Pattern-grading. Every designer’s NOT favorite part of the job (I suppose that maybe some designers enjoy this more than the other parts, I find it to be the most challenging part of the design process). What is it? It is the process of taking a garment design in one size, and manipulating the numbers to write it in multiple sizes. It involves a lot of math.
You begin with the standard body measurements found the website for the Craft Yarn Council of America. These are the measurements you will need to go by in order to create a properly sized design. Some measurements may need a little added ease (bust circumference, waist circumference, hip circumference, the armhole, sleeve circumference. Most the other measurements will need to match the body measurements).
Make a gauge swatch and block it. Measure and count to acquire a gauge.
Then, get your math on. Use your gauge to determine the numbers of stitch and rows for each part of each size. An excel spreadsheet is a good place to keep track of all these numbers. A tip: Keep all of your row counts either even or odd. Keep all of your stitch counts either even or odd.
If you have some sizes with an even number of rows, and some sizes with an odd number of rows, then you’ll begin the next section on opposite sides of the piece. All the sizes with an even number of rows might start the next section on a right side row, but any size with an odd number of rows, would begin the next section on a wrong side row. When writing a pattern in multiple sizes, you have to keep the instructions as simple as possible. So, stick with all even, or all odd!
Choose stitch patterns carefully. If your stitch pattern has a wide pattern repeat, you may find it difficult to write your pattern in multiple sizes that are still reasonably close together. As an example, if you have a sweater back that you are working with, and one size has 20 pattern repeats, the next size up has to have at least 21. You can’t add only half a pattern repeat without really complicating your pattern. An even 22 repeats would be even better so that you can add the difference into the sections that will go over the shoulders, since neckline sizes don’t vary that much between sizes.
When shaping necklines and armholes, tapered sleeves, and sleeve caps, wherever possible use the same rate of increase/decrease! This will significantly simplify this section of your pattern.
When writing a good pattern, you will need to simplify your shaping in order to have as much similarity between sizes as possible. What I mean is, you may find that the perfect number of stitches to make the right measurement for a neckline is 20 stitches. For the next size, the sweet spot is 23 stitches. Round that 23 up or down, make it an even number. One stitch will make a negligible difference in the sweater, but will make a humongous difference in the simplicity of your instructions! So, simplify the shaping! You don’t have to be incredibly exact.
My other rule of thumb is: repetition! Repeat things as much as possible. This simplifies and shortens your instructions. That shortening part will be really important if you want to publish in hard copy either yourself or with a publisher, because every page adds to the cost of publication.
A couple things you can do to help yourself learn to grade patterns well. These are two things that did me SO much good! I write patterns better today than I did when I started because of them:
1) Take a pattern-grading class by Kim Guzman. She used to teach these online through Crochetville. I’m not sure if she still does, but seek her out on her website or Facebook page and ask her if her pattern-grading class is still available. Kim is a rockstar when it comes to grading and using Excel spreadsheets to do it.
2) Write a pattern the best you can. Find and hire a tech editor to edit it for you. They charge around $20-$30 an hour for their time. This can cost a lot. Consider it an investment. Think of it like you are paying for one-on-one tutoring. A good tech editor will help you see where you can improve.
Grading is undoubtedly the hardest part of writing a pattern. However, when I get it done, and get it right, it is very satisfying. Makes me feel pretty smart.