7 Steps to Design a Knitting Pattern

Posted by Robyn Berkel on

I'm still pretty new to designing - I've pumped out a few but haven't yet reached a year old. That being said, who better to help you figure out the process than someone who's been studying it intensely to figure it out herself? Comment if anything helps you, if anything contradicts with your strategies/research, and if you'd like me to expand on any of it! I for-see myself continuing to blog about all the helpful things well into the future, so I'd love to target the stuff you want most.

1. Start with your dream design

I don't recommend starting with a type of constructions or a stitch you want to use. Instead, imagine what you want the final piece to look like, because I guarantee there is a way to achieve it! Your final product may not look exactly like what was in your head, but I don't want you to limit yourself to just whatever you already know how to do. Sketch out your ideas, and next we'll start picking it apart.


2. Translate the details

Ask yourself where your design needs structure and how you can achieve that. Should you knit it in panels and then sew together? How would that look different than if you knit it in one piece? Are you going to have cables, and if so how will those add to the overall shape?

Design what characteristics each piece needs in order to fit the construction Will it work if the stitch curls? Should the garment stretch? Yes. Okay, how much?

Decide on stitch patterns that will fit the overall look and adhere to the characteristics listed above. Decide if the stitch patterns need altering to achieve that.
Do you need a border to give a stitch pattern limited curl? If you need shaping, how will you inc/dec with this stitch pattern?


3. Knit swatches and do the math

The math part is important! Usually the finished object looks a lot different than it did on the needles, especially if it grows or shrinks after blocking. Also keep in mind how the stitch will behave. If you are doing a stockinette stitch with no border, knit a larger than normal swatch to get a better idea of how many inches you lose due to curling. Same idea with ribbing, or other stitches that collapse and stretch like ribbing!

Write out a basic pattern outline and begin knitting from it
One of my biggest problems is when I get ahead of myself and start knitting before I've written anything down. By now, you should have a plan for your design and you should be able to at least write the bare bones of the pattern. For me, it looks something like this:

4. Adjust along the way

...and don't be afraid to rip out rows! You are designing something new, not knitting from a pattern. You know this will take longer, but you will get something so much more special from it. If you miss a color change or drop a stitch it is 100% worth it to go back and fix it - but those are just the obvious errors. Say you completely finish a sweater design and the sleeves were just a little bit too wide for your liking. It's still wearable, so you should just publish it and call it a style preference. No! It's your design, and you put in so much work already to create the perfect thing. The extra time it takes to design something you 100% love and stand behind is completely worth it. I promise making those difficult adjustments will pay out in the end, and you'll have even more fun promoting it upon release!


5. Write the full pattern

If this is your first pattern, you'll want to start with a template. There are tons of free templates online, so check those out first. However, I absolutely love the templates provided on https://debrosse.com/collections/maker-tools. They're gorgeous and she has different styles available.


6. Test knit + Tech Edit

I was very nervous to do my first test knit because I didn't think anyone would volunteer. I was sooo wrong! I did have about 500 followers on Instagram at the time, so that helped a little. If you aren't established on social media, there are great Ravelry groups for getting your stuff tested. You won't know if there's interest until you put the offer out there!


7. Finalize and set a date

Now I'm starting to get into business advice...yikes! It's important to set a date to release your pattern so you can build up hype before hand. Promote your pattern *before* it's release and be sure to tell people exactly where they can get it and when it will be available. The promote it the day you release, and then promote it for a while after. Don't under sell yourself, you worked hard on the thing and people should know about it! Right now I focus all my energy on Instagram and Pinterest instead of spreading myself too thin across all the platforms. That's totally my choice and you should do whatever fits your schedule/lifestyle.

I want this to be a conversation! What have you had success with? Alternatively what parts of the design process do you struggle with? Comment so we can chat about it and help each other out ;)

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