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Birth of an Independent Pattern

I know the Monday blog post is generally about food and/or a recipe. For this week though, I’ve decided to hijack my blog to discuss the process of independently publishing a pattern. I’ve noticed a lot of comments from people curious about this. I’ll post a little bit each day through Thursday about what I go through to put out one of the Poetry in Yarn patterns. Whether you want to create patterns or just buy them, I hope you find this series of posts informative. (And don’t worry. I’ll be back Monday with my recipe for what I call a Poor Man’s Mocha.)

One of the most frequent questions I see is about how the design process works. How do inspiration, yarn choice, and pattern writing all fit together and in what order? The most accurate answer to give to this question is also the least satisfying: it depends.

Every design has it’s own process.

Yarn then Inspiration

Sometimes it starts with the yarn. I wind up with a skein or two of yarn and just sit for a while, playing around with it. I work one stitch pattern, decide that’s it horrific, and rip it all out. I try something else…meh…out that goes. And eventually, hopefully, I hit upon something I like and an idea takes form.

Inspiration then Yarn

Other times, I come up with an idea before even playing with yarn. I might see a picture that sparks an idea. Or I decide that I really want to learn more about, say, glove construction. After I have a basic idea of what I want to do, I find some yarn to draft it out with.

Yarn Amounts

Unless I’m specifically doing a one skein project, I need to make sure I have enough yarn. My favorite chart for yarn amounts is off the Lion Brand website. I sometimes look for similar patterns (women’s size small sweater with dense stitch pattern) and see how much yarn they call for. If I’m really worried, I calculate the area and yardage of my swatch and use that to figure out the required yarn for the whole project. (This involves a bit of algebra, which I’ll be glad to explain in another post on another day.) With some projects, I’m just made so many of that type of item, that I know how much yarn I’ll need.

Pattern Writing

So when does writing the actual pattern fit into this? There are three basic ways I do this:

Swatch, then write pattern in it’s entirety, then make the item

I almost never do this. In fact, I really only do this if I’m having a contract crocheter/knitter make the item for me. There are certain things were I know with 100% certainty that I can write the pattern based only on a swatch. If it’s anything I’m uncertain on (different collar style, unusual decrease method), then I don’t write the pattern out first. I’ll have a mental plan, and I may write out part of the pattern, but I’m not going to spend an hour or more writing out something when I will likely have to change half of it. (If it’s a graded item, in multiple sizes, I may write out the pattern for the sample size first.)

Make the item (taking notes as I go), then write the pattern

I used to mainly do it this way, but I’d get so frustrated writing out the pattern afterward. I would discover that the pattern that seamed so easy at the time was a real huge pain to write up. (I should mention that my notes were almost always stitch diagrams. I think in pictures.)

Write the pattern row by row as I make the item

This is most frustrating at the time (stopping to write out instructions kills my crocheting momentum), but it’s worth it at the end. By the time I end off, I have the pattern almost completely done.

You may be wondering how long this whole process takes. It really varies. I have some that I get done in two days with only one sheet of written notes. With other patterns, I take a week or two and wind up with so many pages of notes and notes of revisions of previous notes, that I have to begin numbering my pages as I go to keep it all straight.

In tomorrow’s post I’ll talk a little about grading patterns for multiple sizes and the test knitting and technical editing process.