Made To Measure
Swatches are fundamental in the creation of any knitting design and are the only accurate way to ensure that the required measurements can be achieved. Once the swatches are finalised they need to be carefully measured and the tension mathematically translated into the template for knitting the design. For a garment, the swatch tension is translated into all the shapes required to fit the body measurements. The style of the garment and the amount of ease desired is factored around these body measurements. The Raven costume and designs are a good way to demonstrate this process as they all use the same developmental swatches of feathered shapes, curving panels and construction, but each final garment shows an entirely different shape and level of complexity.
A selection of Raven developmental swatches and sketches, all based around the different feather and body shapes of the pair of ravens who nest at the foot of our croft.
The Raven costume final garment shape is an extreme departure from a commercial patternable design. It could only be constructed as a made-to-measure costume for a unique individual, in this case the dancer Jade Adamson. The costume body and sleeves are constructed with curving shapes in short rows, knitted up one from another to create the three-dimensional form. A variety of feather elements were also built in to the construction at the same time. In order for every element to be placed correctly and fit together within the garment shape, detailed body measurements were vital.
The diagram below left shows the measurements required for the front of the garment (a different set are required for the curved back panels) with all feathered elements falling to the correct lengths. One very important measurement – and not one that I have ever previously had to consider – is from the crown of the head to the end of the “beak”, which had to fall precisely over the forehead.
This costume shows that once the“feather” building blocks are made and measured they can be layered together in any way you please, exactly to fit your own requirements. It is worth bearing in mind that the more you layer, the more weight you will add. The Raven costume was created to be just what it was intended for – a costume to be worn by a dancer, outdoors in an open space in a cool climate. The many-layered costume used almost 7 kilos of yarn.
The Raven Cardigan utilises the rounded chest feathers, the pointed feathers and some of extreme curving shaping of the costume. The layering of the pointed feathers is achieved in exactly the same way as the costume hood, the main difference being that the front feathers of the cardigan had to be adapted to allow for the cardigan opening. I created the lightly fitted shape with set-in sleeves worked in a simple Stocking Stitch to offset the dramatic collar and the steeply curving cuffs. The cardigan style allowed for pattern instructions to be written for a variety of sizes.
The Raven poncho features the same pointed Raven feathers, but with this garment the entire lower hemline takes on the curved short-row shaping, allowing it to dip and sway gracefully like the wings and tail of the bird itself. Again, this is a shape which allows for the creation of sizing and instruction to suit a range of figures. I also designed it so that the collar could be knitted separately and also used as a basis for further imaginative adaptations, and you can see examples of this in the Flights of Fancy section.