7 Unforgettable Lessons I Learnt from Designing My First Knitting Patterns

My latest sweater design, Split Stone

Last week, you might have noticed that I released my latest knitting pattern: Split Stone, which also happens to be my very first sweater pattern. I can't even tell you how exciting it feels to finally have it out there in the world!

It's not like I haven't designed a sweater before. In fact, I've designed several: from crazy conceptual designs in college, a whole collection of garments in university and more recently, a couple for my own wardrobe.

But designing a sweater pattern feels totally different - this time, it's a design that other women will knit and wear, not just me.

In this week's blog post, I'm giving you a glimpse behind the scenes in my pattern designing process and sharing the seven lessons I learnt from releasing my first three knitting patterns. Enjoy!

7 Important Lessons I Learnt from Designing My First Knitting Patterns

1. Even the most intimidating techniques can be learnt with time and practice.

As I mentioned previously, I've designed several sweaters in the past, however, I have never designed the same sweater in a variety of sizes before. This meant that I needed to learn how to grade knitting patterns - something that I initially found totally intimidating.

Thankfully, I found some great resources to learn from that made the process much easier: primarily, Maggie Righetti's book Sweater Design in Plain English and also Ysolda Teague's incredible size chart.

Thanks to the knowledge shared by these experts, I have been able to offer my Split Stone sweater in 5 sizes, which feels like a great achievement. In time, I would like to offer even more size options in my patterns. Watch this space!

2. Test knitting is not just a great way of assessing my patterns; it is also a great way to make friends.

I've held test knits for all of my patterns, however, my latest was my most organised one so far.

For Split Stone, I had a team of seven test-knitters who made a sweater in every size. These amazing knitters pointed out any errors I'd made, noted any instructions that were unclear and made sure that the pattern was incredibly easy to understand.

They also became friends of mine. Most days, our group would be chatting online, sharing pictures of our progress and even our pets! It was truly a lovely experience and one that I feel grateful to have had. I know I will be working with several of them again.

3. Ripping is inevitable - embrace it.

As much as possible, I try to write out the entirety of a knitting pattern before I even start making the sample. It can take a while and involves a lot of maths, however, it helps me to avoid making too many big mistakes in my sample.

That being said, ripping is inevitable. My ripping usually happens when I'm finessing the fit. Most of the time, you can't tell if the fit is good until it is on the body. No need to be frustrated! Trial and error is all part of the process.

4. It's okay if people don't like my work - those who do like it really like it.

For the longest time, I struggled to find knitting patterns that I genuinely loved. Now that I'm designing my own knitting patterns, I'm releasing patterns that reflect my own taste.

I know that these patterns are not for everyone, but the women who do like my patterns really like them and often make the effort to tell me so! Through our common appreciation of simple, clever design, I can see a community starting to build, particularly over on Instagram. It is wonderfully encouraging for a new designer, like myself.

5. What makes sense to me might not make sense to others.

Have you ever written something down in what seemed like perfectly legible handwriting, but someone else has struggled to read it? That's what learning to write knitting patterns can feel like.

There have been times when I've written down a process that is very familiar to me, such as short row shoulders, that came across as very confusing to the knitter. Pattern writing has taught me to view my pattern as someone else who might have less knitting experience than I do.

Through the help of my test knitters and my amazing tech editor, Nathalie, I'm learning how to give instructions clearly, which is an incredibly valuable lesson to learn for all aspects of life.

6. Designing and releasing a knitting pattern takes me much longer than I imagined.

As much as I try to embrace #slowliving, at heart, I am rather impatient. I have so many ideas flying around my head and I'm eager to get them out into the world.

Until Split Stone, my knitting patterns were released as and when they were ready. I didn't give myself hard deadlines, yet I always expected them to take much less time than they actually did.

Recently, I decided to map out the design process, noting how long each part takes so that I could improve my project management for the rest of the year. I now know that, generally, a knitting pattern takes me three months to create, from start to finish! Yes, some parts of the project will overlap with others, but it's still much longer than I anticipated.

7. "Making it" as a knitting pattern designer is going to be very difficult, but I still want it.

For many years, the thing that stopped me from trying to become a knitting pattern designer was that I didn't think I could earn a living from it. Now that I've decided to do it anyway, my fears haven't really changed.

I have no doubts that the road ahead is challenging - hand knit designers work long hours and are notoriously underpaid. I'll probably have to work part-time alongside my knitting pattern design for many years. And yet, having released three patterns now, I couldn't be more sure that this is what I want.

I've been obsessed with knitting for more than half of my life and now, it feels like I've "found my calling."

Have you ever considered designing your own knitting patterns?

Do you design your own knitting patterns? What have you learnt form the process? OR, have you ever wanted to design but something is holding you back? Please tell me more - I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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