Sunday, 4 December 2016

Tips For Aspiring Knitting Designers

This post was originally written by me on one of the designing groups over on  If you are not a member, you should be!  So much excellent advice given freely by designers at all levels of achievement.  You can't beat that!
You love to knit.  You love the idea of creating your own patterns and selling them to other knitters.  But, where to start?
As a knitting designer (, and as a technical editor for knitting patterns, there are definitely things I would have done differently starting out on my designer journey.

First, I'd like to say that if you are knitting patterns by other designers, you are way ahead of the game.  (I didn't do that.)  That is an excellent spring board for gaining new techniques and understanding *why* they decided to do what they did with their design. (I only read them, not knit. Knitting them is great practice and helps you discover what you love to knit, and potentially design, thus helping to establish yourself as an expert your customers can trust. Think of Cookie A and WoollyWormhead, two ladies out of many designers I greatly admire.)

That said, ALWAYS look at a design you admire and ask yourself WHY. Why did they use a raglan sleeve instead of a tailored set in sleeve? Why did they knit it in the round? Why did they use that stitch pattern?

Then, you follow up with **WHAT** would I do different with this design? That is the tough question, but a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Have a notebook or a sketch book and draw/sketch what your answer. Set it aside, then ask yourself later when you come back to it, WHAT would I do different with this design? And sketch that.

Another thing you can do is look at clothing in your or your child's closet. (BTW, Debbie Bliss taught me this trick at Vogue Knitting Live NYC2014.) You know what your favorite shape/garment is. Think how you could reconstruct that shape by knitting. What stitches would you use to spice it up? Is there something that you don't like about the real garment that you'd love to change? Sketch it out in your design/ideas/dream book.

Sketching is really important to document your journey in design. But so is SWATCHING

Never, ever, use the gauge on the knitting ball as the gauge for your design, even if you use the suggested needles. Swatch. Your "hand" is different when you knit in the round or flat. Your hand is different from my hand. If you do not swatch to figure out your hand for your design, it will make it very difficult for your customers to recreate your beautiful sample shown in your pattern glamour shot. Customer frustration can/will lead to a negative connection to your design brand. YOU DON'T WANT THAT!!!!

And set goals. Hold yourself accountable for them. 

Vision Boards and Bullet Journaling are great for helping you to stay focused!  

 Here is a sample of people talking about vision boards.

And Bullet Journals...
This young ADHD woman is so funny!
And Boho Berry, the queen of bullet journaling...

Say you want to publish 10 patterns in 2017. Break it down. 52 weeks in a year, so you have 5.2 weeks for each design. Say you want to have 3 weeks for test knitting, (that's pretty generous, but shawls/sweaters might take that long) and 1.5 weeks to have your tech editor work with you to make the pattern as error free as possible. So, that might give you only 1/2 week to come up with the design and write it out. 

(What!?! 1/2 week to come up with a design, write it out and knit a sample?)

Well, yes.

So let's think about what could you do to speed up that writing process.

  •  Make friends with spreadsheets; they make grading and math for your increases and decreases so much easier!!!  "Sizing Knitwear Patterns" with Faina Goberstein on the platform is where I learned to use OpenOffice Calc (free program) effectively.  Faina use Excel, but much transfers to OpenOffice.  By the way, this course is AMAZING!!! 
  • Having a **style sheet and a pattern template** is a huge help too.   It makes it easier/faster for your TE to correct your pattern if you already have your consistency of wording/abbreviations right before you hand it to them, a long with your style sheet. This will save you time, which is MONEY.
  • Keep your swatches for each yarn, needle size that you love to work with and favorite stitch pattern in a swatch binder or file. Make sure you mark the gauge and keep the yarn band details! This saves time because you don't need to swatch, and you can plug the math into your design elements, thus making a bare bones pattern to knit from.
  • If you design as you knit, make sure to write down each step! You don't want to have a gorgeous finished item and have no idea how you did it.

Remember, while you are guiding your test knit or waiting for your TE to get back to you, you can be sketching/dreaming of the next design. That makes that 1/2 week goal MUCH easier to adhere to. Plus, some designs might not take 5.2 weeks to complete and publish. And as Norah Gaughan once mentioned in a class I took at KNIT EAST, reuse elements of a great design you came up with in another design, but be creative with it! If it was a cable on the front, what about a scaled down version on a cuff? Hem? On a mitt? You get the idea.

And when you don't have a design in mind or having designer's block, swatch an interesting stitch pattern from a dictionary. Add it to your swatch binder/folder. Who knows? It might spark a design!

Hope some of this helps, and good luck!
Nin :)


  1. Thank you -so- much for the information on bullet journals! I hadn't heard of the idea before, so now I'm quite intrigued!

    1. Oh, they are so addictive!!! LOL I am in the process of figuring out what spreads works for me, but it is a lot of fun. Hope you give them a try!

  2. I've started playing around with several ideas/spread in a notebook I had lying around, and I've ordered a 'nice' notebook from Amazon (rather then the little school spiral notebook I pulled out of my drawer, haha!)

    I've always had trouble with planners and such, but this is such a different idea that I'm hoping it works better for me then what I'm muddling through with now.

    Again, thank you!