How to Design and Release Your Own Knitting Patterns: Part 1

How many of you have ever wished that you could design your own knitting patterns? The thought of being able to make whatever you can dream up is a very exciting prospect for many knitters!

But the whole process can feel incredibly intimidating.

It’s not just a matter of coming up with a design, writing down the pattern and sending it out into the world. Responsible pattern development can take a long time and involves several stages before a pattern is finally ready for release.

That’s why I am starting a blog series on how to design and release a knitting pattern.

In today’s blog post, I shall walk you through the design process, including choosing a pattern category, making a mood board, choosing the right yarn, making swatches and sketching your ideas.

How to Design a Knitting Pattern

Design is where it all begins. It is at this point that you will decide what it is that you want to design and how it will look. Every designer's creative process is different, but here is how I approach it.

Pattern Category

Start your design process by deciding what type of garment or accessory you would like to release. Often, it’s a good idea to consider when you want to release the pattern and choose the garment/accessory based on that, e.g. a heavy sweater will be better suited to an October release date than a lightweight tank.

Moodboard

Once you have decided on the pattern category, it’s time to put together a mood board. I find Pinterest very helpful for this, but it can be done on paper too. All you have to do is gather together 10-20 images that evoke the mood of what you want to design.

Keep in mind - your moodboard really doesn’t have to feature any knitwear, although a few knitwear images can be very inspiring. Try to include other image styles that inspire you, such as art, lifestyle, interiors, fashion editorials, patterns and ceramics. Anything goes, as long as it gets your creative juices flowing!

Yarn

For some designers, this stage comes earlier in their design process. In fact, some people start with yarn and design from there. However, I choose my yarn based on my mood board and pattern category.

For example, if I am designing a t-shirt that I intend to release in the Summer, I should look for a yarn that is lightweight and cool to wear.

If my mood board includes lots of images that evoke textural stitches, I should make sure that the yarn is going to have suitable stitch definition.

Swatching

I find that swatching and sketching can be interchangeable. In fact, I often do a bit of swatching, then some initial sketches, then more swatching and then some final sketches.

By this stage, you might already have some fabric ideas, but don’t worry if you don’t. Take a look at your mood board and see if you can spot anything that you think will translate into knitted fabric well. I wrote an article on how to design your own stitch patterns a few months ago, which might be very helpful at this stage.

If you’re drawing a blank, take a look through a stitch dictionary and see if you can find anything that has the same vibe as the images from your mood board.

Make small-ish swatches of anything you want to test out. By making them smaller, you can experiment with a bunch of different stitches/patterns in a shorter space of time. Anything that you really like can be knitted up much larger afterwards.

I like to include ‘trim’ ideas in my swatches, such as ribbings/edges. For lots of new designers, trims are a bit of an afterthought, but I am of the opinion that they are one of the most important bits! A cleverly designed trim will make even the simplest garment look amazing.

Sketching

Using your mood board, grab a pen and paper and start drawing out rough design ideas - as many as possible. I used to hate it at university when they’d get us to draw out page after page of design ideas, but I can see, now, how helpful that is!

Don’t feel like you have to draw the entire garment at first; focus on nailing the silhouette, then start adding design details, stitches, colour etc.

Next in this series…

Coming up next in this series, we shall be exploring the technical side of the design process, including planning the pattern, knitting the sample, working with test knitters and getting your pattern tech edited. Watch this space!

A little homework for you…

In the comments section below, let me know: What’s one thing that has held you back from trying your hand at knitwear design?

Give me as much detail as you can. Not only will it be encouraging to others in our community who feel the same way, but it will also help me to share more information that will help you get over those big hurdles.

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