Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Fix A Pattern

Anyone can make a knitting pattern, even you who think you can't!

If starting from scratch is a bit scary, you can easily steal ideas from things you like and put them together. I've been working on some wrist warmers recently and hodge-podged a pattern I could live with - easy to knit, easy to wear, and easy on the eyes!

These two wrist warmers were knit from the same basic pattern, just tweaked a bit to make subtle (and not so subtle) changes.

To start, you need to find the yarn and needles you want to use. I prefer more "delicate" knitting, and don't like to use needles bigger than 10 1/2. For these I pulled out my size 8 double points (they were handy) and I started a swatch. I knew I wanted to use ribbing in the pattern, and a basic lace pattern that I hadn't picked out yet, so I did some plain stockinette (Knit stitches on one side and purl stitches on the other) to use to measure my gauge for the lace area, then did some 2x2 and 1x1 ribbing. I probably should have taken a picture of the swatch after I knit and measured it, but I didn't...so you have to take my word for it. I really knit a swatch! (And even if you don't like to, you should too! If you use the same yarn and needles you can make several patterns using the measurements from one swatch, and some people use swatches for all kinds of things!)

Now I've got numbers and an idea. I know how many stitches I need to build a wrist warmer wide enough to fit my hand. Then comes the fun part, I can start building my pattern. I knew I wanted a 2x2 rib for the wrist area, followed by a protruding thumb, a lace pattern and a 1x1 rib for the tip. Knowing this, I mocked up numbers. I wrote out the whole pattern exactly as I thought I would knit it, then went forth and knit the pattern, taking notes as I went along. I liked the wrist warmers, but I didn't love them. So I made adjustments to the next pair, longer cuff and tip, changed to 2x2 ribbing for the tip instead of the 1x1, new lace pattern that filled more space, elongating the wrist warmers even more.

Side note - thumbs don't need to be complicated. Sometimes it's as simple as casting off, then casting back on in the same space on the next row, creating a slit in the fabric of your knitting. If you want a protruding thumb, that's pretty easy too and just takes some simple math. Measure how far you want the thumb to go out and up, then using your gauge find out how many stitches you start with and end with. Then find out how many rows you have to get there, and spread out the increased stitches over the rows you have to work with. For me, I just increased by one stitch every row until I had 12 new stitches. For you it might be different, so taking the time to do the math will almost always be worth the effort.

If you have an idea in your head, it's relatively easy with a little time and knitting math to write out a pattern. If you don't have an idea, look at some books. If you like a pattern someone has already come up with, try it out. If you don't like the way it looks and think a simple thumb would work better, go ahead and try it! If you find elements of several patterns that you really like, incorporate them together. For now I'm really digging the ribbed palm look on my wrist warmers, but I've also got ideas for seed stitch palms and all around lace warmers. Time to get out my paper, pencil, and calculator!! :)

Someday I would like to go into further detail, specifying each step of the process, but for now you have to enjoy this quick overview. Any questions, feel free to ask, and remember that patterns are just a good idea, not the law!! (Also look for this pattern for sale in the future, after it has been properly typed up and tested out!)

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