If you want to be a knitting designer, you have to know how to write a good pattern. And while many things about this um, unique business are kept kind of quiet and all secretive like, you can find pattern templates all over the interwebs for free. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good way to write a pattern.
In this blog series I’m going to be talking about style sheets and pattern templates, starting this week with some basics on style sheets. In the future we will be looking at templates and style sheets for specific kinds of patterns.
What is a knitting design style sheet?
Your knitting design style sheet isn’t actually very stylish. It doesn’t have to do with the pretty font you use for your patterns, or the fact that you outline photos in a 3 point border of a very specific shade of grey. That’s your template. Or mine actually. Your style sheet is actually a very specific set of rules that you use to format the actual pattern text. So what sorts of things does a style sheet (usually) cover?
This is a big one. What abbreviations do you use in your patterns? Do you use cdd (center double decrease) or s2kp (slip 2 together, knit 1, pass both slipped stitches over)? I prefer the second more descriptive abbreviation. Although it can be easy for that one to be confused with the sk2p that I use for a left-leaning decrease.
This also applies to word abbreviations. Using st(s) for stitch(es). And whether or not you use foll for following or rep for repeat. Using that rep abbreviation can save a lot of space! But you have to be consistent (at least in the same pattern) and you have to clearly define all your abbreviations. You know what they say about assuming…
For items with multiple sizes how does that work? The general convention is to use parentheses – with the smallest size directions out front and all the rest of them following inside the parentheses and separated by commas. Again the biggest thing here is to be consistent! If you say the sizes are 32 (36, 40, 44, 48)” then you can’t tell folks to work the body for 16 – 16 – 17 – 17 -17 ” – that’s just plum confusing!
stitch patterns and special stitches
Do you include a special section for stitch patterns? This is where you define row by row a stitch pattern that is used later in the pattern. For example:
2×2 RIBBING (multiple of 4 sts + 2)
Row 1 (RS): K2, *p2, k2; rep from * to end of row.
Row 2 (WS): P2, *k2, p2; rep from * to end of row.
And if you decide to include something like this – where does it go in your pattern? I put a section of stitch patterns after all the materials and abbreviations, but before the actual pattern instructions.
How do you format your written text? Again this isn’t about the fancy stuff like fonts. This is about capitalization, and to a lesser degree bolds and italics. If you look at that snippet of pattern above you can see three things:
The name of the stitch pattern is in bold. Later in the pattern when I refer to that stitch pattern I will write it just the same – and I would capitalize the word Ribbing. If the stitch pattern was called Flower Knot Pattern, I would write it just like that. All words capitalized to alert the knitter that we are referring back to that stitch pattern that we defined earlier.
My Row headings are italicized – but that is something that is a bit more for the template. But what about that first letter after the colon? Always capitalized. If I don’t capitalize it, my tech editor will call me on it. In that way a style sheet comes in really handy for your editor, because they can refer to it and know exactly how you intend for things to be.
supplies & gauge & such
How do you write out your needle sizes? For me I do US #6 [4.0 mm] needles – adding the length and the word circular if necessary. I always use circular needles. Kind of hate straights. But I won’t call for circular needles if they aren’t necessary or helpful. If you do, novice knitters can get confused and expect things to be worked in the round which can cause a whole mess of problems.
You also need conventions for how you write out the yarn requirements – make sure the amounts match the way you write the sizes though!!! But do you put parentheses around the fiber content – how does that all go? Pick a way and stick to it!
The same goes for notions – figure out how you want it to look and keep it consistent.
How you write out certain instructions needs its own style too. Armhole shaping, waist shaping, repeating decreases… all of this should be the same from pattern to pattern. Confession time: My patterns are not all super consistent. I’ve been doing this for 15 years so a lot of my older patterns are all over the place. But I’m working on a massive reformat project to get all my patterns up to snuff and to have them listed on my own site as a safe alternative to Rav.
The really nice thing about making up a style sheet for these sorts of things is that it gives you copy-paste power!!! If you have the instructions for how to shape a sleeve cap completely written out in your style it’s just a matter of adding the numbers and possibly changing some minor things if the sleeve cap is unusual. One thing I do with my style sheets is I replace all the number places with XXX. That way when I finish a pattern, I search for XXX and if there are any of those buggers remaining I know I have missed filling in a crucial number.
So where do you start for style sheets? In the past I did a lot of garments for Interweave publications so I tend to lean pretty heavily towards the same conventions they use. Another great place to start is the Knitty Style Guide on their submissions page https://knitty.com/subguide.php. It’s a text document you can download that gives you a great headstart on creating your own style sheet.
Also work with your tech editor – they can make suggestions about how to make your patterns clearer and more easily understandable for knitters which in turn can help you define your style.