You have your design idea, and you've started to write out your knitting pattern. But suddenly you're at a standstill: what all do you need to include? What if you forget something?
I've found there are seven key components that knitters (and your tech editor) are looking for in knitting patterns. Include these parts and you will avoid several edits from your tech editor, and many questions from knitters working your pattern.
What do you like (and dislike) about other knitting patterns?
First of all, I think it's always helpful to reference patterns that you love to work from. What makes those patterns so enjoyable to work? Think about the parts of a pattern that you always use; make sure you include those parts. Then think about patterns that have left you feeling lost, frustrated, and stuck. What pieces of information were they missing? Make sure you include that information in your pattern(s). Then take a look at your favorite knitting patterns to work from, and take notes on the key features that you want to be sure you include.
Identifying the parts of a pattern that you find helpful – and then determining the way you present each part – will help you create your unique pattern style.
Of course, even though your pattern style will be unique to you, there are some key components that most, if not all, patterns should include. We will talk about those in just a minute; but first, one more thing that will make your patterns unique: your customer.
Always keep your customer in mind.
It's important to think about the customer you're designing for. Ask yourself:
What do they already know?
What will be new information to them in this pattern?
What do they need to be reminded of each time they work a pattern?
Do they need written instructions or charted instructions (or both)?
Do they need additional descriptions or linked videos?
How do they prefer to go through a pattern?
Once you have an idea of what they need (and don't need), you can filter which parts of a pattern are necessary for them, and which aren't. It will also tell you the best way to organize the information within your knitting pattern.
Key Features to a Knitting Pattern
First and foremost, it's important that your pattern has instructions that are clear and easy to understand for your customer. Some knitters prefer short, concise instructions; some knitters prefer lengthy instructions with a lot of detail; and some knitters prefer to have a video to watch rather than a written pattern. Be sure that you cater your pattern instructions to your customer so they will enjoy working through the pattern and find it easy to follow.
If you can, I always recommend working with a professional tech editor, who will look over your pattern for clarity and accuracy after you've completed writing the pattern.
The next important part of the pattern is the part that tells the knitter how they can create exactly what you've created. This includes yarn information, needle information, sizing information, gauge information, and an abbreviations list.
How to Share Yarn Information Within a Knitting Pattern
The knitter working your pattern will need to know what kind of yarn they will need, and how much they will need. If you know a knitter is likely to use the exact yarn you used, you can include the number of skeins, balls, or hanks that you used. But I think it is always important to also include the specific amount of yarn you used, particularly for knitters that will be making a yarn substitution. There are many reasons a knitter may choose to work with a different yarn, for example: financial accessibility, location accessibility, interest in a different fiber type, or the yarn you used was discontinued. Sometimes a yarn company may provide a yarn in different quantities (i.e. a 50 gram skein or a 100 gram skein), so providing only the number of balls, skeins, or hanks can be very confusing.
When you're including the amount of yarn used for a design, be sure to include the weight (grams and/or ounces) and the length (meters and/or yards). It is pretty common to include yards, meters, and grams.
Don't forget: It's common practice to add an extra 10% to the amount of yarn you used when listing the amount of yarn required for a pattern. This is because every knitter may use a different quantity of yarn, and this ensures that knitters working your pattern won't run out if they follow your recommendation.
While you want to include the amount of yarn necessary for each size, it is also very helpful to include the information for just one ball, skein, or hank. This is especially helpful for knitters substituting the yarn and wanting to ensure they've found an adequate replacement.
Bonus: This isn't necessary, but something that I like to include in the yarn section is a link to the yarn dyer's website, especially if the dyer provided yarn support for the knitting pattern. It's basically like giving an extra shout-out to the yarn dyer by making it easier for knitters to check out their website. Even if they've already picked out their yarn for this pattern, maybe they'll find something for another project!
What Information Do I Need to Include About Knitting Needles in My Pattern?
The most important information you need to share with the knitter about their knitting needles is the size of knitting needle they will likely need, the type of knitting needle they will need (circular, double-pointed, or straight), and the length of knitting needle they will need.
When talking about the size of the knitting needles used for a particular pattern, it will always differ from knitter to knitter based on how loosely or tightly they knit. For this reason, it is important to provide a needle size that will work for the "average" knitter.
Since I am a loose knitter, my patterns always call for a different needle size than I used for the design. I always plan to increase the needle size by about two sizes, then I take into account all of the needle sizes my test knitters used, and I refer to the chart of recommended gauges and needle sizes for different yarn weights in Amy Herzog's Knit Mitts book. The chart gives me a good idea of what needle sizes are typical for various gauges, and the test knitters give me a good idea of how the specific stitch patterns work up. The reason I really like referencing the chart in the book is that it allows me to ensure that my test knitters' results make sense and fit the 'average' knitter. You can learn more about this book, and other resource books that I use, in my blog post talking about tools for designing and selling knitting patterns.
If your pattern requires multiple needles, make sure you include information for each needle type the knitter will need to work your pattern. In this section, also be sure to include information on any other tools the knitter will need for the pattern, such as cable needles, stitch markers, progress keepers, darning needle, or waste yarn. Always include the number of each item they need, as well as any particular information on sizing that would be important.
Including Gauge Within Your Knitting Pattern
While isn't gauge information isn't absolutely necessary for someone to work your pattern, it is absolutely necessary for both you and the knitter to be confident that their project will end up the size that you promise in your pattern.
Therefore it is important that you include gauge information for each stitch pattern that is prominent within the pattern. Providing a stockinette gauge is helpful, and makes for a simple swatching experience for the knitter, but if your design isn't primarily worked in stockinette, it isn't a very accurate representation of the design. One, because not every knitter is proportionately tighter or looser with every stitch type, and two, because the swatch is also supposed to give the knitter a good idea of what the fabric of the finished object will be like.
So, when you're including gauge information, be sure to include the row and stitch gauge for all of the important stitch patterns used in the design. I say most important because I don't think it's necessary to include a reverse stockinette gauge in a garment design that only uses two rounds of reverse stockinette. Also be sure that your gauge is the blocked gauge (and indicate so in the pattern) if the knitter will be blocking their finished object.
If it is necessary for your particular design, and/or it is information your customer will need, be sure to include any additional information for the knitter to successfully swatch for their gauge. This may include a page that gives very specific instructions on how to work their swatch in the necessary stitch patterns.
Sizing Information In Your Knitting Pattern
Now that you've provided all of the instructions the knitter will need to work your pattern, and the pertinent information for replicating your design sample, it's important to include information on sizing for the pattern.
Even if there's only one size in your pattern, it is still important to include the dimensions of the finished project, so the knitter knows how large (or small) they should expect the finished project to be. If there's multiple sizes in your pattern, it is important to include the dimensions for every size.
Always include any dimensions that are important for fit, and especially any dimensions a knitter may want to customize. For example, my hat patterns include the circumference of the hat (and the circumference of the head it will be designed for, since the hat includes negative ease) as well as the height of the hat. This allows the knitter to select the pattern size that they need to knit in order for the hat to fit around their head, and it allows them to decide if they want more or less length on the hat to fit the way they want.
When including your sizing information, be sure to include the blocked measurements if the project will be blocked.
List of Knitting Abbreviations to "Unlock the Code"
You've written out the instructions so they're clear and easy to follow, but what if the knitter doesn't know what it means? Until a knitter knows what the abbreviations stand for - and how to work the required techniques - a pattern can look like a foreign language. And we don't want your pattern to seem like a foreign language!
Be sure to include every abbreviation that you use in the pattern in your abbreviations list, and make sure the description clearly indicates what the abbreviation means. For example, some stitches like SSK need a little bit more information than just what each letter stands for.
Trying to figure out what the proper abbreviation is for a stitch technique? The knitting abbreviations included in Craft Yarn Council's Standards & Guidelines for Crochet and Knitting is the industry standard.
Supplementary Information in Your Knitting Pattern
What Questions Will Your Customers Have?
Now that you've included all of the information that your customer needs to correctly work the pattern, it's important to think about any additional questions they will have.
Will they need additional support with a certain technique? Do they need to have a photo of a specific part of the design? Do they need information for making customizations or modifications?
This information will be very specific to your design and your customer. As you work through test knitting and tech editing, you will also receive questions and feedback that will give you a bit of insight into what additional information you can provide to help your customers.
Include Photos of the Design Sample
While a photo isn't technically necessary in a pattern, it is very helpful as a reference point when a knitter gets stuck. This is especially true if they're confused about a certain part of the pattern and just need to see how the piece is constructed to understand it. It is also very helpful for times when a knitter isn't sure if they've done something correctly or not; having a photo (or photos) can reassure a knitter that they've done it correctly, or let them know that it is incorrect.
Always include at least one photo of the design sample within your pattern.
Is there anything about the construction of your design that isn't intuitive to knitters working your pattern? Are there any dimensions in your sizing section that need some clarifying? Is there a specific shape your design should be blocked to, that isn't obvious to the knitter?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, a schematic will be very beneficial in your pattern! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and your schematic will clear up a lot of confusion.
Two more things to check... if you're included charts, don't forget the key! And did you remember to include the pattern name?
And that's it! You're already familiar with working from knitting patterns, so now it's time to deconstruct what you like and use, and apply it to your own pattern design. How do you feel? Does it feel doable? Is there something you've been missing in your knitting patterns?
If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed and want an easy way to keep track of everything you need in your knitting pattern, download this What to Include In Your Pattern checklist so you know you aren't forget anything! You can print out a copy for each pattern that you write, if you find that helpful!