MKG Cable Gram - Volume 20, Number 2
How would you like to HAVE to knit because it's your school homework? That's what I and five other MKG members, Evelyn Kindley, Marnie Myhre, Barb Ruuska, Rebecca Thompson and Colleen Werdien, experienced when we took the U of M Compleat Scholar "Knitwear Design" class. This class was an offshoot of the Solveig Hisdal knitwear exhibit at the U of M Goldstein Museum of Design. Textile artist Karen Searle was our instructor, with Goldstein collection access by the Director of the Goldstein, Lindsay Shen.
Our goal was to create individual knitwear designs based on textile articles in the Goldstein collection or from any other object that caught our fancy. For me, the week after the first class was an avalanche of seeing design influences in EVERYTHING. Evelyn found her Fair Isle design inspiration, a sweater with a Celtic knot motif, in the off-center shaping of a Solveig Hisdal sweater and in the music of the Tannahill Weavers. Colleen drew her inspiration from Mimbres pottery and recreated a Mimbres pot using her handspun yarn. And Barb wanted to try a slip stitch pattern from Barbara G. Walker, incorporating new yarn and fun colors, so she designed a textured black sweater with edge bands of black and baby blue. My own project, a fulled and embroidered jacket, was inspired by the costume jackets of my Swedish heritage and a short fulled jacket in the Goldstein collection.
Our instructor introduced techniques that applied to each of our projects and brought sample swatches that illustrated the techniques. She also gave us the opportunity to see her own knitwear sculptures and experience knitting as a legitimate art form. What I found most interesting were the books she brought from her personal collection for our additional inspiration and interest. One of my favorites was a phenomenally fascinating, but out-of-print, book "Costume Patterns and Designs" by Max Tilke. It is packed with color illustrations of costumes from many cultures, along with schematic drawings of how they were constructed. Fantastic!
Of course, being able to experience (and touch!) the Goldstein collection was a dream. Evelyn was especially attracted to "flapper" clothing worn by women in the 1920s and 30s as it was reminiscent of clothing worn by her beloved great aunt. Items from the late 19th and early 20th centuries drew Barb to say, "The archives were simply delicious. The tan coat with the diagonal button flaps looked like something you would see on the runways in New York even though [the coat] was over 100 years old. I loved the green and red plaid riding cloak. I envisioned a young woman taking a sleigh ride with her beau wearing that cloak. The brown/green cape, that shimmered and changed from brown to green and back again, was stunning."
The seed of inspiration has just been planted. I know that I have a half dozen designs on the back burner just waiting their turn to become reality. Evelyn plans to play more with shaping as she continues to design, and says "I think that [the examples in the collection] will inspire me to go beyond the standard sweater shapes that I had been used to knitting. I also am thinking more about texture and incorporating it into my knitting." Barb plans to continue using designer's patterns, having a new found respect for their efforts, but won't be as hesitant to create her own modifications and designs as the need or mood suits her.
None of us finished our garments/objects during the six-week class so we have begun meeting once a month at a coffee shop as a post-class design support group. This also gives us more reasons to HAVE to knit and design! So look for wonderful inspired knitting to come from this MKG group in the future.
Want to know more about knitwear design?
Check out "Designing Knitwear" by Deborah Newton. It was our unofficial class textbook and an excellent resource for learning more about knitwear design.