Pattern writing. Warning, spreadsheets involved…

24 Jul

If I’ve been a bit quiet the past week, it’s because I’ve been busy teaching advanced knitting and sewing at The Makery, working on deadline for The Knitter, and pattern-writing whenever I’ve had a spare moment.


If you’re reading this blog, then chances are, you’re familiar with knitting patterns.

But, unless you’re a designer, or tech editor, you probably don’t get involved with the numbers side much.

This is a snapshot of what it looks like.

I say a snapshot, because this particular spreadsheet actually has 711 active cells or calculations…

My friend Jen Arnall-Culliford, The Knitter’s last technical editor (I’m dep ed, but with a tech ed’s remit, plus other fun stuff) introduced me to using Excel for pattern checking a little while ago.

It’s extremely useful for that, but arguably even more so for pattern writing in my case.

Yes, you can sort out a schematic for different sizes of the same garment with some fairly simple maths.

But add in lace or colourwork motifs, and other complicating factors, like working seamlessly, and that’s a lot of sums to do on the back of an envelope.

One of my favourite designers Ysolda Teague, recently tweeted about an Excel pattern writing tutorial by designer Marnie Maclean, and it really is excellent.

If you’re up for the challenge of writing graded patterns, Ysolda’s own sizing information is also incredibly useful.

Of course, it isn’t JUST maths (thank goodness). But it’s not surprising to me now, just how many technical editors and designers have a maths or science background.

I never thought I’d say it, but I really do heart Excel.

I’m off to Camp Bestival later this week, and will be popping in to the knitting tent run by the delightful chaps at iKnit London, so perhaps I’ll see you there!


4 Responses to “Pattern writing. Warning, spreadsheets involved…”

  1. Jan Marriott July 25, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    lots of content…saving for the week

  2. Rhian July 25, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    I have a fairly maths-y background, and yet the maths involved in garments still terrifies me!

  3. Rosee Woodland July 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    The more detail you stick on the trusty spreadsheet, the less work you need to do when you finally put pen to paper (metaphorically).
    What I like about it is, even though computers are involved, you absolutely can’t write a knitting pattern ‘automatically’ – unlike sewn garments, which can be graded using a relatively straightforward programme.


  1. Mollie Makes: Crochet wristwarmers « Nana taught me how - January 13, 2012

    […] Tech editing sometimes feels like a bit of a dark art, but essentially, I check over knitting or crochet patterns for any inconsistencies and mistakes, and make sure they’re written clearly, using the correct terminology. Oh, and that if you follow the pattern to the letter, what you end up with looks like the picture that comes with it. Yeah, sexy I know, but pretty important, if you actually want to understand what to do! […]

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