For some time I'd been wanting to join in Miriam Felton's lace shawl design class on Craftsy. In early summer, after reading more about it and hearing from other knitters who took the class, I finally did it. If you are thinking about designing shawl patterns of your own, this may be the class for you, too.
Lace Shawl Design consists of 13 lessons. Three of them are bonus lessons explaining gauge, swatching, yarn overs and cast ons. The main 10 lessons are as follows:
1. Introduction to the class
2. Lace maths
3. Yarn and needles
4. Charting repeats
5. Charting shapes
6. Transitions and flow
7. Embellishing and adapting
8. Starting at the border
9. Bringing it all together
10. Fixing mistakes
While Miriam isn't a natural in front of the camera and appears very self-conscious, which I find very distracting, she is extremely knowledgeable. There is so much information she gives you throughout the class that it is worth sticking around. If it does distract you, the great thing about Craftsy classes is that you can watch them over and over again. The class remains yours forever.
My main interest lay in the maths of triangular shawl construction because I have never been good at it at school and numbers tend to make me nervous. I assumed there would be lots of calculations involved in designing a shawl, and this was the main reason I chose the class. Ultimately, it turned out that there is only a little maths and it is pretty easy. I was surprised and a little disappointed - but also happy because at least there wasn't anything more complicated going on.
Lesson 3 covers needle and yarn choices, blocking and yardage. If you are an experienced knitter, this is probably nothing new to you, but you never know: you may come across something you hadn't thought about yet.
The lesson about charting repeats is very in-depth and useful. Miriam explains how best to repeat patterns and what you need to keep an eye on (yes, the maths). Lesson 5 then goes on to explain a few different shawl shapes and how designing for them differs from one to the other. This leads to lesson 6 and its focus on how certain stitch patterns flow. This helps you decide which patterns to combine to create just the right look.
The discussion of pattern flow and transitions then leads to ideas for borders for your shawls and other ways to embellish or alter the design. The focus seemed to be on borders that are knitted on sideways, a method I am not at all fond of. I much prefer a border which transitions from the previous design. It is just less work while knitting, though a knitted-on border may be easier to design as far as the maths is concerned. Still, if you can design the rest of your shawl, adding a transitioning border shouldn't be a problem.
Lesson 8, starting at the border, is all about designing a shawl that is knitted from the bottom up. So you begin with the largest number of stitches and decrease down towards the top of the shawl. This is an interesting way of knitting that I hadn't considered for shawls. The disadvantage is that if you run out of yarn in the process, you can't simply bind off and call it a day whereas knitting top down, you can basically finish whenever you like.
After all that we have learned so far, it is time to bring it all together into a single shawl design with a complete chart before finally knitting your shawl. Before this point you will have knitted a lot of sample swatched already, but this will be the first time you actually get to knit it all and bring all elements of the design together.
The final video before the bonus material is all about how to fix mistakes. This is a valuable lesson. Even though I thought I knew all about the different ways to fix mistakes in lace knitting, I did learn something new. I especially liked how Miriam demonstrated how to undo a pattern repeat over several rows by pinning down the unravelled yarn in a way that you will not lose track of which strand to use when you need it.
The class materials are extremely important and helpful. make sure you go through them - they will be helpful beyond the class as you go on to work on your designs. Personally, epecially the charts you can use for the different triangular shawls are very useful. I have to point out here that the class sets out to focus exclusively on triangular shawls and none of the other shapes. However, to get an understanding of shawl design, this is a very good class that I am glad I took.
If you have taken any Craftsy classes, let me know. How did you get on and what did you like or dislike about them? Which ones would you recommend?