Coming up with knitting patterns

Today, I want to talk a little about how I come up with knitting patterns. I don’t really want to call it a design process because I find it is not really a structured, follow certain steps and you get a pattern, way. But rather a back and forth and unstructured, chaotic approach.

So far, with all the designs I saw something which gave me the idea. This can be actual stitch patterns or designs but also patterns that I come across on houses or streets when I go for my daily afternoon walk. For example, I described how the Cantuccio Hat and Cowl developed from a Pinterest photo in the Mosaic Knitting post.

My usual thought process after that something gave me an idea goes something like that:

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could knit that?

How would you do it?

What kind of stitch pattern?

For what item would you use it?

Would you use different colours?

What kind of stitches can create the right texture for this?

Do I have any yarn I would use for this?

Can I think of yarn I could imagine using for something like this?

I guess, you get the idea. Tons of questions and what if scenarios start appearing.

I am terrible at drawing but my next step is usually to sketch the idea and to decide what kind of item I would use this for. So far, I have only made accessory patterns because it feels the most comfortable at this time but I am looking forward to venturing into garments in the future.

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The type of item I want to make has an impact on yarn choice. You don’t really want something superfine for a hat or something that is really scratchy around your neck (although what counts as super scratch really depends on the person).

If I already have a stitch pattern in mind for this, I would usually start figuring out my numbers for a swatch at this point. Usually just some basic stuff including numbers to cast on, where to place stitches, what kind of repeats.

If I don’t have a stitch pattern in mind I usually start going through my stitch pattern books. I have Barbara Walker’s Treasury and Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns as well as 750 Knitting Stitches: The Ultimate Knit Stitch Bible. But there are also great resources online including Pinterest, Vogue Stichonary, knittingstitchpatterns.com and a stitch collection from knittingonthenet.com. After deciding on a stitch pattern, I also do the math and then cast on.

I try to make a decent sized swatch that will give me my gauge but also can tell me if the yarn and stitch pattern work together and if the combination is suitable for the items I have in mind. I have quite a few swatches now and I really recommend labelling them with information including yarn, needles, gauge and I sometimes also add where I got the stitch pattern from.

After swatching, I tend to draw a sketch again. Just so I know based on what I learned from the swatch how I would go about working the stitch pattern(s) on a complete item. I will add information like gauge, measurements, a yarn label and basic construction steps to the sketch.

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Next step (and the one I currently dislike the most) is doing the math for the whole item. This includes different sizes but also how to repeat the pattern over increases, how long sections are supposed to be and so on. I have a tendency to try and cheat doing this but this has so far only resulted in more work. I have now vowed to do it properly the first time around.

When I am happy with my numbers, I knit a sample. Usually one that fits me because I want to use the item myself at the end. While knitting the sample, I usually make notes about what did at certain places, or when something didn’t work out the way I had planned it.

These notes, as well as the calculations, are then used as the foundation for writing out the pattern. It is not quite finished at this point but it will go to a tech editor next and then it will also be made by a few test knitters to see if the instructions make sense because I have found that instructions that make sense to me, as the person who came up with the idea, don’t always make sense to other people.

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To give a brief example, the Kirkstall Mitts, the most recent pattern I published, came about because I wanted to use this amazing dark red yarn I had one skein of. This already limited what I could do with it to mitts or a hat. I love mitts when the seasons are changing because I get cold hands really quickly, so the decision was easy. I thought that the subtle colour changes in the yarn meant that very little was required in terms of pattern because for me it was about the yarn. For this reason, I wanted a minimal and simple stitch pattern which led me to choose a garter stitch pattern. The idea of two triangles happened when I played around with designs for a pair of mittens (never came to anything). And that is how the ideas for the Kirkstall Mitts developed.

I hope this was interesting to you and if you have a certain design process, I would love to hear about it.

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