How to Design Knit Patterns

By Rose Brown ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Measuring tape
  • Optional: graph paper, colored pencils

Knitting is both a relaxing and rewarding pastime. Creative and meditative, knitting also provides sensuous, tactile pleasure through the use of so many soft and colorful yarns. And, best of all, knitting often results in beautifully handcrafted garments and gifts that are treasured for generations. Fairly experienced knitters—those who have grasped the fundamentals of this art and finished a few projects from patterns—may be inclined to produce knitted creations based on their own designs. With a bit of imagination, time and basic mathematical skills, it is possible to design your own knitting patterns.

Sketch the knitting project you have envisioned in your head. For example, if you want to knit a sleeveless, crewneck pullover, draw one, noting any special features you have in mind, such as ribbing, buttons, special stitches or stripes. Sketching the project prompts you to brainstorm ideas that will make it great and to consider all the different elements of the project.

Determine the measurements you want the finished project to have. To do this, you might measure the person it is for, or measure another garment that fits her well. For the pullover mentioned above, you would need measurements for the sweater’s length, body circumference, armhole circumferences, and neck opening circumference.

Choose the yarn with which you want to work. Read the yarn’s label to find out its gauge. Gauge explains how many stitches of yarn are equal to a certain amount of inches. For example, you might choose a yarn with a gauge of 12 stitches = 4 inches when using the suggested size of needles.

Use the gauge of your chosen yarn to calculate and write your pattern instructions. Apply basic math skills to do this. For example: You want the body circumference of your pullover to measure 40 inches. 12 stitches of your yarn equals 4 inches. 40 inches divided by 4 inches equals 10. 10 times 12 stitches is 120. Therefore, you need 120 stitches of your yarn to make 40 inches.

Follow this basic formula to calculate the number of stitches you need to make each part of your project. It can also be used to determine how many stitches to eliminate when you are shaping the neck opening and armholes.

Write instructions for each part of your project next to the sketched project.

Tip

Always knit a sample square of the yarn you have chosen to confirm the gauge. Use percentages for easy calculations. For example, if you know you want the sleeves of a sweater to be 25 percent the width of the sweater’s body, simply divide the total number of stitches required to make the body by 4 (25 percent). Use that many stitches to make each sleeve. Keep a calculator handy. It will help you determine how many stitches you will need for each part of your project. For patterns with elaborate designs, such as Fair Isle motifs, use graph paper. Each square of graph paper represents one stitch. After you know your yarn’s gauge, use different colored pencils to mark the squares and indicate how many stitches in each different color you will need to form your design.

Warning

Using needles in a size other than that suggested on your yarn label will result in a different gauge.

About the Author

Rose Brown began writing professionally in 2003. Her articles have appeared in such Montana-based publications as "The Tributary" and "Edible Bozeman." She earned a bachelor's degree in literature from the University of California at San Diego, and a master's degree in English from Montana State University. Brown has been a professional florist since 1997.