Counterchange Design Process


I’m so pleased to be able to launch the Counterchange Shawl pattern tomorrow – 20 May.  I thought I’d do a quick post about the design process. I’d been playing with mosaic stitches for a while and came across this lovely pattern that was first published in Barbara Walker’s book from 1997. I don’t have the book, but did find the pattern on Pinterest and simply transferred it to an excel spreadsheet. I could see immediately that this would really work when worked over a large-ish area. There is something about a seamless repeated pattern that ceases to be a pattern and becomes a design in itself. I think this is an essential element of knitwear design. Often a swatch can give you an indication of how a stitch will look, but you really only get a full impression when you see the stitch transferred into a larger piece of work.

I’ll be honest the start gave me a lot of anxiety. It looked messy. It looked unfinished. It looked haphazard. I persevered; thank goodness. I’ve done enough design and knitting to know that 40 or even 100 rows especially in a triangle shape are not enough to provide a clear view of the final piece. In fact with another side to side shawl I finished earlier this year done with 4 ply (fingering) in a lace stitch it actually looked like a dish cloth for most of the first half. I quietly prayed to the blocking fairy that she would resolve it – she did!

Parquet floor

I discovered that the word Counterchange is a term to describe a pattern where the motif and the background colours swap to provide a contrast. In this case the ’tiles’ pattern has a white ’tile’ on a blue background for the first half of the shawl. I added a bit of variation with a ‘parquet’ pattern as you got close to the centre and the stitch count was over 200. Parquet was the result of some ‘playing’ on excel – using conditional formatting. It’s a really effective way to experiment. I can recommend it. The name comes from my memory of the floor of the school hall. The second half of the shawl is then worked with a blue motif or tile on a white background.

The whole thing was relatively easy to work and I just ‘did it’.  Little did I know what I was unleashing. It was a nightmare to write up. I had done some mosaic patterns before but this was a whole new nightmare. I have assured my tech editor and myself that I will never ever do mosaic and rib decreases ever ever again. When you work them, it’s obvious what you need to do – when you write it down it’s hideous!

Anyway, May 20th is Counterchange publication day.  I for one am just pleased we have finally got here! 

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