A Quick Guide to Writing Your First Knitting or Crochet Pattern

One of the best things in the maker community is crochet and knitting patterns. These are designs that makers have come up with and written down for other people to make, too! You can find thousands of free and for sale patterns available to make online and in books.

Why are some free and others not? There is no one answer to this questions so I will share my own personal reason. I typically make my most basic patterns free, and you can find them on my blog. These patterns are things like dishcloths, blankets, and coasters. I have plans to add some basic sock patterns this year as well. When people view my blog there are ads to navigate around and you can’t print the pattern, so I also offer a cheap PDF version that you can buy, print, and keep forever. My for sale only patterns are typically more intricate designs that I spent more time designing and testing. I imagine most makers have a similar answer as mine, but sometimes the reason for free patterns is the maker has no interest in making a business from designing and wants to share patterns without worrying about income taxes, business license, etc.

I love being able to pay a maker for their hard work, but it’s great to have free pattern options for when money is tight! One is not better than the other, in my opinion. 🙂

So you have a design idea and want to offer it as a pattern to others? Awesome! There are multiple courses out there to help you design patterns and you may want to look into a course if you need help with garment design, sizing, etc., but if you feel confident in getting started right away, I have put together a quick guide of 10 tips for you with some tips and tricks for getting your pattern written down.

1. Get familiar with patterns

If you have never followed a pattern before, I highly recommend making a few before attempting to write your own. You want to familiarize yourself with how a pattern is laid out, what to include in the pattern, and how it flows. You will also pick up things that you like and things that you don’t like and maybe want to avoid in your own patterns. For example, do you want your pattern to be super beginner friendly and include lots of links and pictures, or do you prefer following a pattern that is straight to the point and moves along quickly?

2. Stitches & Abbreviations

Most patterns are written with abbreviations to make them easier to read. You will want to use the correct abbreviations for stitches and can find them and more by going to https://www.craftyarncouncil.com/ and clicking on Standards and looking below crochet and knitting. This website is a great source for sizing information as well.

If your pattern has a special stitch, you will want to write it out in the notes or abbreviations section of your pattern. For example, bobbles and cables are two stitches that are done differently in almost every pattern. You want to make sure the person making your pattern knows how to work the stitch for your pattern.

3. Yarn

You need to let makers know what yarn they will need to make your pattern. Make sure to list the weight of the yarn and how many yards you used. Many makers also appreciate if you include details like the brand and color you used for your sample as well.

To figure out how many yards of yarn your pattern takes requires a bit of math. Look at the label on your yarn. Divide the number of yards by the number of ounces in the skein. Then multiply that number by the weight (in ounces) of your finished item and the answer will be the number of yards used. I personally use this yarn calculator I purchased and it makes it sooo easy!

4. Photos & Videos

Take quality photos of your design so makers can see what it looks like. Makers appreciate when you include a picture of it being worn (if applicable). Also think about any pictures or videos you may need to take while designing if you plan to include a tutorial in the pattern. I take all pictures and videos with my iPhone, so you don’t need any fancy cameras but I would recommend ordering a tripod from Amazon. I use it for taking photos of myself and taking videos.

5. Gauge

Make sure to include gauge information in your pattern! If you don’t, someone will message you about how the pattern didn’t fit and ultimately it will be your fault since you didn’t provide gauge measurements. A gauge swatch is important anyway for making your design. You need it to even figure out cast on numbers.

I recommend making the gauge swatch in the stitch pattern that will be used most in the pattern. A swatch is typically 4×4″ or 10x10cm. Make sure to include if your swatch should be made flat or in the round, with what hook/needle if the pattern calls for multiple sizes, and if it should be blocked or unblocked.

Gauge is important because we all knit/crochet slightly differently, and not just because of tension. Simple things like whether you pull your yarn from the center or the outside of a skein can affect gauge. Knitting Continental vs. English style can affect gauge. Wooden vs. metal needles can affect gauge. The list goes on. 

In conclusion, you want people who make your pattern to end up with an item that fits them, so make sure to include gauge. 🙂

6. Tech Editing and Testing

All good designers have their patterns tested by a group of knitters or crocheters. This ensures that the pattern is written well enough to be followed. If you have a pattern with multiple sizes, you’ll want to make sure that each size is tested as well. This makes your pattern higher quality and worth paying for. A high quality pattern also attracts repeat customers by growing trust! Check out this blog post for information about how to be an exceptional pattern tester and what to expect from your own testers.

I recently started having my patterns tech edited before the testing process and cannot recommend it more! A tech editor checks all your math, and finely combs through your pattern for mistakes, typos, formatting issues, etc. If you’re looking for a good tech editor, I highly recommend Nicky from Handknits & Hygge. Visit her website here!

The pattern testing process is also GREAT marketing! If you’d like to learn how to find quality testers and use the testing period to your marketing advantage, check out my course. I also include the email template I use when communicating with testers to avoid being ghosted and having your pattern stolen. To learn more about my course, check out this blog post.

7. Copyright

While you don’t own the stitches or ideas, if you write a pattern and publish it then the pattern is automatically copyrighted. I include this message at the bottom of my patterns:

This pattern and pictures are the property of Kneedles & Life and may not be altered, shared or sold. You are welcome to sell the finished product for a fair price but please credit the pattern in your description online, and use your own pictures.

Some makers prefer that items made from their patterns are not sold, but this is pretty uncommon. I still like to include that part because I have been asked many times for permission to sell finished items and I don’t mind. It makes me happy when you do!

I am linking an article here with more extensive information about copyright if you need it.

One more thing to note – you may not write and sell patterns for things that are licensed. You can get in big trouble and possibly face a hefty fine. Disney is one company that has people combing through the internet and Etsy for copyrighted items. Just steer clear of characters and logos in general.

8. Copying

If you’ve been part of the maker community on social media for awhile, it’s likely that you’ve seen or heard makers vent about being copied. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic but I’ll keep it short. I have only heard of two instances where a maker actually purchased the PDF pattern from another maker and then turned around and sold it as their own. In addition, there are two makers that I have blocked because they continued to write multiple patterns that are eerily similar to my own. Most of the time, someone has either had the same idea as someone else, or seen a pattern and then subconsciously designed something similar based on inspiration. It happens. With only so many stitches and combinations to use, there are going to be multiple patterns out in the world that have similarities. They also have differences that make them unique, plus each designer writes their own patterns in a unique way and has their own audience/customers. Every major retailer is selling similar products. 🙂

Don’t let the fear of “copying” someone else keep you from designing patterns. If you have done your research and feel that your pattern idea is original and can publish it in good conscious, you absolutely should! If another designer approaches you and accuses you of copying them, hopefully you can both work it out together with grace. Each situation is unique and should be handled so.

9. Pattern PDF

I design all of my patterns using Canva! I love that you can create a PDF that is cute and functional, and easily insert your pictures, logos, brand colors, fonts, etc.

If you don’t know where to start, or you want to save time, you can use my own personal template that I use for my patterns! Just plug in your own information in the designated areas!

To get my template that I use, click here!

10. Where to sell

While other platforms exist for selling digital downloads, Etsy and Ravelry are currently the best places to sell and purchase patterns because that’s where people specifically go to look for them. Most people have a preference between the two, so I think it’s great to have your patterns available on both platforms for the most potential sales.

I hope these tips are helpful for writing your own patterns! Drop a comment below letting me know if you have any extra advice for designers or if you have a question!

xo, kalley

Leave a Reply