Thursday, September 10, 2015

Design Behind the Scenes, Part II: Writing the Pattern and Knitting the Sample

This is the second in a series of posts about the process of self-publishing a knitting pattern. You can read Part I here.

So, I have my pattern idea, a roughed-out sketch, maybe some charts of the stitch pattern, and a swatch. I've selected my yarn for the sample and am ready to move forward. What comes next?

The answer to that question depends a lot on the item I'm knitting. In most cases, I'll start with a basic outline of the pattern. For a shawl, for instance, I'll usually have a rough idea of how to start (I'm fond of the garter tab) and where my increases will be. If there's a regular stitch pattern, I can create the main instructions, though I may not yet know the number of repeats of those instructions until I get the knitting on the needles. Sometimes the outline is in my head, though, and I have to start knitting first and write down each step of the pattern as I go. If I'm knitting a hat, for example, I might not know how wide of a brim I want until I knit part of it and try it on to see if I like the proportion. If I had to estimate, I'd say probably 2/3 of my patterns are written while the knitting is on the needles. The rest are usually written as a draft before I start working on the sample and are often tweaked as I knit.

A preliminary pattern draft in my design notebook

Usually I am able to finish up the first draft of the pattern before the sample is finished, even if there are some holes (for instance, I can't put in the finished dimensions of a shawl until it's off the needles and blocked). To help me make sure I have all the pieces of the pattern, I have a pattern template that I use for all my self-published patterns. This template ensures that I've got all the necessary information -- yarn, needles, gauge, sizes/dimensions, abbreviations -- and it's always in the same order. This is similar to what publications like magazines do; if you publish a pattern in a magazine, you'll often get a template to fill in with your pattern information along with the publication's style sheet (basically a list of guidelines for how to list certain abbreviations, how to punctuate your instructions, how to refer to certain stitches, and so forth).

While I am putting the pattern together, I'm also working on the sample. Before I can do that, I need to have the yarn I want to use. I'll often swatch with leftovers, but there's usually not enough to knit the actual sample, so I need the yarn before I can start knitting in earnest. In many cases, that means a trip to my LYS to buy yarn (or some online shopping if I'm looking for something my LYS doesn't carry). But I've also been lucky enough to work with some indie dyers and yarn manufacturers who have provided me with yarn support. That means they provide me with the yarn for the pattern for free; in return, I feature their yarn in the pattern and list that yarn on the pattern page on Ravelry when the pattern is published.

Pattern math to estimate yardage for all sizes of a pattern

Because the model in my pattern photos is usually me or someone in my family, if I'm making a sized item, I knit it in a size to fit the intended model. I'm also careful to weigh my yarn before and after knitting (or I just wait and weigh the entire finished piece when it's done) in order to figure out how much yarn I used and calculate how much yarn will be needed for other sizes, if there are any. When the sample is done and blocked, I take any final measurements needed and fill in any empty spots in the pattern.

Now I have the pattern written and the sample knit. What comes next? Find out in the next behind-the-scenes post!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great series. I've written up a few hat patterns that I published as free downloads on Ravelry, but they are far from professional. I've always been impressed with how well written and detailed your patterns are. Now I know why. :-)