How to Write a Knitting Pattern

By Michelle Powell-Smith

Many knitters will have occasion to write a knitting pattern, whether for their own use or to share and even publish. Learning standard pattern terminology and how to write patterns in a logical and coherent order can make this process easier. Writing your own patterns for knitting offers new opportunities for creativity and may allow you to improve on published patterns for your own use.

Start with an idea. Maybe you have sketched out a design or you simply want to modify an existing pattern for fit or style. Altering sizes may be necessary, or adjusting for bust- or hip-fitting issues. Even knitters with no interest in pattern design may find that they need to alter or change a published pattern for personal use.

Have a good grasp of basic increases and decreases. Each type of increase and decrease in knitting produces a different look in the final product, so choosing the right ones is critical. Knit gauge swatches in your desired yarn to check for drape and the number of stitches per inch. Note the yarn gauge.

Know the common knitting abbreviations. Any knitting book, magazine or website can provide these. Using standard knitting pattern notation allows anyone who wants to knit your pattern to do so successfully. Some of the most common abbreviations in knitting include YO for yarn over, M1 for a make-one increase and KFB for a knit-front-and-back increase. Some of the most common decreases are abbreviated as K2tog for knit two together and SSK for slip, slip, knit.

Use your yarn gauge swatch to determine the total number of stitches to be cast on. Choose the right cast-on for your stitches. Vertical distances can be noted in your pattern as either inches or rows, as you prefer.

As you knit, chart out your design if needed and provide pattern measurements and schematics. Even if you are working for your own use, these sorts of notes will make it easier to make sure that all of your pattern pieces fit together appropriately when it is time for seaming. Before sharing your pattern, ask knitting friends to test-knit your pattern.

Tip

Charts and schematics can make it easier to follow your knitting pattern.

Warning

Commercial knitting patterns should be modified only for your own use, not for sharing or publication.

About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.