designs. But I'm curious what you do! How do you sketch your ideas? Do you have a method that works for you? If so, let us know in the comments below!