The Birth of a Pattern


My new cowl pattern, debuting tomorrow, was inspired by a bagel chip. But let me back up. It’s now very clear to me why creative inspiration is often described as a spark. A new creation can burst forth in what seems like an instant. Looking back, you realize you’ve been collecting ideas—like kindling—for months.

I had been thinking about the ocean. On some level, I’m usually thinking about the ocean. After spending my twenties on the Pacific coast—Santa Cruz, Mendocino, Arcata, San Francisco—its rocky, foggy beaches feel like home. Not having a car, I spend nearly all my time within Portland’s city limits, but I can feel the ocean’s pull from here.

One thing Portland does have is a thriving foodie culture. I visited The Meadow for the first time this year. Their Fleur de Sel de Noirmoutier forced me to reconsider what I thought was a simple mineral. It also made my buttered toast twice as tasty.

Add to this Portland’s unusually snowy winter. In February, after a long, delightful day of exploring neighborhoods transformed by snow, my husband and I—both California kids—stood in our front yard and tried not to squeal as we watched perfect little crystals of ice land on our coat sleeves.


And then there’s the fact that I’ve now spent the better part of three years immersed in the colors and textures of Knit Purl, contemplating patterns like Encadré, Song of the Sea, 100 Diamonds, and Cold Mountain. The store needed a new lace pattern, and I took on the task, aiming for something inspired by nature, yet fresh and unexpected. I had glimmers of ideas, but nothing grabbed me, and I prepared for a long slog through possibilities.

It turned out all I needed was a snack. I found myself standing in my sunlit kitchen about to eat a bagel chip studded with salt. Not flecks of table salt—tiny hollow pyramids of sea salt. They filled me with visions of the coast, of the harvesting process, of those snowflakes on my sleeve, and of all the exquisite little forms coalescing and disintegrating around me. I knew I wanted to knit a delicate loop that would speak to these cycles, and I knew that elegant salt-like squares would form the basis of my design. As I worked out the details¹, I had the privilege of working with Hand Maiden to develop the perfect coastal color, on a yarn that contains seaweed, no less. The finished Sea Salt Cowl is light, cool, and shimmery, almost like a soft necklace. I sincerely hope you enjoy making it and wearing it as much as I enjoyed dreaming it up.


1. I highly recommend Susanna E. Lewis’ Knitting Lace if you’re interested in designing lace. I found a copy at the library.

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July 08, 2014 by Keli
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