View Full Version : Questions for those who make their own patterns

02-11-2011, 12:48 AM
Being deeply unsatisfied with the hundreds upon hundreds of sweater patterns I've sifted through, I would like to make my own but have no idea where to start. What approach or method is best for the beginning pattern-maker and what materials should be used (graphing paper etc.)? Thanks in advance for any advice.

02-11-2011, 12:22 PM
I've just done smaller stuff as of yet but mainly just made the pattern as I went. You want the dimensions that will be needed for the item. You need those before you can do anything else, really. For example, if you're doing a sweater for yourself, you're going to have to measure yourself... a long-sleeved sweater... have to measure wrist circumference, arm length, etc. Everything that would give shape to the thing would need to be thought of. Do you want it to fit snug or loose? What design elements do you want? etc. I know there's a lot of knitting sites out there that show you what measurements you need to make for making a shirt, etc. and those measurements should translate fine to knitting. Oh, also, how you want to construct it. If you want to knit up pieces, then sew them together, you could even (to a point) use sewing patterns for this. If you'll have a complicated design, you might need to make a chart... charts are easier when one row or round ends up being its own paragraph, you know...

Jan in CA
02-11-2011, 12:26 PM
There are several books that you can look into to see if they might help. Libraries sometimes have them, too.

Knitting from the Top - Barbara G Walker
The Sweater Workshop - Jacqueline Fee

Also this -

Have you made a sweater or two yet? I think it would be a good idea to make a few to understand the construction before you try it. Just a thought...

02-11-2011, 01:22 PM
Don't forget to look for books by Elizabeth Zimmermann. She explains how to make sweaters etc., using your measurements and a percentage system. Knitting Without Tears is a great one to start with.

The KnitPicks link that is usually somewhere on this website sales it at a great price. I just finished making a raglan sweater using her instructions and this box.

You can find my post about this sweater at:
or look in the "What'cha Knittin" list here for Cardinal Raglan Sweater.

02-11-2011, 01:30 PM
I nearly always make my own pattern, although it is basically improvised on the needles and on the fly.

I gained a grasp of this while utilizing a universal pattern generator. In my case it was the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan (http://www.woolworks.org/patterns/raglan.html) pattern. I have also used and seen a universal sock pattern generator.

Basically - you need to understand GAUGE very well. You must be willing to swatch every yarn and gain an understanding of yarn/needle pairings.

Once you can measure stitches per inch (or cm whichever system it is you use) you must then be able to turn body measurements into stitches (40" at 4 stitches per inch = 160 stitches;
A sleeve length of 27" at 6 rows per inch = 162 rows)

Then you need to be able to perform some basic calculations (multiplication and division.) For example: Increasing/decreasing up/down a sleeve. You measure the wrist and the bicep or widest part of the arm. What is the difference in inches? How many stitches is that? How many rows do you have to make those increases/decreases? Distribute appropriately.

From there, you can then get into some basic formulas and percentages.

(For example, the circumference of a sock at the instep to the circumference of a sock at the heel is 1:1 1/2.

In the case of the top down raglan, the ratio of the back of the neck to the tops of the sleeves is 3:1 or 4:1, etc)

And it can get as involved or as basic as you care to delve.

I hope these basic concepts help you.

02-13-2011, 05:35 PM
Thanks for all of the different ideas, everyone!

I've only made a couple of rather simple sweaters, so for now I'm attempting to make smaller alterations such as fancier edging, changing the neckline, or changing the sleeve style.

In past weeks I have discovered some absolutely amazing sweater patterns, but they're either out of my price range or have to be shipped overseas. Therefore, I would like to gain the ability to make my own patterns. It's a bit into the future, but you have all given me some great places to start. Thanks again!

02-13-2011, 10:44 PM
I started designing my own sweaters by modifying a favorite pattern, as it sounds like you're about to do - different neckline, textures, etc. I only use graph paper if I'm doing something like a Fair Isle design, otherwise I sketch dimensions and figure gauges on a notepad.

One piece of advice: be patient, and be prepared to rip out a lot! My rule of thumb is that if I hear myself thinking, "Oh, that'll be OK", it's time to rip out and re-do, or the sweater will end up unworn on the closet shelf. It's much easier correct mistakes, poor fit or bad design choices earlier rather than later. Time ripping isn't time wasted, it's a learning experience!