I’m Designing a Dress (Part I)

  •   Posted on: 2021-03-29
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*** Originally published January 8th, 2013 ***

Yep, I’m designing a dress!  This was one of those ideas that popped into my head so forcefully while I was at work one day that, feeling a little bit possessed, I had no option but to grab a piece of paper and start sketching out my idea.

I’ve designed dresses before, but in the past these have essentially been my favorite knitted skirt pattern, and my favorite camisole pattern, merged.  I did get some extra attention for throwing a knitted belt into the mix, but really, I’m up for more of a challenge this time.  I want to design a dress exactly like the one I’m picturing — fitted, flowy, with lots of interesting patterns, some gorgeous yarn, an empire waist, and a halter top.  At 30 years old I’ve finally accepted what styles look good on me, and I’m kind of over trying to make anything else work.

If this dress turns out to be something I like (or you like!) I’ll turn this pattern into something more formal and sell it at the shop, but for now, I’ll walk you through my process, since I’ve decided this will be my work-on-it-at-the-shop project, and because of that, it has the rare advantage of uncrumpled patterns, fairly legible notes, and an organized workspace (as opposed to my shelf of projects at home, all of which have pattern notes in five different places, scribbled row tallies, and disheveled cones after one too many trips to meetings in my purse.

My excitement for this dress is 80% due to this book I bought recently, a much-needed stitch dictionary.  It’s sort of like browsing through cookbooks for recipes.  I leafed through and, based upon a vague image in my mind, sketched out which parts of the dress I wanted to have which patterns — some subtle, some bolder, some even woven into the structure like the knitted cables that will hopefully sort of melt into the halter top.  I even put page numbers for reference so when the time comes, I’ll know where to find that stitch pattern.

So, step one (of course).  Chose my yarn!

Next?  Because I’m trying to be a good role model here…the gauge swatch.

This is actually crucial crucial crucial, because there’s going to be more math involved in designing this dress than you can even believe, and the foundation of that math and the end result of whether this dress will actually fit is 100% dependent upon my gauge swatch.  Seriously, folks.  Make a gauge swatch.

Next, since I’m knitting this dress from the bottom up, I needed to know how many stitches to cast on.  I’ve made dresses before, but never really loose flowy ones, and I don’t want this one to be tight-fitting like a minidress.  I did some research on Ravelry and found a few adult dress patterns that look similar to what I’m trying to do, in the same weight yarn as me (DK); these led me to feel pretty good about the number 220 for my cast-on.

So, I want the very last few inches of this dress to have some sort of subtle, interesting pattern that’s different from the main skirt portion of the dress, separated by a garter stitch ridge.  I was pretty enamored with this:

Which became this.

In the next installment of I’m Designing a Dress, I’ll show you how I figured out my decrease pattern for the body of the dress, so that I won’t have 220 stitches hanging at my waist!


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