I never thought I would design knitting patterns.
I enjoy following other’s patterns. Following their instructions. Checking off the rows. Thinking about what I’m executing but not having to figure out the whole picture. Not having to do the math (ugh the math).
Truthfully, I never intended to publish a design, but when I improvised a pattern onto a basic triangular shawl many of my podcast listeners and local friends were interested and asked me to put together the instructions.
“How hard could that be?” I [naively] thought. I would just reknit it and offer it as a free pattern.
After all, I had taken some notes as I knit, but as I looked back on them, I realized they weren’t thorough and so it took a good deal of time getting everything in order and getting a sample knit up that closely matched the original. I learned a lot from that point of starting to re-knit my shawl and it’s opened my eyes to a part of the knitting world I hadn’t had the opportunity to see before.
I’d like to take the opportunity to share that with you because, having done it, I now truly believe that there is a designer in almost every knitter (or crocheter) out there. But writing up the pattern is only part of the picture and while you might have a great pattern on your hands, if you can’t get everything executed, then it may not really matter.
I would like to thank Kim for posting this comment on my Designs page which prompted me to really think about this experience and what I can share with you. She said:
Hi Jen! I’d love if you could share more about your path to starting to release your own designs. How did you get the confidence to go ahead and do it, and how have you so successfully found an audience for them? I have a blog, but I definitely don’t have the kind of following you do with your podcast, so I’m just not sure how to promote my designs. I feel like I can talk about them, but that doesn’t matter if no one can hear me!
This will require more than I can write in one post, but let’s get started today. And if you’re reading and have questions please feel free to reach out to me. My contact information can be found on the toolbar on the right side. I’d love to hear what questions you have.
Let’s start with Kim’s first question “how did you get the confidence to go ahead and do it?” To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I did have the confidence. As I mentioned, I planned on giving it away for free and I think that took some of the pressure off me. I figured I could write down the pattern and give it to my friends to try and see how it went. Since I hadn’t committed to anything, what was the worst that could happen?
But along the way my confidence did start building. Below are the tips I want to share with you in case you are starting out on this journey:
Tips for building your confidence as a budding knitwear designer:
- Gather feedback from friends and peers (in person or virtually). You don’t need to necessarily solicit it explicitly, but simply bringing your finished project to a local knitting group, posting your FO in your Ravelry Projects page or in a message board forum may garner you some feedback. There’s a good chance if you like what you’ve made there will be others who will too. Take in those positive sentiments and be proud.
- Make sure your notes are solid. If you made up the pattern as you went, look back at your knitting, read it, and write up notes. This will give you a solid foundation to start from.
- Test it. If you didn’t take good notes the first time around, I highly recommend knitting it yourself from the notes you’ve written to ensure they are thorough and that you haven’t left anything out. If and when that works for you, share it with a few friends, ideally with a mix of skill levels and ask them to knit it from your instructions. While the written pattern does not need to be perfect at this point, you should aim to include all of the details to preemptively answer any questions they may have.
- Be grateful for feedback from your test knitters. It’s hard, sometimes, not to take things personally, but if your test knitters have questions remember that other knitters later will likely also have the same questions. If you can use their feedback to make the pattern even more clear or easy to read, you’ll save yourself future corrections and ensure your customers are happy throughout the knitting experience. Having your first test knitter successfully complete your pattern is a huge boost of confidence! Knowing that from what you wrote down someone else was able to follow along and create a beautiful finished object is immensely satisfying. Take that and run with it! You’re well on your way to pattern design!