This is the best and the worse part of the process for me. I can't tell you how many times I have had an idea in my head, cut up the pieces, laid them out and the result is terrible, or I don't have enough material to make the idea work. Aagh!
I've gotten a little better at this now and figured out ways around some problems, but designing something that really sings and holds my interest is very challenging. Likewise I have found that I can't really do commission work. If I try to create something for somebody and I know their tastes it's almost impossible for me. Apparently I have to do it my way and hope they like it.
The most common pattern is the patchwork square. It allows you the greatest flexibility. However, just because it's a basic pattern doesn't mean you just let the squares fall where they may and stitch them up. Lay them out and then start moving them around to get a design that you love, keeping in mind that you may want to embellish it with banding or fringe or any number of decorative enhancements once the squares are stitched. These are some of the first blankets I made based on the patchwork pattern and I still like them.
The biggest challenge is that each sweater only yields a few squares so you have to employ 4-5 colors/sweaters. This is where blacks and grays come in handy. You can usually find multiple sweaters that will color match and even find the same texture. A black or gray merino or lambswool sweater is fairly common.
TIP: Rib knits can be a bit challenging as the ribs want to spread out under the presser foot and that can result in wavy seams. This is where tightly felted material helps.
Also, try to keep similar thicknesses together or you'll find that they will stitch up unevenly.
As I became a little more confident with my sewing I started having a bit more fun with the designs. This isn't the best picture, but this little blanket always struck me as being perfect for a skier. It was all lambswool and very soft, but had bold character.
You will notice that I often use black and white, gray and white, high contrast patterns. This is a running theme in my aesthetic choices. I don't know where it comes from but it is always there. You will find your own voice.
Thread color can either disappear or make a bold statement. When I first started the stitch I used was very tight and created almost an embossed affect. It also took forever to sew, but it was lovely.
In the next lesson we'll move on to the actual sewing process and then come back to some other design techniques. Enjoy!