Writing sweater patterns requires what we call 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. I have ten tips for you when it comes to grading crochet and knitting patterns!
Tip one: You begin with the standard body measurements found on 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).
Tip two: 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 stitches and rows for each part of each size.
Tip three: Use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all these numbers. If you learn how to use equations within your spreadsheet, it can even do the math for you!
Tip four: 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!
Tip five: 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 should 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 stick with the all even or all odd recommendation.
Tip six: 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.
Tip seven: 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 not make much of a 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 perfectly exact.
Tip eight: 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.
Tip nine: 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. I did this a couple years into my design career and it was the best money I ever spent on career development!
Tip ten: Another help is to enlist the help of pattern testers. There are various Facebook and Ravelry groups where designers seek out help from those interested in pattern testing. A pattern tester will work from your pattern to make the project and give you feedback on how it went. If they spot an error or something confusing, they should let you know.
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.
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