Design Workshop: Part 5 – Writing Simple Pattern Instructions

I hope you’ve measured your gauge swatch, and want to dive into writing instructions so you can begin knitting your project. The finished measurements of your project depends on an accurate gauge. When knitting a project vertically, as for my straight scarf, the width is determined by the stitches that run horizontally across a row. Length is determined by rows that run vertically along the knitted fabric. Your gauge swatch will tell you how many stitches and rows it takes to make your project’s measurements. I determined the width of my scarf to equal 8 inches and the length approximately 70 inches, as I may change the length as I knit. In this case, the row gauge is not critical.

For garment instructions, I typically draw out a schematic on graph paper, and use this for the working instructions. My red scarf does not require a schematic or graph paper. I begin by writing down yarn choice, needle size, and the number of stitches casted on, and the number of rows knit for the gauge swatch. I also write down the pattern stitch instructions. I convert the swatch measurements to stitches and rows per inch (gauge). Here is what my working instructions look like:

Red Scarf (inspired from Sex and City movie, Carrie’s Chanel Scarf)

Materials: 3 hanks of Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian Highland Wool), 100g(200m/220yds); 4.5 mm needles, cable needle

Approximate measurements: 8″ x 70″ (length to be determined as I knit)

Gauge swatch: 28 stitches and 26 rows in eccentric cable pattern

Eccentric Cable (panel of 10 stitches)

  • Row 1 (RS): p2, k6, p2
  • Row 2: k2, p6, k2
  • Row 3: same as row 1
  • Row 4: as 2
  • Row 5: p2, sl next 3sts to dpn and hold in back, k3 from dpn, p2
  • Rows 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 as row 2
  • Row 11: same as 5
  • Rows 7, 9, 13, 15, and 17 as row 1. Repeat rows 1 to 18.

My swatch measures 4 inches square, which is unusual. The gauge converted is 28 stitches and 26 rows = 4″; 28 divided by 4 = 7 sts/inch; 26 divided by 4 = 6.5 rows/inch. 

Scarf: Cast on 55 stitches (8″ wide scarf x 7sts/inch = 56). To allow for even placement of the cables, the stitch count is rounded down to 55 stitches. Work 1″ border in single rib. Arrangement of stitches for the main pattern: 3 edge stitches in k1, p1, k1 rib, *(10 stitch cable panel, k1, p1, k1), repeat from * 3 times. Continue in pattern as set until desired length. End with pattern row 14, so both ends of scarf look the same. Work in single rib for 1″. Bind off. Weave in ends. Block scarf.

This is a very simple design. There will be times when you will have to make changes to your instructions – the yarn may be inappropriate or the project will not look as expected. It’s perfectly OK; part of the design process. As I indicated in Part 2, this is my approach to designing, but having a plan provides a place to start and a record of what works and doesn’t work.

What I hope you have learned from this Design Workshop:

Step 1 – Translate design idea. Determine the project and its measurements.

Step 2 – Choose yarn and stitch pattern(s).

Step 3 – Knit up the Gauge Swatch – key to the design process.

Step 4 – Write instructions, as a guide to knitting the project.

Remember that any stage of the design process, may require making changes.


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