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Pattern Writing for the Uninitiated

Have you ever wondered what goes into writing a pattern?   Here is my process, mostly.

Get inspired!  Pick up yarn and start knitting.  Maybe make sketches first, maybe not.

Get really excited as things come together nicely, making notes as you go.


Get really frustrated and rip things out that just refuse to work.  At all.  No matter which way you try.  Cross out notes as you go.

Finish the really exciting garment, then realize that the yarn you used from your stash isn’t widely available and also isn’t a standard aran weight, even though it says “Aran.”

Buy more yarn.  Tell yourself it’s a “business expense.”

Knit a proper sample, realizing that now all your pattern notes will have to be slightly modified to fit the new gauge.

Knit another sample because you guessed wrong and your adult-sized hat turned out to be child sized.  Also, realize that maybe bubblegum pink isn’t the best colour for showing how great the pattern looks on both men and women, no matter how much you personally love bright pink.

Attempt to take really gorgeous photos of the garment sample(s) on reluctant husband and on self.  Load the photos on the computer and realize that they are a) blurry, or b) weird, or c) showing the beautiful half-dead bouquet of flowers you received from your brother’s girlfriend at Thanksgiving in the background, or d) poorly lit because you were too excited to wait until day time.

For every good photo you see, there are about 4x more terrible ones at home on my hard drive. I apparently have dead flowers growing out of my blurry head, and you can barely even see the hat here.

Find a willing model on a gorgeous day and take lots of pictures.  Hopefully, some of them will turn out.

They did!  They did turn out!  Even the one of the willing model’s reluctant-yet-willing teenaged son, who came to ask his mom a question and found himself roped into being a model.  (Regret that you had to run off to find your two-year-old instead of getting more shots of a cool teenager wearing your design.)

Pick your favourite pictures of the garment from the photo shoot.   This might take an hour since it’s hard to differentiate between which photos make your garment look great, and which just make your model look great.  Narrow it down while sipping some coffee and ignoring your family.   Be thankful for indulgent spouse.

Crop photos.  Export photos.  Make sure you saved photos properly.

Open up a new file and start to arrange the photos.  Format the page.  Start adding the heading, sidebars, and text.  Think you’re almost done!  Realize that you still need to make a proper gauge swatch in stockinette.  Take a break to knit said swatch.

Debate on the merits of buying charting software or creating charts yourself from thin air.  Convince yourself that a table is like a chart, that your illustrating abilities are sufficient for drawing in cable symbols, and spend days creating charts that could have been made in less than an hour for the low, low price of $99.  Consider just spending the money on the darn software, then discard the idea because finances are tight even though it would be a “business expense.”

Decide that since people seem to love having both charted AND written directions, your pattern should have no less.  Even though you prefer charts.  Even though it will add a couple extra hours to the pattern writing.  Even though it will mean excellent proofreading is necessary.  Wonder if your excellent-at-proofreading sister will mind helping you out.  Again.

Confuse yourself with the changes between the hand-written chart and the final, computer-y version while you translate the chart into written directions.  Imagine all the confused emails you’ll get if the written directions are wrong and how embarrassed you’ll be at having published a sub-par pattern.

Realize that your eyes are blurring from staring at the computer screen for so long.  Instead of taking a break from the computer, take a break from pattern writing to write a blog post about pattern writing.

Make some more coffee as Go, Diego, Go! plays in the background.  Thank God for Netflix, for completed homeschooling lessons, for a napping two-year-old.   Add cinnamon to the coffee to make it more special because you need it.  Take a real break, get the kids a snack, and wish you had a magical sushi snack bar in the fridge.  Eat a bowl of cereal instead.

Get back to work.  Go to post office, park, and library with kids.  Realize at park that the p.o. box keys are not in your pocket.  Go back and find them still in the p.o. box.

Get home and make dinner.  Plan to get back to work later.

2 thoughts on “Pattern Writing for the Uninitiated

  1. ‘Buy more yarn. Tell yourself it’s a “business expense.”’

    This is exactly why I’m interested in selling dyed yarn. I love dyeing it, but I don’t go through enough yarn to do as much dyeing as I want.

    And all the rest is why I can’t imagine ever writing a pattern! It’s so much fiddly work. I guess knitting is also lots of fiddly work, but you get something cute and soft out of it.

  2. Bahaha! I guess I did make it seem fairly fiddly, and in some ways, it is. But most of the time is spent in the knitting, so I tend to think of the pattern writing as a small percentage of the work. Also, I’m not established enough yet (in my opinion) to be spending extra money on test knitters, etc, so I do tend to knit my own test pieces, following my pattern exactly. (Then I have more samples to photograph, as well.) Perhaps it’s not the best practice, but I look at this as a long-term goal, not a quick process. I’ll get there eventually! 🙂

    I’m interested to see your yarn! Have you posted about it anywhere? I’d love to have a look. I keep thinking that I’d love to dye my own yarn, but i get so caught up in the knitting and the kids that I haven’t made time to try it yet.

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