Pattern Writing Tips with Catherine

Pattern Writing Tips with Catherine

As we embark on a new project, pooling the wealth of talent among our friends and customers to put together a book, we're lucky to have the support of a professional tech editor, Catherine Whelan. Tech editors check pattern instructions to ensure that they are clear and correct. Catherine grew up knitting and is also a qualified Maths teacher, ideal skills for tech editing as she can juggle the numbers and explain things well! 

Catherine has kindly offered to support any new designers with writing up their patterns. Here she gives us some tips for getting started. 

Do some research. 

Read other people’s patterns. Think about what you like about their patterns and what you don’t like. Look at the pattern structures and think about the sections that should be in a pattern.

Don’t compare yourself to other designers. 

At the same time as using other people’s patterns as inspiration, you may be concerned about your design. Remember you are your own person and will have your own unique way of saying something or doing something. We all have our styles of writing and different ideas of what we like to create. 

Swatch, swatch, swatch!

This is one of the most important parts of designing. You could make a swatch which is a mini size version of the design you are making.

Here is a swatch I’ve done for a design I’m working on and it’s a section of the design that I couldn’t work out how the bottom was going to look. This means you can play around with sections you’re not sure of without having to create the whole item.

Make detailed notes. 

Write the pattern as you go, or at least make really good notes. It’s really easy to make small changes as you go along, but you need to ensure that you remember them when you are writing up the pattern.

Instructions should be thorough and clear.

Too much information is better than not enough but be careful with that information, make sure that it doesn’t lead to confusion. Especially when you are doing a pattern submission like this, as it’s easier to reduce your work to fit the style rather than trying to work out what you actually did.

Be precise in your instructions. 

Describe exactly what you did to create the item. What type of increases or decreases did you use? Do you use the make 1 or KFB increase? This is important as they create different looks. Whatever you do as you create the item you have to include in the pattern. This can make a huge difference in whether the person using the pattern will get the item that you created. 

Be Consistent.

This is the biggest thing that a tech editor looks out for and the one that I spend the most time correcting.  As an example, if you say ‘Repeat Rows 1-2 five more times’ then this is how you use repeats throughout the pattern. Don’t suddenly change to ‘Repeat Rows 1-2 five times total.’ This will just confuse the crafter as they will expect you to stay the same throughout. So, decide on how you’re going to say something and then use it throughout. 

Use standard abbreviations. 

Don’t make up your own! Use websites like Craft Yarn Council or somewhere similar for your abbreviations and descriptions. Also, ensure your list is in alphabetical order, this makes finding your abbreviations easier.

    Keep updating the stitch counts.

    Every time you change the number of stitches in a row/round, include the new stitch count. This is something that not only tech editors love (as we can easily check your numbers) but a crafter loves this as well as it’s an easy way for them to check they’ve done the row/round correctly. 

    Don’t make your pattern a treasure hunt!

    Make sure all information is easy to find and clearly labelled. Also, make sure all your abbreviations are in the abbreviation list. 

    Expect some frustration and keep going! 
    You will probably need to rip out parts of your design. Everyone does!  Even experienced designers still rip out parts of their design that aren't going well and they have the same feelings about it as you do. They just know it will improve the design and get it done straight away.
    We hope that you're feeling encouraged by these tips. Designing can feel like a daunting thing to try but once you get started you'll find that each obstacle can be overcome. We're here to help at any stage! 
    You can read more about Catherine and find more detailed tips on her blog.


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