Elements in Design: Texture

Texture is what you see on the surface of your sweater. It's how the fabric feels, how it looks and how it drapes. The texture of a garment determines its size, shape and its proportion. There are two types of texture, visual and physical.

What is Texture:

The texture of a sweater determines the way it drapes and sits on the body which affects the way it looks when its worn. There are two types of texture, visual and physical and consist of a combination of:

  • Yarn Ply and Twist and Spinning methods
  • Yarn Finish 
  • Yarn Weight
  • Stitch Pattern 
  • Stitch Definition 

Yarn Spin, Ply and Twist:

The number of plies and the twist of yarn affects texture because the yarn can be smooth, rough or nobby; like you’d find in hand spun yarns. You’ll also find texture with boucle, nub, tweed, mouline, ribbon and chenille yarns. Spun yarn can come unspun like you’ll find in roving or spun in 2, 3 and more plies, which will affect how it looks, feels and performs. Learn more about spinning, plying and dyeing yarn here.

Decorative Yarn Finishes:

There are yarns that have their own finish no matter how you spin, ply or twist them. They add texture with halos (Mohair, Angora and combed Wool). Other decorative finishes include novelty yarns like eyelash, beaded, metallic, ruffled, pom pom, flowered yarns.

Yarn Weight:

The thickness of your yarn has a huge impact on the texture because it affects the thickness and drape of your fabric and the size of your stitches and project. The thickness of a yarn is determined by the individual thickness of the plies, not by the number of plies. Yarn thickness goes from lace/fingering to jumbo.

Stitch Pattern:

Stitch patterns are the perfect way to add texture to a project. Depending on the stitch, you can change a smooth yarn into a rough or nubby fabric. Stitches like cables, ribs, bobbles and a variety of hundreds of different types of stitch patterns. See a variety of stitch patterns here.

Stitch Definition:

Stitch definition means that your stitch pattern will be visible. Think about how mohair and fuzzy type yarns hide your stitch pattern. Have you noticed how smooth, plied yarns, like cotton and  elastic yarns, like merino wool, accentuate your stitch patterns. 

Swatching and Texture

Knitting or Crocheting a gauge swatch not only gives you measuring information, it tells you a lot about the texture of the finished garment.

A swatch will tell you:

  • How the fabric looks and feels
  • How the yarn and stitch pattern look and feel together
  • How the fabric drapes or how stiff it is
  • How thick the yarn and stitches make your garment

Physical texture relates to how a sweater feels (called the ‘Hand’). Both color and texture are elements in design that attract the attention of crafters. Texture is determined by a combination of yarn colors, stitch patterns and the type, look and feel of your yarn..

Just think of how many times you touch and feel a ball of yarn. How a yarn 'feels' gives you information about how it'll behave and gives you information that helps you determine what kind of garment to design and what stitch patterns to use.

Knitting and crocheting is ALL about color, shape and ‘hand’. How different does a bobble stitch feel in comparison to stockinette? Stitch patterns have the power to transform a basic yarn or simple silhouette into something extraordinary. 

Texture is what you see on the surface of your sweater and it’s how smooth or rough your garment feels when you run your hands along it. It’s the thickness of the yarn and stitches between your fingers. Texture is how your yarn and stitches drape when hanging on the body. Texture is visual and physical.

Stitch Patterns and Texture

The combination of stitch pattern and yarn selection also determines how someone will look in your garment. Smooth textures make the wearer appear slimmer but a bulky all over stitch pattern will add weight to the wearer especially if the design calls for a heavier weight yarn. This is why substantial stitch patterns are usually used to highlight a design feature. No one wants to look like the Michelin Man.

Stitches such as cables and bobbles add depth and volume, while a combination of knit and purl stitches will add texture but not much depth or volume. Norah Gaughan is a wonderful example of a designer who consistently uses stitch patterns to create texture in her designs. 

If you need stitch pattern inspiration, take a look at my Hand Knit Stitches and Crochet Stitches Pinterest boards to see how stitch patterns affect texture and help you select the perfect stitch pattern for your designs.

Yarn and Texture

Yarn is great way to incorporate texture in a design. If you have a stockinette pattern, a boucle or hand spun yarn will look, feel and act differently from a ribbon or single ply yarn. 

The ply, twist, density, fiber length and fiber content all contribute to the overall texture of a yarn. Along with performance, these components are what separates an inexpensive yarn from an expensive one. A short fiber yarn easily pills and sheds while a longer fiber wears well and lasts longer.  A lace weight yarn will look, feel and handle differently than a bulky yarn knit in the same pattern. When crafters select yarns they're paying for how a yarn feels and how well it’ll perform.

Color and Texture

Color adds visual texture. It can be used to make design elements recede or advance. You can see this very clearly with black and white knit or crochet sweaters. The darker a yarn is, the more the pattern or stitch pattern shrinks and withdraws. The lighter the yarn color, the more patterns and stitches move forward.

Hand painted yarns add visual texture especially when combined with a stitch pattern such as the linen stitch. Color knitting techniques such as Stranded or Intarsia color work can also add visual texture. 

One designer who uses color well as texture is Kieran Foley.He primarily uses lace weight yarns but use lacy stitch patterns and color to set his designs apart. If you’re in need of color inspiration or want to see how color affects texture follow my Color Palettes Pinterest board

Texture is one of the most important design elements when it comes to Hand Knitwear Design. It can come from the components and color of the yarn, the stitch pattern or the line & shape of the sweater. Getting this element right is paramount to a successful design. 

How do you use texture in your designs? Is it a part of your signature style? 

Sticks & String,