Designing Your Own

The shift happened slowly. One day, I picked up my pointy sticks and thought, "I can make a hat without a pattern. All I need is a couple of inches of ribbing, some stockinette, and a decrease." So, I (sort of) made a hat without a pattern. My first few attempts were pretty lame because I didn't have a good sense of how to decrease correctly. Some had weirdly flat tops or tops that were too shallow. Eventually, I figured out that, by referencing other hat patterns, I could develop my own method of decreasing and have a hat that looked pretty good.

Not too bad. Added icords & pom-pons.

When Cassandra and I submitted our pattern idea for the book, What (Else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit, I had been experimenting with making simple things without a pattern for about a year. Cassandra hadn't done anything off pattern that she can remember. We took a great leap of faith and, with unfounded confidence, decided to design a pretty complicated item (which ya'll get to see in a few months!)

The process was actually one of the best parts of designing something from scratch. We knew we wanted the item to have a retro look so we scoured old knitting patterns that Cassandra had inherited from her grandmother. We picked design elements we liked and then modified them to fit our purposes.

Next, we dug through a number of different stitch pattern books for stitches that would provide us with look we wanted. If you've never looked at a stitch pattern book, run (don't walk) to your nearest library or bookstore and sit with one for an hour or so. If you're not inspired by all the possibility, I'll eat one of my poorly-designed hats.
Awesome book of just edging.

Loads of great stitch patterns in this book.
Finally, we started putting it all together. Our design has multiple pieces so Cassandra tackled the largest and I took the two smaller ones. Our process for writing the pattern itself was very different. I visualized what I wanted and wrote down how I THOUGHT the pattern should read. Then I knitted it and corrected as I went. Cassandra did the opposite. She started knitting, and wrote down what she was doing as she went - correcting both the knitting and the pattern at the same time. Both ways worked and I think that it's really a matter of attacking it whatever way makes the most sense to the individual.

Our very best tip for designing your own knitting patterns is this: TEST, TEST, TEST, TEST.... etc.

I'm not kidding when I tell you that, with every single test knit, we found ways to make the pattern better and/or typos and/or general errata. It's frightening to think that, if we didn't have a deadline, I could tweak this darn thing forever.

Once you've designed your own pattern you can sell it on Ravelry or give it away on your blog or just wallow in the fact that you are now a bonafide knitting pattern designer! Whatever you choose, I can promise you that the rewards are fantastic.

I may never be Debbie Bliss or Ysolda Teague but I sure am proud of the work that we've done and I absolutely can't wait to design our next project.

- Alex


  1. I can't wait to see the finished product!

    (And I'm in love with those mauve roses)

  2. @kat - It's like having a new baby but not being able to show it off! LOL I can't wait for the book to come out. :)