Want to Design Your Own Knitting Pattern? Grace Jones Shares Her First Steps

Posted by on Mar 13, 2012

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Whether changing yarn color or a garment length, blogger Grace Jones of Restless Grace has bent knitting patterns and designer fashions to her will for years. Grace says, "I love trying to reverse engineer a garment, what stitch pattern was used, what fiber content is in the yarn, is there already a pattern I could use as a template?" But when she recently received some free knitting supplies, Grace decided to brave that new world of knit pattern design. Having gone on ahead, she shares her newly-won experience for those of us intrigued but still intimidated by designing our own knitting patterns.

What prompted you to try out designing a knitting pattern?

When the Martha Stewart Crafts Knit & Weave Loom Kit came out, I was sent a loom and a few skeins to try out, all for creating an original project. There was also a possibility of being at a taping of The Martha Stewart Show for the yarn launch, but that never materialized. (Bummer!)

In any case, I was inspired by the challenge to create a project with defined parameters (yarn, time and originality), and I decided to come up with something that would be fashionable yet easy enough for a beginner knitter who wants to step up their knitting skills. The intermediate skills that beginners tend to learn are knitting in the round, and increasing and decreasing. I also threw in some easy lace to make it extra tempting to intermediate knitters.

What problems can knitters run into when charting a pattern? 

I think the main pitfall is getting the chart to visually look like the knit fabric. This can be tricky on shawls, where the shape of the chart and knit isn’t square. I also find translating stitch patterns that are written for flat knitting to be a bit time consuming because of the wrong side rows. 

Did you have any special tools or materials to help you chart a pattern? 

I’m still figuring this out, but so far I use Excel to make charts. It’s a program that is easy to use and has worked for me in the past. (I frequently chart out stitch patterns when a pattern has none because I am a visual knitter, and it's easier to spot errors.) I know there are some charting programs for sale, but I haven’t purchased anything yet. Perhaps as I design more patterns for public consumption I will make that splurge. I did recently find a free knit font that I have been trying out. 

What are your favorite things to see in a pattern, things that make a pattern easy to read?

Charts! I love charts, especially if they don’t need to be resized on a copier. I like a clean layout. I’ve noticed that some designers and publications use 3 columns in their written patterns and I find this very hard to read. The more my eyes flick back and forth, the more likely I am to miss a line on the pattern. I prefer 2 columns for written patterns. You can increase font size and leading with 2 columns to make it easier on the eyes. Speaking of fonts, san serif fonts are easier to read than serif fonts. Ariel and Helvetica are my favorites. Century Gothic is nice too. 

How do you check if a pattern is correct and ready to be shared? 

Ideally, I would have a few trusted friends test knit any pattern that is to be offered for sale. My first pattern is free because I am new at publishing designs and my friends are busy at the moment. I think/hope my pattern is correct, but it is easy enough that it can be muddled through if there are any minor errors. I welcome all feedback about my writing style and layout design, and I especially welcome questions and error call outs.

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