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From Inspiration to Pattern: The Forest of Stars Wrap

Photo of the Forest of Stars beaded wrap.

Sometimes people ask me where I get ideas for my designs. The rather unenlightening but true answer is, “It varies.” Much depends on what I call the “entry point” (meaning the initial seed that gets things rolling).

It may be that I find myself drawn to the color and/or texture of a particular yarn. Sometimes I see a stitch pattern that is so compelling that I must find something to do with it. Other times, I have an idea for a garment and then have to figure out the yarn and stitch pattern that will make it come alive. Yet other times, I may be responding to a submission call from a magazine or yarn vendor who may be asking for designs with specifications for any or all of these design components. Today I am going to talk about the extremely rare case where a design was directly inspired by a single image.

Submission calls often include a “mood board,” which is a device editors use to convey to the designer what they are looking for. Also used in interior design work, it can be literally a board with actual things like tile samples, paint chips, photos, fabric scraps, sketches, knitted swatches, yarn samples, etc., actually glued, taped or pinned onto it, although these days they are more often than not virtual Pinterest boards.

Last year I saw a submission call for an online magazine. I was very taken with one of the images they had pinned to their mood board. I repinned it to my board so I could study it. It’s the one of the circle of trees and a star-filled sky. If you click on the image below, you can get a better look at it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just beware the Pinterest vortex or you may get sucked in and never find your way back!

Follow Carla Pera Designs’s board Forest of Stars on Pinterest.

Glad to see you found your way back and are still with me!

I had decided that I wanted to design some sort of shawl or wrap. The thing I had in mind would best be made with a light-weight yarn. I didn’t want to go too fine, so settled on a fingering/sock weight. I found some promising stitch patterns and had some yarn of the right weight, so I started swatching with that.

Yes, I hear the groans. Everyone (but designers) hates swatching! That’s because swatching means something slightly different to designers than it does to knitters. We don’t see it as a tedious chore that should be done before embarking on that exciting new project because the swatch is how we embark on that project. We use it to test out the yarn’s qualities and how it interacts with stitch patterns, decide which needle size to use, determine how the color sequence is going to work, and evaluate potential cast ons, bind offs, border, and edge treatments. We even wash and block the swatches to see how they will look when the piece is finished. In short, we make a mini version of the final project so that we can evaluate the drape and hand of the fabric and decide if it is going to have all of the qualities that we are seeking in order to realize the project we have in our heads.

One of the swatch colors was completely wrong, so I knew that this wasn’t going to be the actual yarn I would use, but the weight was close enough that I was able to try out some stitch pattern combinations. I found one that was very tree-like for the lower portion, and a lacy one for the sky. On a whim, I added some beads from my stash to evoke the stars. After studying the large swatch I had made, I decided that I wanted to keep the garment shape a very simple long rectangle, which would make it more of a stole than a shawl. The stitch patterns lent themselves to this shape very well, so I made the decision that it would be knit from the bottom up, along the long edge, rather than the more common side to side construction. This would make the rows much longer than usual, but there would also need to be fewer of them, which is a plus in my book.

So far I was very happy with how things were going. The next step was to find the right colors. I searched through the panopoly of yarn suppliers, and discovered just the perfect colors in a merino and silk blend yarn at Knit Picks. You can see the skeins if you dare to venture back to the Pinterest board.

When the yarn arrived, I made a quick swatch to confirm that the yarn was going to behave as expected. It did. I forged ahead with the remainder of the process for getting the pattern ready for sale. I won’t go into that because it’s not very interesting to read about.

It turned out exactly as I had hoped. The tree pattern creates a lovely scalloped edge along the bottom; knitting it in long rows makes the fabric drapey, and the length makes it stay on your shoulders and arms. The I-cord bind off is stretchy, yet substantial so the wrap keeps its shape, and the little beads add a touch of sparkle without also adding too much weight. It’s long, swingy and fun to wear!

When it was finished I thought that Knit Picks might like it enough to accept the pattern for their Independent Designer Partnership. They did, which means that if you would like a one-stop shop for this exact yarn and the pattern, you can find it at Knit Picks.

The pattern is also available from my Ravelry shop. Note: you do not have to be a Ravelry member to buy the pattern.

Don’t feel obligated to use these colors! While they are my literal interpretation of the original image, there is no reason why you can’t use others; it’s also lovely in a single color. The beads offer other possibilities for making this your own. You can choose bead and yarn colors that blend for a subtle look or that contrast to make a bold statement. If beads aren’t your thing, you can leave them out entirely.

So that’s the story of the Forest of Stars Wrap. If you make one and post a photo somewhere, let me know. I’d love to see your interpretation.