Why pay for a pattern?
People often complain about paying for knitting patterns. There are so many patterns that are free, so why pay…? I think that many knitters have no idea of the process, the hard work, effort and cost involved, so I thought I’d write about my latest pattern – SideWinder, and about what goes into writing a pattern from start to finish.
So, I saw the photograph on the right being circulated last year in one of the many Facebook craft groups I follow and people were desperately trying to track it down. It looks absolutely gorgeous and everyone wanted to know where they could get the pattern or buy the jumper. Eventually someone found a link and it turned out to be 100% polyester and the few reviews of people that had bought it were of disappointment and disgust as the actual jumper bore no resemblance to the image.
I spoke to my friend and tech editor Deb from Find Me Knitting and we both agreed that I could create something similar, and hence the idea for SideWinder was born (it was called Waterfall at this stage because the name didn’t come for some time).
I studied the image closely and looked at the construction – the front and back are knitted from side to side in reverse stocking stitch and the hem is curved. The fabric is light and airy with large stitch definition. The sleeves are extra long and opposite way around (i.e. normal stocking stitch) and it has a large cowl neckline.
I started out by sketching a design with the measurements I thought would fit a Medium or size 12-14 (me on a good day but I am currently closer to a 16!). I am no artist, but this part of the process is important because you need to know what your expected measurements should be.
Then I had to decide on a yarn, needle and tension. This was a fairly long process because I have so many yarns to choose from! But narrowed it down to two – Maxima from Manos Del Uruguay, a DK single ply pure merino yarn, and
Ada – a chunky Peruvian a single ply yarn. I had samples of both, so I started out knitting tensions squares on a variety of needle sizes to get the effect I was looking for. I also had to work out exactly what style I wanted for the edges are they are visible (with the seams sewn the wrong way around) so I tried out a number of different methods on each of the tension squares until I was happy with one.
Because this was being hand knitted I also had to allow for ease and prevent curl at the hem, so I decided that it was necessary to add a cable pattern. This would also add to the drape of the fabric. I had a play with some ideas and came up with a simple plait. I didn’t want anything too fussy to take away from the overall design.
Once I had decided on what yarn to use, what needles to use and the edges I wanted, it was down to the maths. Now, I am pretty good at mathematics, I have an A-level in it and it was always my favourite subject at school, but this is where I turn to my trusted tech-editor friend Deb, as she has a degree in it from Cambridge University!! Using the chosen tension square we worked out the exact gauge and started planning the pattern… However, to create the curve of the hem we needed to work out exactly how many rows the front and back would be, and then work out a gradient for the curve. However, being used to working top down or bottom up it was suddenly quite hard getting my head around the shaping when knitting from side to side. This is where Stitchmastery was invaluable. (if you are a budding designer I would strongly recommend you invest in this software tool!) It took several attempts to get the curve I thought I wanted that would increase from 75cm to 90cm and back again.
Eventually we both got bored of planning and designing and writing, and I decided to just go for it. Having worked out how many stitches to cast on I set off… Although there weren’t that many stitches I find knitting on big needles quite cumbersome because it’s not as fluid. Also, because I use IC needles and a long cable, the stitches were very loose. Anyway, it was slower than normal (I am a pretty fast knitter) but after a few days I was about three-quarters of the way through the back (bearing in mind I only get a couple of hours max each day to knit as I have small children and can only knit when they are in bed) when I realised that it was HUGE!
The tension was right when the fabric was flat, but as soon as you lifted it up the weight of the yarn stretched it by about 50%. This meant that I had to frog it, re-calculate and start again. This happened twice more – until I was 100% happy with the length, design etc. Fortunately, I am a fast knitter, but even so – without all the previous steps I wouldn’t have realised quite how wrong it was…
Then I started the front – which was easier once I had finished the back because I could plot the curve for the neckline and work out exactly how to shape it. Once I’d finished the front I sewed the front and back together along the shoulders – the seams are inside out and as such visible so this had to be done neatly. I then worked on the cowl neckline – probably probably the easiest part of the whole jumper!
So, to go back to the reason for this post – to those who complain about paying for patterns – please consider how much goes into writing one. I haven’t even really touched on the actual pattern writing – creating a style guide, working out the abbreviations, paying for a tech editor, running a test knit on Ravelry, re-editing the pattern, type-setting it and finally printing/publishing it. I have written several patterns over the years some of which I still offer for free on my website but generally these have not been tech edited or test knitted and as such I do not guarantee that they will work for all knitters/crocheters.
This pattern was a labour of love and I am really really pleased with the finished product. I will be launching the pattern at WonderWool Wales 2018 when we take part in the WoolWalk. Thank you to my gorgeous friend Mia for modelling it!