A few days ago I received my Hanukah Dreidel Pillow back in the mail. That was the entry I had submitted to the Mary Maxim design contest. Since I didn’t win or place, the rights to the pattern stay with me, which means I can share it with you.
I decided to share a bit of my thoughs and my process on this pattern. I had a really hard time with the design. It wasn’t coming up with an idea- I knew I was entering the “Knit or Crochet – Holiday Craft” section of the contest. I had a TON of ideas that I really, really liked. The problem? I really, really liked them.
See, I didn’t realize until after I’d sent in my entry fee that were I to win or place, Mary Maxim would get the rights to the pattern. That means that if they were honorable, my name would appear somewhere on it as the actual designer…but other than the contest prize, I wouldn’t get anything for the pattern, regardless of how popular it might prove to be.
This made designing tough- I wanted to submit something I was proud of, but at the same time I wanted to keep any “really good” ideas to myself, so if I were ever to knit them, I would get to keep the rights to them.
I knew I wanted to design something Hanukah-related. The majority of the holiday crafts in Mary Maxim are Christmas-themed (which may in part explain why I didn’t place, lol) and I wanted to do something to help celebrate another religion. In the end I had the idea to work up a pillow cover with a dreidel on it.
My first step was to swatch. The navy yarn is Patons Shetland Chunky. (If you remember this post, you’ll remember when I bought all the yarns I had considered using).
Once I had my gauge calculated, I started testing some duplicate stitch and embroidery. I had originally planned on having some lettering on the pillow, and I wasn’t sure which method would have provided better results. The yellow yarn used for the embroidery was more Shetland Chunky, and the red one is Patons Brilliant.
The pillow cover was worked in 3 sections (the front, and the 2 back halfs) that were seamed at the end. Here is a photo of the front in progress. The design for the front had a white background with a navy block in each corner.
Once I had my gauge worked out I was able to properly plan the design. I printed off some knitters graph paper to my specific gauge (I like the template here) and started sketching.
I had an outline done by hand then switched to the computer to chart it out in Excel. I didn’t care if my Excel chart was to scale, because I already knew that my drawing was to scale. (In other words, if my knitter’s graph paper drawing to scale had the corner boxes be 30 sts by 40 rows, then I would color in 30 boxes by 40 boxes in my Excel spreadsheet, etc.)
I didn’t want to complicate my life by having too many dangling ends, so I broke the pattern down into sections. The background (white and navy) and the main dreidel color (gold) were knit using intarsia to have one flat background. Everything else in the image would be done in duplicate stitch.
I forgot to take a photo of the original, plain background, but here you can see it after the first round of duplicate stitch. Just like in cross stitch, where you work a section of one color before switching to another, I did my pattern in layers. Also, knowing how duplicate stitch actually builds up the layers of fabric, I worked in order from the most recessed to the most forwards. So my plan was to start with the background shading, then do the dreidel shading, and last do the letters.
In this image you can see my printed Excel chart and the pillow front with the black shading done around the right and lower edges of the dreidel. (In the chart, the completed shadow sections are highighted in pink, but you can barely see it).
Here’s a closeup. The duplicate stitch came out pretty even and had good coverage- that was what I was afraid of most, that the gold would show through. (Luckily, in planing ahead, I knew that other than the letters, I was working darker colors over light).
I learned that I like my duplicate stitch better when I work from top to bottom, either in rows or columns. I’m not as crazy about the result when I tested it from bottom to top. I found that working top-down causes the stitches below the ones completed to close up any gaps, whereas when you work bottom-up you need to pierce the center of the stitch you just did then move away, possibly separating the stitch and allowing the base color to show through.
Coming soon – more on the Hanukah Dreidel Pillow…