It feels like it's been so long since I spent a morning propped up on my pillows, talking to the blog about knitting. Since the last time, I've been slowly plugging away on Mishka - just a row here and a row there - finally over the weekend, I was able to finish and block the first piece.
I always build my designs around a yarn. When I first see a yarn I usually have a fairly clear conception of what I want it to be, at least in the sense that I know if it will be a tank or a cowl-neck sweater or some knee socks. I usually cannot "see" anything other than the type of piece that I first envision for a yarn until it has been made into that initial vision. Later, I can use that starting concept as a building block and move off into other directions, but at first it just has to be what it is in my head. I buy approximately the amount of yarn that I think I will need to create that vision. If I were smart I would buy that amount plus one skein, but usually I cannot manage to make myself do that. I abhor leftovers, and can go to fairly extreme lengths to make sure that I buy exactly the right amount of yarn and not a bit more.
This was how it went when designing Mishka. I bought the yarn for the piece about two years ago, and envisioned it as a sleeveless shell. As I worked on it, it morphed from sleeveless shell into a draping, flowing top, with shoulder and hem ties woven through casings. The body is worked without shaping, with about four inches of ease built into the width, so that it will blouse and drape. The armscyes are shorter than on a sweater so that undergarments will stay hidden, yet a bit looser than on a fitted tank so that the flow won't be interrupted.
I was very lucky to find that Premiere yarn goes a bit further than expected. I bought exactly what I thought I would need for a fitted shell - five skeins - but with a little ingenuity and advanced planning, I have been able to stretch that amount to work for a blousy top. I worked a slip-stitch edging that I borrowed from one of Annie Modesitt's designs along the armscyes so that they are self-finishing, and also employed a little trick I picked up years ago to avoid the stair-step effect of an armscye bind-off (it also works for necklines and shoulders) to accomplish the same. I worked the reverse side of the shoulder casings in a coordinating yarn that is lighter and of a substantially smaller gauge so as to use less Premiere, but also to make it less obvious that there is a casing present at all. As a consequence, I think I managed to get enough extra fabric in the piece to make it blouse effectively. In addition to giving it four inches of ease, I made it twenty-three and a half inches in length from the shoulder, which should give it a total length of at least twenty-four inches with the ties at the top. Standard length for me on a fitted shell would be somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty inches, twenty-four should provide plenty of blousing space.
I still haven't decided how to handle the hemline of the piece. I could seam the sides all the way down to the hem and just let it as is, swinging free. Or I could leave it unseamed for the last three and a half to four inches and run a casing along the bottom edge where I can weave ties through so that it gathers in and sits gently on the hip. I think I prefer the second option, but it will all depend on the length when worn. I may be just short enough on fabric that the effect wouldn't quite work without an additional half-inch to gather and blouse.
I'll just have to see when I get there. There is always a little interplay of idea and chance, no matter what the initial concept. Even if it turns out very close to the way I envisioned, there will doubtless be some element of surprise. I think this is my favorite part of designing - reaching the point when I feel certain that what I have done so far will work and that I will enjoy it, but still having some improvisation left on the horizon - a little bit of uncertainty that makes it all exciting.