Sunday 17 June 2018

Behind The Scenes At Sirdar: Part 2 - The Design Room

Have you ever dreamed about being paid to test new yarns before they're in the shops and also knit for a living? If so, then a role in the design room at Sirdar should be at the top of your job hunting list.

The first thing I noticed when my fellow Knit Now magazine prize-winners and I toured the design room was the staff happily clicking away knitting up patterns or sample squares to go to retailers.

Julie, the design manager, gave us an introductory talk all about the design process covering the initial idea all the way through to the final pattern production. The team produces hundreds of patterns a year.

Armed with feedback from shops, customers, reps and surveys, the forthcoming yarns from Sirdar's product development team plus future forecast trend forecasts and their knowledge of the knitting market , the designers produce mood boards with swatches and ideas.

When themes are agreed the designers draw an initial sketch for a pattern. Sirdar's different sub-brands, including their luxury Sublime range and the more budget-conscious Hayfield, need to be taken into account, as well as providing for beginners all the way to experienced knitters. Plus the team make sure there's a mixture of catwalk trends, classic and vintage designs to suit all of their customers.

Each sketch then goes into a folder and makes its way to a pattern writer whose job it is to - yes you've guessed it - write the pattern up and check that the measurements correspond to the initial brief.

Says Julie, "There's not always one way to write a pattern, you have to get it right for the design and level of knitting ability." She checks the knitted sample and often makes suggestions for tweaks to the design, such as a few extra stitches on a collar. The pattern itself is checked by different eyes a vast number of times on its journey to be turned into a Word document. The original pattern writer is responsible for the final once-over.

It's not just clothes that the team designs - accessories and toys are popular too. Above is a cute toy knitted up go to a yarn shop. Julie explained that knitted samples on display in stores massively increases that yarn and pattern's sales.

Samples are knitted either in house or outsourced to home knitters. Each garment/accessory/toy is photographed for the pattern cover.

There are two pattern seasons: Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. New patterns are drip-fed to stores throughout the season ensuring that there's always a reason for a customer to come back and browse. "We have to provide people with what they want to buy", Julie emphasised, "... if we get it right the customers are happy and the stores are happy."

The archive

Sirdar has a long history and the archives contain a copy of every pattern published over the years. On the outside the folders don't look much, but they contain engrossing knitting, social and fashion history.

Browsing the folders unearths many gems, from 1970s psychedelics to baby patterns from times gone by.

The little girl on the left doesn't look very happy in her romper suit does she!

I could have spent much longer browsing through the files but time was short. The archive is not only a snapshot of Sirdar's history but is also used regularly when customers ring up to query a pattern. The team will then find the pattern in the archives and do what they can to help.

In the next post I'll be reporting on Sirdar's showroom, which was the last stop of the tour.

See also:
Behind the Scenes at Sirdar: Part 1 - The Warehouse

Behind the Scenes at Sirdar: Part 3 - The Showroom

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