Episode 37: Crochet & Knitting Design & Self-Publishing Mini Series 2: Drafting Your Pattern

You can subscribe to the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show on iTunes or Stitcher! And, of course, you can listen to today’s episode from within the post.

Crochet and Knitting Design and Self Publishing series Drafting Your Pattern on Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show podcast

This Week’s Episode

I continue the Crochet & Knitting Design & Self-Publishing Mini Series with a focus on Drafting Your Pattern. In today’s episode, I talk about drafting the written pattern (including pattern grading) and creating the sample.

But first…

Thanks to Christine Guest from Christine Guest Designs for reminding me about Cooperative Press’s Style Sheet Questionnaires. These may help designers to develop their own style sheets. Elizabeth Green Musselman developed the knitting version and Lindsey Stephens developed the crochet version. Lindsey was a guest on the podcast back in Episode 10: Time Management Tips.

I also wanted to mention that Dianne from Same DiNamics Crochet recently completed a Crochet Design Series. I was one of ten crochet designers she interviewed. Most of the information is also applicable to knitting. I have linked up her posts below.

You may find it interesting to hear the perspectives of multiple designers as you consider which approach works best for your business.

This post contains affiliate links.

Drafting the pattern

There are three major approaches to drafting a pattern.

  • Reverse engineering: Designers who take this approach create a sample first and then attempt to deconstruct it, write a pattern, and make a second sample. This is a more organic design process and the designer can “test” the efficacy of the reverse engineering process while making the second sample. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately determine the pattern through this technique and it may produce projects where the patterns are not easy to follow. Additionally, it isn’t very scalable.
  • Write as you go: Designers who take this approach stitch one row/round and then write the instructions. This method tends to be more accurate than reverse engineering, but it may not be very scalable.
  • Write first, then create the sample: With this approach, the design is thought through first and written up. The designer or sample knitter/crochet then checks the pattern while creating the sample. This is very scalable because the sample isn’t dependent on the designer and it can be tech edited faster. This method can be very challenging for a difficult pattern because the designer may be trying new techniques and/or stitches and will be pulling back frequently.

Consider your current method and whether it fits with your business at this time. Should you introduce another method of drafting the pattern instead?

Crafty’s Pattern Writing for Knitters Class

Creating the sample

Most designers start out creating their own samples. Some eventually outsource the production of samples to sample crocheters/knitters. Sample makers are not quite the same as pattern testers. Here are some key differences.

  • Sample makers (in general)…
    • Are provided with yarn and compensated financially,
    • Do not own the finished sample and have to return it to the publisher, and
    • Are required to work the pattern exactly as written, at the same gauge, and in the publisher’s required size.
  • Pattern testers (in general)…
    • Supply their own yarn,
    • Own the finished sample,
    • Choose the sample size,
    • Often make “tweaks” or customizations to the pattern, and
    • May not meet the required gauge.

Several years ago, Karen Ratto-Whooley shared a questionnaire for sample crocheters on her mailing list. It was designed to assess the makers technical skills and attention to detail in reading a pattern, so consider both if you plan to outsource your samples. Sample makers are often compensated by the yard, and you can generally find out about prevailing rates by asking around in the Indy Pattern Designers’ Resources group on Ravelry. The group even has a “stickied” discussion thread called Sample knitters/crocheters.

You can learn more about pattern testers in Episode 3: 8 Tips for Organizing Your First Pattern Test. I’ll also talk about testing in more detail in next week’s episode.

What about pattern grading?

Pattern grading is a process of sizing the pattern up or down sizes and keeping the design integrity the same.

Many designers start by creating multiple samples in different sizes. Unless your designs are very small (like hats), this isn’t very scalable because it adds much more work and time to your self-publishing process.

Grading involves both math and art. Formulas can be used to adjust the stitch counts proportionately for various sizes, but in many instances, design elements will not work the same way in every size. For this reason, some self-published designers limit the size range of their patterns, while others make change to design elements to maintain the integrity.

If you haven’t done pattern grading before, or would like to improve your skills, here are some resources you may find helpful.

Another approach is to ask your tech editor to do the grading and/or to walk you through the grading process. This will likely be more expensive than just a pattern edit.

You might also want to try grading a smaller project (like a hat) or a project with minimal shaping (like a blanket) as your first grading experience.

Ask yourself where you want grading to fit in during the pattern writing process – before you make the sample, at the same type as making the sample, or after finishing the sample.

Next week’s episode will be all about Polishing your pattern. We’ll talk about testing and tech editing.


The Creative Yarn Entrepreneurs Facebook group is growing! If you are a yarn-related business owner, join us!

I will be presenting at the BlogHer ’15 Conference in New York City along with my friend and fellow solopreneur, Carlota Zimmerman from the Creativity Yenta (who was a guest on Episode 16 and Episode 22). We will be part of a workshop on Friday, July 17, 2015 called Social Media Bootcamp: Lightning Lessons in the Latest: LinkedIn, Google+ Hangouts On Air, and Twitter. If your blog is a major part of your business income (or, you’d like it to be), I hope to see you there! If you haven’t already registered, you can take advantage of our friends and family discount for 30% off the Blogger Rate by registering through this link!

How do you draft your patterns and make your samples? Is this working for you or are you planning to make some changes? Let me know about it in the comments here or in the Facebook group, Tweet me at @cyeshowadd me to your G+ circle and send me a note, or leave a message at 646-713-8973.

If you enjoyed the show

You can subscribe to the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show on on iTunes or Stitcher. Please leave an honest review on iTunes or Stitcher and join the mailing list. I’ll let people on the list know in advance about special guests and topics so you can share your questions.

Comments 5

  • Hi Marie,

    I have been listening to your podcast for some time now and after catching up with your self publishing mini series I knew I had to reach out and thank you. I listen to many knitting podcasts (still waiting for a crochet podcast!) but it is not often that you come across with one that focuses on both knitting and crochet and also provides such great tips and resources as yours. I do not own a yarn/knitting/crochet business but I have published some free crochet patterns on Ravelry and have been thinking about taking the next step and start publishing paid patterns so your last few episodes have been so helpful to start thinking about what this would involve. I also love that you take us through each topic in depth making sure that everyone will understand no matter what their previous knowledge on the subject is. You can tell how much work you put into each episode, your show notes are amazingly detailed and I thought you should know that your effort and time is greatly appreciated and I am sure you are helping so many creative business owners out there. Hope your show grows and that you stick around for a long time!

    Loads of love,


    • Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing such kind words, Sol! Please let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to see me cover in the future.

  • Hi Marie,

    I just began listening to your podcast. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to put together such a wonderful resource for crafters. I’m so thrilled that I found your podcast right when I began my crochet business. I always learn something new at every podcast. And I notice that every time I have a question in my mind, or I’m wondering about something, you always seem to have a podcast for it that addresses my questions and concerns thoroughly. Thanks so much for all your help.

    I wanted to mention that I noticed your link for the style sheet questionnaire is now outdated. I found it by googling. The new link is: http://www.cooperativepress.com/style-sheet-questionnaires-for-crochet-designers/

    Thanks again for creating such an excellent resource for others, Marie.

    A very grateful fan,

  • Hi Marie
    I am working my way through the design mini-series now. I am not new to your amazing podcasts but this is the first time I have decided to write a pattern for publication so I am appreciating your content more than ever. Thanks to your advice I have written my first draft and obtained yarn support for my pattern. I am now working on my style sheet and grading….
    All the best

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *