My Sense of Direction Mitts is a good candidate for looking into the design process, as I can directly connect many of its design features with a specific influence or inspiration. I am approaching this as an observer of my own particular experience in design.
In April 2014, I was working on this design, the Route 66 Driving Mitts:
One day after work, I showed my prototype to a couple of coworkers. One drolly asked, “How do you know which hand the mitt goes on?” I was of course thinking that it’s worn so that the design is on the back of your hand. His next question: “Why don’t they put left and right on mittens so you know which hand to wear them on?” Immediately I wondered whether there existed any patterns indicating left and right.
Racing home, I went right to Ravelry and looked at the existing patterns. There may have been one children’s pattern with left- and right-hand labels. I was so surprised that there weren’t more! So I grabbed my sketchbook and drew this (please excuse my sketching skills):
My first thought was that the letters would be like old typewriter keys.
However, in playing around with the charting, it became clear that it would be difficult to create a nice round chart representing them that would work up nicely.
The next step involved browsing through stitch dictionaries and design books:
It was in Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs that I found the lovely linked border around the letters.
In these books I also found the arrow designs for the palms:
Finally, I charted letters for upper case and lower case L and R. The form of these letters changed very little from the original sketch.
A Word About Color:
The colors I used in my mitts were inspired by this piece of Polish pottery, a cherished coffee mug:
I also tried the mitts in this color combination, which I did not like at all:
It Seems to Me
It seems to me that a major part of the design process, for me, is keeping my eyes and ears open: seeing color and pattern in the things around me and listening to what interests and intrigues others. Then, it is a process of narrowing down what works and what doesn’t work. Trial and error through sketching, charting, and swatching are part of this winnowing process. Somewhere along the way in this design process, I realized that I very rarely wear mittens here in Oregon, but I love fingerless mitts and can wear them indoors when my fingers get cold.
Also important in my design process are the questions I ask: Can I make this happen? Could I design round, typewriter key-like charts? No, I couldn’t. Can I make arrows that point in the correct direction on each palm? Yes! How can I solve this problem? That is a question that comes up in nearly every design.
Finally, and this may be the most important element in my design process, is allowing myself time to think and to allow different ideas to coalesce. Some ideas occur in a flash, like the idea to make left- and right-hand mitts, while others take some time to work out. And, after allowing some time to pass, sometimes new ideas occur in way that imitates intuition. But I think the intuitive flashes are disparate ideas that have been working toward each other in my subconscious and finally they connect, as a Golden Spike. I love when that happens, although sometimes I don’t want to wait!
Just for fun, working on the mitts at the beach:
Thanks for taking the time to read about this adventure in design! I hope to see you next time!
Note: Featured photo (on home page) and mitts by stamura.