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So what exactly is a DAL?

I have been teaching hand knit garment design for quite a few years and believe that anyone with the desire to design a hand knit garment with a custom fit can do it; even the newest knitters!  I set out to prove that theory by holding a series of Design-A-Longs (DAL) over a period of 6 years.   This year I plan to launch a new type of DAL. This Dal is going to be bigger, better, higher stakes, and more interactive than this industry has ever seen. But First… What is DAL??


Two months after Knitwear Design Workshop was released, and unbeknownst to me, as luck would have it, one of my students started an online group for people to come together to knit and discuss my designs.  You can imagine my joy and surprise when I received an invitation to join.  Since it was newly forming, the direction that it would take was open and the moderator welcomed my input.  it was a perfect platform for launching a worldwide event.  I wanted to invite knitters and aspiring designers to join me online for what I was calling a Design-A-Long (DAL).  People had heard of Knit-A-Longs (KALs) where everyone worked on the same project together.  So exactly what is a DAL?  I can only describe it as a cross between a Design Workshop and a Design Boot Camp, where everyone works through the four steps of my Design Process and creates their own masterpieces. 


The journey to our first DAL started with the Ravelry group We Love Shirley Paden (WLSP) founded by Tracey Rivers in 2008. In conjunction with the release of my book, Knitwear Design Workshop, we decided WLSP would be an ideal setting for the industry’s first Design-A-Long. I wanted the atmosphere to be a cross between that of an intense Design Workshop and a fun Design Camp.  My goal was to walk each student step-by-step through The Design Process in an interactive, online format.


Image by Wynand van Poortvliet

The DAL followed the 4 steps of my design process.

The Thought Process



In this phase, everyone completed a rough sketch of their design.


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The Fabric Selection Process


Swatching is critical to the design process, so everyone selected one of the stitch patterns and knit a swatch.  At the beginning of the DAL, I posted the charted and written versions of each stitch pattern as well as garments that I had designed using those stitch patterns.  These examples showed how I examined the stitch pattern structure and used the patterns to enhance the garment design.  Students were encouraged to deconstruct the stitch patterns if they saw various elements that they wanted to move around to make their own unique designs. 

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As the students began posting photos of their swatches, everyone became very inspired and began cheering one another on.  We could feel the enthusiasm turn up another notch. 

The Planning Process


This is always the most difficult and most important step where everyone draws their schematics and overlays the stitch pattern charts.    If the schematic measurements are not accurate the garment will not fit properly.  A successful garment design means that it is a perfect fit for the wearer’s body.  To get the ball rolling I posted sample schematics on my website.  We asked two students who had been through the previous DAL to post their schematics as examples for the group.

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The Construction Process


This is when the design comes to life on your needles. 

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Watching an entire DAL unfold is nothing short of amazing.  Seeing new designers plan and complete their garments is incredible.  Surveying the entire event is an absolute joy!   

My final words to that first DAL group express the thoughts and feelings that I would like everyone to take away from each DAL experience.  “Continue to believe in the power of your creativity and you will be surprised at the wonderful things that will happen!” 

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