Thursday, 18 June 2015

6 tips for writing your own knitting patterns

If you have been knitting for a while, you may be hankering to branch out a bit and make some of your own designs, or you may already be designing your own items but without  writing them up. This is fine, but what if later your best friend sees and falls in love with your wonderful creation and wants one of their very own? You’d love to make one or enable her (or indeed him) to knit one up, but you would now be a bit hard pushed to remember how it was made. If you just want to make the design for you and your friends, then you won't need to worry too much about how well written it is, so long as it works for you. However, you may think that others are going to love to knit your fab design too, and with the convenience of internet at our fingertips these days, it is easy enough to list your patterns for sale on places like Ravelry or Etsy. You are unlikely to get rich quick by doing so, but it is a real thrill when people like your design enough to purchase it, and to think that somewhere out there in the world a number of you designs are roaming around.

A word of caution though, as it is so easy to get your stuff out there you will find that, as well as a pile of absolute gems there is also unfortunately a pretty big pile of stuff out there that is, well......not so gem-like . So make sure your contribution is of the best quality it can be before sending it out there so it is adding to the right pile. Here are my 6 top tips for doing just that.

#1Start small!

If this is your first foray into making your own patterns, start with something relatively simple like a cushion or accessory - for the love of your mental health (and that of those around you) don't fly straight into writing a multi-sized raglan cardigan! Better to create a well-crafted simple pattern than make a hash of something more complex - you can build up to more complex items as your skills develop.

#2 Establish style and layout

Although there are a number of strong conventions for pattern writing, there is no single standard way of laying out or writing patterns. The aim though is to produce a concise set of directions that are clear to follow and expressed consistently. So firstly you need to make some decisions about how you want to set up your pattern. To get started on this, look at patterns you particularly like the look of and consider how they are laid out.  Decide on which abbreviations and phrases you like to use best and compile  this all into a template, or what is often called a 'style sheet', so you can remember which options you have chosen and keep it for reference. In general a good pattern should be set out in a logical order and include additional information about:
  • size
  • yarn
  • needles,
  • other
  • tension
  • abbreviations
  • pattern notes
  • charts and/or schematics (where appropriate)

#2 Write a draft of the pattern out before you start making it

Otherwise it is like taking a journey in the car without having a map or clear idea of where you are going. It is possible to do this the other way around (i.e.   make it first, then write it up afterwards) but if doing so you must be very disciplined and ensure  take extremely clear and careful notes as you go.  I personally think it is actually more difficult to do this way around, though of course we are all different and some folks would disagree.
Design software or Excel spread sheets can be helpful for producing charts or working on multiple sizes, but are not essential, particularly for smaller, one size items. If you are using design software though, use caution and check any instructions produced very carefully - they will rarely be satisfactory as they are  and you will need to make adjustments - the instructions need to flow and make sense to humans, not computers :-).

#3 Keep an accurate record of quantities used

This is easy to forget but extremely important. You can measure quantities in terms of either weight or length.  I find it easiest to measure by  weight in grams on electronic food scales. It is good practice to weigh, and most importantly RECORD, each ball without the ball band before you start knitting, and then any unused yarn. This will enable you to calculate exactly how much yarn you used, and then add 10-15 % allowance and round up to balls.

#4 Great photography

You may have the world’s most amazing creation, but few people will be able to visualise it from a set of instructions. Great pictures are a must to show your creation off to its best including some close up of any special stitch details etc. Although helpful if you have it, you don't need any fancy equipment, and good photos can be achieved with the most basic camera. You can get plenty of great tips online for free if you do your research.

#5 Work with a professional technical editor and/or pattern checker

If you intend to sell your pattern it is essential to have it edited and checked by a professional tech editor and/or pattern checker (or someone you know with those skills) so you can be sure your pattern is correct and is of a suitable standard. This applies even if you are a pattern checker yourself as you simply cannot proof your own copy. Hiring a tech editor and/or pattern checker is more affordable than you might imagine, and another benefit of doing so is you will learn a lot about pattern writing in the process. They can also help furnish you with charts and/or schematics if you are unable to produce these yourself. Not So Granny has a helpful post on the topic called What is a tech editor? if you need any further persuasion about their value.

So I hope these tips are helpful to you, and that you feel brave enough to have a go at writing your own pattern, if indeed you haven't already. You may have some other great tips to share about this topic - if so, please feel free to add a comment below.

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