how to knit

Knitting 101: How to Write a Pattern (Or How I Write Mine)

With the growth of my brand, I've been getting emails from knitters of all levels, mostly at the beginning stages of designing their own patterns, seeking advice on various topics: social media how-to, pattern writing basics, collaborations, etc. However the most common question I get is "Where do I start for writing a pattern?" so that will be the focus on this post today. I'm going to address this topic assuming you, aspiring knitter, already have a design or sample in hand. If you want to learn how to design a pattern, well... I guess that would be a post for much, much later. 

Please note that through out this tutorial you may seen some things listed here that sometimes I forget to follow or do (especially on measurements). It happens and I'm learning myself! ;-) 

These tips and guidelines are things I have learnt from other knitters during test knits and feedback from knitting publications.

First, let's start with the basic layout of the pattern:

  • About the Pattern
  • Stitch Abbreviations
  • Pattern Stitches or Stitch Guide
  • Pattern Instructions

About the Pattern

First things first, you want the title of the piece, your name and photo(s) of the piece.

Write the pattern romance in this section; inspiration behind the project, features of the design, and other notes that will make knitters want to knit this! I usually include pattern notes - tips that the knitter would find useful, eg. order of construction, here as well. Sometimes the pattern notes can be put right before the Pattern Instructions. 

Needle: List needles in ascending order in both US and mm sizes. Include length of circular needles and “or size needed to obtain gauge”, if gauge is crucial to the project.

Yarns Used: Yarn Company name Yarn name (common yarn weight name; fiber content; yardage/weight per put-up (skein or ball, as appropriate): number of balls/skeins, color and color number (if available). Ravelry is super awesome for already providing this format for you. Just copy and paste!

For example:

Woolfolk TYND (Fingering/4 ply; 100% Merino; 223 yards/50 grams). 3 skeins used, color 3.

Yardage: If pattern has multiple sizes, provide yardage for each size.

Gauge: Measure stitches and rows/rnds over 4 inches/10cm and specify pattern (St st, stitch pattern, color pattern, etc.) and needle size used (e.g. larger/smaller). Include multiple gauges if more than 1 pattern stitch is used in project (optional; include this if the gauge is crucial).  

For example:

Gauge: 20 sts and 28 rows per 4”/10cm in St. st. in larger needle. Save time and check gauge.

Other Notions: Stitch markers, stitch holders, cable needle? Any materials outside of yarn and needles are listed here.

Final Measurements: Include measurements after blocking the piece in inches (and centimeters). For patterns with multiple sizes, include the sizes, final bust measurements (and other measurements you deem necessary) and the amount of ease. Also note which size the sample was knit in.

For example:

  • Sizes: xs[s, m, l, xl, xxl]
  • Final Measurements: Bust 32(36, 40, 44, 48, 52] inches. Model is wearing size S with 4” of positive ease.

Stitch Abbreviations

List all of the stitches you use in the pattern here. You don’t want to write out “knit 1, yarn over, knit two together” in full through out the pattern. You can view a list of standard abbreviations here or in the pattern template download at the end of this article.

Pattern Stitches/Stitch Guide

Special stitches/stiches repeated in the pattern. These should specify Rows or Rnds. Give stitch multiples if necessary. Charts of pattern stitches may also be needed, especially lace. You can add the chart here or at the end. It helps to have all the pattern stitches listed here so you can just simply refer to it in the pattern. 

For example:

Mesh Pattern

  • Row 1 (RS): Sl wyif, p1, k1, [k2tog, yo, k2] x 7, k2tog, yo, pm, p1, pm, [yo, ssk, k2] x 7, yo, ssk, k1, p1, k1. 
  • Row 2 and all WS rows: Sl wyif, k1, p until marker, sm, k1, sm, p until last two sts, k2. 
  • Row 3: Sl wyif, p1, [k2tog, yo, k2] x 7, k2tog, yo, k1, sm, p1, sm, k1, [yo, ssk, k2] x 7, yo, ssk, p1, k1. 
  • Row 5: Sl wyif, p1, k3, [k2tog, yo, k2] x 7, sm, p1, sm, [k2, yo, ssk] x 7, k3, p1, k1. 
  • Row 7: Sl wyif, p1, [k2, k2tog, yo] x 7, k3, sm, p1, sm, k3, [yo, ssk, k2] x 7, p1, k1.

Pattern/Pattern Instructions

Now for the big stuff. I can't pretend to know everything there is to writing a perfect pattern but here are things I try to keep in mind.

  • Always start with the Cast on. If there are multiple colors or needles, note which one to start with. It's a pretty easy one to miss. Don’t forget to note when to switch needle sizes.
  • Be friendly, simple, clear and concise. However, if you feel like a lengthy explanation is needed or you think a knitter will have difficulties with a stitch, make note of it in the pattern notes or include outside links to tutorials.
  • Include stitch counts for every increase and decrease (sometimes I make a table with all of the st. counts at the end of the pattern).
  • Capitalize the first letter of the row/rnd and use periods at the end of every instruction and sentence (look at pattern stitches for an example).
  • Add section headlines to help guide the knitter.
  • Use X[X, X, X] format for stitch counts and inches knit. Sometimes I also add in how many rows such be worked, according to gauge.
  • Bind-off stitches or place on stitch holder.

Finishing

Included here would be weaving in ends, blocking pieces, sewing pieces together, adding borders, fringing, etc.

Graphics

  • Include Charts/Key for any complicated stitch patterns. I use Stitch Mastery for my charts and key.
  • Include Schematics with measurements for sizes.

I believe this may be the section that most people refer to when asking "How do you write a pattern?". I hope this guide has helped but also, don't be afraid to refer to other designers' work to see how they write. Don't copy them word for word of course, but use it to learn and understand how to use knitting jargon. 

I've included a pdf file of the pattern layout that you can download to refer to when you are writing your patterns. It may not be the most comprehensive guide on the internet, but it's a start. If you are planning on selling your patterns and are unsure about clarity and errors, get it test knit! There are always test knitters who are willing to help, such as this forum on Ravelry specifically for that task!

If you have any questions about this article or would like to request another tutorial, leave a comment or shoot me an email at fdanoy@arohaknits.com!

The Fun Stuff... How to Knit the Right and Left Twist Stitch

This post is a part of my "How to Knit" series that is aimed at teaching beginner knitters the basics of knitting. Click here to view the other posts in this series.

This video tutorial is an accompaniment to the Graceful Vines Cowl pattern. I also included how to knit the left twist stitch so that you can interchange that stitch with the right twist stitch that the pattern focuses on. I personally prefer the Right Twist Stitch because it's neater. Enjoy!

Knitting 101: Moving On (Part 1)

This post is a part of my "How to Knit" series that is aimed at teaching beginner knitters the basics of knitting. Click here to view the other posts in this series.

Two new video tutorials for you today! In this blog post, you will learn how to do the purl stitch and how to do 1x1 ribbing. Both still very basic and easy concepts, but very widely used in knitting. Once again, you can practice these concepts in the pattern packet I have prepared for these videos which you can purchase here.

How to do the Purl Stitch

The purl stitch is the opposite stitch to the knit stitch, hence why the swatch in this video looks exactly the same as the swatch in the "How to Knit" video. 

How to do 1x1 Ribbing

Remember to move the working yarn into the correct position before knitting the stitch.

Knitting 101: Yarn Types and Weights

This post is a part of my "How to Knit" series that is aimed at teaching beginner knitters the basics of knitting. Click here to view the other posts in this series.

In this post I will provide a brief overview of the different yarn types and weights. Let's start with the most common yarn fibers.

Yarn Fibers

Wool: The most common type of yarn fiber out on the market. Very warm and durable, however it can be slightly itchy and is not the right yarn to use if the wearer has allergies to wool. It holds its shape well after blocking.

Merino Wool: Possibly my favourite yarn to use. Taken from the merino sheep, this yarn is super soft and doesn't cause allergic reactions as regular wool does. Blocks very nicely but can "pill" (create little fuzz balls). If you get the chance to work with merino wool, do it.

Alpaca: Taken from alpacas, this yarn is warmer than wool, so this type of yarn is best for small winter projects. Doesn't block as well as wool does but it is rather soft.

Cashmere: The softest and fluffiest yarn of them all, but is also rather expensive and not that strong.

Cotton: Not my favourite yarn to work with. While this is a strong yarn, it does not block well at all (it is a rather rigid yarn) and will highlight the irregularities in the stitches. However, it is light and breathable, so once you've gotten the hang of knitting, you can attempt to make summer garments.

Acrylic: Man-made fibers but is cheap and the best choice for beginner knitters. If you are planning on knitting something you know you have to wash regularly, this is the yarn to go for. However, once you've gotten a better hand on knitting, its best to move onto the natural fibers.

Silk: Expensive, but strong, shiny and lustrous. Its not the warmest yarn so it is best for summer projects. It is also slippery to work with, so hold off for a while before tackling a project using silk yarn.

There are many more yarn fibers that you can find at your Local Yarn Store (LYS). Additionally, there are balls of yarn that blend two or more fibers together. In general, these blends with give you the best of each fiber type, without their weaknesses. For example, one of my favourite blends is merino wool x silk, making for ridiculously soft and warm shawls.

It is important to note that using different yarn fibers with wield different results in your knitting project. If a pattern specifies what yarn to use, using the exact yarn or something similar in fiber content is best.

Yarn Weights

Yarns of different weights next to each other for comparison

Yarns of different weights next to each other for comparison

Yarn weights refer to the yarn thickness. Knitting projects will call for a certain yarn thickness that you must use if you want your project to be the same dimensions and have a similar look to the final result. Check the yarn label for the weight, gauge and recommended needle size. Again, if you are buying yarn for a pre-made pattern, it is best to follow the directions. 

Lace: (One of the) thinnest yarn you can get. This is used for light and airy shawls with lace patterns.

Fingering: Also commonly used for shawls, this weight is slightly thicker than lace. If you want your stitches to be fine, this is the weight to go for. 

Sport (and DK): Twice as thick as fingering yarn, this is the most common yarn used for knitting socks!

Worsted (and Aran): The most common yarn weight for beginners to start with and possibly the best yarn to use for almost any project. Aran is slightly heavier than worsted, but both can be used in a variety of different projects.

Bulky (and Chunky): If you want to make something quickly, this is the yarn for you. The end result is bulky and chunky but makes for a warm cowl or scarf! Not for intricate patterns though, the yarn is too thick for that.

Standard yarn labeling chart from YarnStandards.com

Standard yarn labeling chart from YarnStandards.com

This type of information will be available to you on yarn labels (though most don't include the Symbol and Weight name). The most important areas to look at are: recommended needle size, gauge (the amount of stitches fit in 4 inches) and weight. Some yarn labels will only include the first two, because with both that information combined, you will be able to figure out what weight of yarn you are holding.

Knitting 101: Knitting Materials

This post is a part of my "How to Knit" series that is aimed at teaching beginner knitters the basics of knitting. Click here to view the other posts in this series.

This is the starting point of all knitters: what do you need for a knitting project? This post will show you the essential items you will need by going through what I have in my knitting bag. 

Knitting Needles

Two types of knitting needles other than straight needles

Two types of knitting needles other than straight needles

Almost everyone is familiar with the long, stick-like knitting needles. However, I prefer to use circular needles because they can be used for both knitting in the round (for knitting cowls and hats) or knitting back and forth like straight needles (for knitting scarves and shawls). The cables on the circular needles come in different lengths, 16", 24", 32" and 60" (and other variations in between). I use 32" cable lengths for almost all my projects (yes, even for knitting hats!) using a special method called Magic Loop knitting - but a post on that comes later. For beginners, I would recommend buying the needle tips and the cables separately so you can interchangeably use different needle tips on the same cable length when needed, instead of having to buy a new circular needle every time. 

Double Pointed Needles are used to knit small tubes in the round, such as sleeves or mitts. They can be awkward to use at first as you are using multiple needles but I avoid this problem by just knitting using the Magic Loop method. Both styles of knitting have their advantages and disadvantages so I do recommend getting familiar using DPNs at some point.

The most common needle tips come in bamboo, wood and metal. Bamboo is usually the best needle type to go for for beginners as the yarn is less slippery and the bamboo is flexible. In the picture above, the needle tip is wood - it allows for smooth knitting and great for thicker yarn. Metal needle tips allow the yarns to slip off quickly and easily and the metal points are better for catching the finer yarns so it's a popular choice of tip for lace projects. They also provide the satisfying "clicking" sound when you knit.

Needle tips come in different sizes that match up with the varying yarn weights (this will be discussed in the next post). Read the labels to determine what size needle you are purchasing - if you are following a pattern, it will tell you want size needle you will need. If you are knitting for the fun of it, unless it is a lace project, get the needle size recommended on the yarn you are buying. They are marked both in the American Standard needle size and mm (if you live in the states). Here is a useful conversion chart in case you are international. 

I recommend either Clover's Takumi Bamboo Circular Knitting Needles (they are not interchangeable but reasonably priced) or Knitter's Pride Dreamz Interchangeable Wooden tips. Visit your Local Yarn Store (LYS) for your needle and yarn shopping. The range of sizes and types available is much better than at Michaels or large hobby/craft store chains. Additionally, the staff will also be able to help you pick your first knitting needle!

Other Items

Other items in my bag

Other items in my bag

Here are some other important items that a knitter should have in their project bags as they advance their knitting skills.

a) Stitch makers. They indicate the beginning of a row when knitting in the round, or highlight the pattern repeats in intricate projects to help keep your stitch count correct in every row. Definitely a must have. They come in many sizes for the different needle thicknesses.

b) Tape measurer. I use this to measure out my finished pieces, calculate gauge and get body measurements if I want to make a garment fit to certain proportions.

c) Cable needles. If you want to do cable work, you will need cable needles. They come in sets of different sizes.

d) Scissors. Self-explanatory. Make sure they are sharp though!

e) Daring needles. These are used to weave in the tail and loose ends of the remaining yarn. A must have for any project.

f) Row counter. Some of the more complex knitting patterns will need usage of this to help keep track of which row you are on, in case you put down your work and later forget which row you were on.

g) Needle caps. These are used to prevent the stitches from sliding off the needles when you are carrying your projects around. Nothing is more frightening than picking up your work and finding that the stitches have fallen off and are unraveling themselves!

h) Knitting bag. To hold all of these items in one place.

Preparations for my First Knitting Class

I am to be teaching my first knitting class next Saturday, November 1st and I've almost got everything together. I was offered to teach a knitting class to some of the people in the village almost a month and a half ago and its now that I realize how much time I have left to get everything prepared! Working on commissions and pattern designs really make the time fly by. Here's a sneak peak of what I have in store for the village ladies of Ubuyama...

Two balls of super chunky yarn and a pair of size 11, 19" knitting needles.

Two balls of super chunky yarn and a pair of size 11, 19" knitting needles.

Everyone will be getting two balls of yarn and a circular needle. I chose to get circular needles for everyone because I find them more convenient than straight needles: you can knit both back and forth and in the round on them, thus opening up more pattern possibilities.

Garter Stitch scarf

Garter Stitch scarf

I'll first be teaching them how to knit a garter stitch scarf. It's the easiest pattern in the book. In the next lesson (hopefully), I'll be showing them how to add the tassels.

Detail shot of the stitch

Detail shot of the stitch

Additionally, I've prepared a handout that they can take home providing step by step instructions on knitting basics 101 (cast on, knit stitch and bind off - all in Japanese!). I will translate it into English soon, which brings me to my last point...

I've gotten some messages from friends saying that they've expressed interest in learning how to knit, which is really exciting to hear! The good news is that I've already been planning on making a series of "How to Knit" videos, with accompanying patterns so that you can practice those techniques and knit your own garments! Stay tuned for more details on this...