Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?


You remember this book from childhood right? From very early on, we are taught to take notice of the visual world around us. Humans are quite the visual species. In fact, I’m sure there is some crazy statistic I could insert here to make it seem like people are heavily influenced by the things they see. Instead, I’m just going to rely on your brains to either confirm or deny this.

Regardless, I’m visual. I look around in my real world and my online world for information. I could just be driving to the grocery store or cruising around Ravelry for the next thing(s) I’d like to knit. What appeals to me? What stands out? Interesting things. I like to see things that are out of the ordinary.

I like geometric shapes. I see them in stitches, especially the repeating shapes in fences or floors or leaves or flowers or bedspreads. I am often struck by super rich colors. Blues that you can fall into or golden yellows that make you feel warm.

Since immersing myself in the knitting world in May, I find that I’m looking at the everyday world searching for knits. I want to see knitting patterns in a trellis design or colors in the produce section at the grocery store. I may be obsessed.

But I am also not an original. Some many knitters and designers are out there translating the everyday into knits. I so admire this! I queue patterns often because of their beautiful geometric or natural designs that I feel like I’ve seen in the world recently. Pair that with the picture of the sample knit in some saturated color and I’m plopping that into my Ravelry purchase basket faster than the sun can set this winter! Sometimes, I feel like these designers are living my life and seeing what I’m seeing and making them into beautiful knit wear.

For instance the beautiful Onward Shawl by Shannon Cook of the VeryShannon blog is something I’m super drawn to. I love the geometric arrow shapes and feel like I’ve seen that recently on a trip (somewhere but I can’t remember where). Maybe they are just around me like on my knitting bag.


And the Ambrosia Cardigan by Gudrun Johnston. The gorgeous traveling stitches in the yoke of this remind me of my old bedspread. Plus one of the samples is knit in this gorgeous golden yellow. Can you feel the warmth??



Not to mention the Clinquant by Lisa Mutch of Northboundknitting. It’s like concrete on a well-loved playground where kids drag their dirty feet through the mud before running over to play four square.


What did I tell ya, texture, texture & color, and color…get me everytime!!

I didn’t realize how tough it is represent the world in knitwear until I tried to do it myself. I’ve got a few ideas bouncing around in my brain, ready to show up in yarn.

So I pulled out some yarn, a notebook, needles, stitch markers, old notes I’d made and cast on. I knit a few inches. It’s not what I’m thinking it should be. Rip. I cast on again. This time with a garter tab. Potential…but it’s growing too slow and too pointy. I don’t want pointy. Rip. At this point I chickened out.


I flew to Ravelry. I searched shawls I have in my library. Nothing to help there. I searched shawls in the pattern search. Free. Crescent. Not that circular…I find a few helpful ideas, like a set-up row (doh!) and then I start to question.

Where does my idea begin and another person’s end? If I use a general shawl recipe for the garter/stockinette body, can I claim it as my own work if I mix up the border? How will I make the border design grow proportionally to the increases in the crescent? Should I start this from the top or the bottom?

If I start from the top, how will I know how many stitches I need to start my patterned portion? Wait, didn’t I read something somewhere about Pi increases? Crap. And if I start from the bottom, do I really want to cast on ALL those stitches?

Long story short, designers: you amaze me! How do you combat this in your brain? Is this a fear thing? Am I just afraid to cast-on and go for it?

Maybe. Probably. I don’t want it to be wrong. And by wrong, I mean I want it to look like what I think it should look like in my head.

Here is the problem with that: there are times, in my knitting life and my real life, where I am following the directions for something and thinking, “no way is this going to turn out like the picture!! how is this part going to do that?? maybe I should just toss this or rip this and start over…” But usually something inside my brain also fights back and says, “NO! JUST KEEP GOING!!!”

And usually, it turns out just as the chef or designer or Siri intended it to. I just have to trust and keep going.

Is that how this designing process is going to work?

I am going to put my money on NO since I’m the one calling the shots. I guess we shall see.

Until then, my Two Grey Dogs Schnauzer Snuggle awaits.



v’s & bumps,


10 thoughts on “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

  1. I think originality is one of the big ‘things’ for designers, and as someone who used to do a lot of writing, it’s a fear there too. Like you, I’m drawn to geometric shapes, but when I try to translate the vague feelings in my head into reality, something doesn’t quite work.

    But I’m sure if you plug away, you’ll get there – maybe try just knitting without worrying, correct as you go, and reverse engineer it once you’re done? Or try out the technical stuff in another yarn that you can bear to stitch and rip lots of time before moving on to your lovely Two Grey Dogs?

    (incidentally, I just bought a book by a designer, Knitsonik, all about designing colourwork – not quite the same, but it’s making me think very differently, especially about how hard it is to get it right (clue: very!))

    You sound pretty determined to get there 🙂 Good luck!

    1. Thanks Laura 🙂 The originality thing is a little haunting…I have a terrible memory at times and have told the same story to the friend who told me the story initially because I can’t remember who told me the story but I know that my friend and I had been talking about the topic…that’s what scares me! I could be using someone else’s ideas but not even really realize it!

      I love the idea of using a yarn that I can bear to rip and stitch…I’m going to give it a rest for a while, until after the holidays 🙂 It may be a good bump to move past the post-holiday lull 🙂 I will have to check out the Knitsonik book! Sounds very interesting!

  2. You blog post was a narrative of what goes on in my head sometimes. I struggle with these same issues. I am not a designer but I desire to move forward in my knitting career (more like adventures). I hope one day it will just click and designing will all makes sense.

    And I agree with the previous comment as well. Good Luck!

  3. I think designers are like artists, they start by emulating what they like in the work of their masters, until they have found their inner voice and have built up their set of techniques and have the freedom to replicate their inner own view as they please.

  4. I love knitting patterns that are inspired by nature and geometrical shapes. I do sometimes get ideas for my own patterns in my head, but I don’t have a way yet to translate it into something real. And I have the same feeling sometimes knitting patterns by others, were I cannot see how doing all these things will end up with a project as in the picture, but somehow it magically works out! I hope you find a way to get the idea you have translated into a pattern 🙂

  5. there are so many patterns out there that have piled up in my favorites/queues that I don’t think I have enough years left to give them all ‘needle-time’….and yet, occasionally, I find myself searching and searching for a CERTAIN look and think….surely, I can take a bit of this and a little of that and make just what I have swimming around in my head!? (I usually get over it—a new book/epattern is released—and BOOM; I’m all over the new designer’s idea!!!!)

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