Mini-Series: My first sweater pattern design, part 4

Mini-Series: My first sweater pattern design, part 4

Published by Michelle on 14th Feb 2020

This post is quite ragged around the edges because there has been quite a bit going on here over the last couple of weeks.  I will summarise all the steps, tips etc into a tidy post at the end but I feel the more ragged feel is more honest than saying ‘Goodness, this has happened as if by magic’! 

The original plan for this post was to have:

  • 1. A finished sweater in my size
  • 2. The finalised version of the pattern for the 44 inch bust
  • 3. My own size chart
  • 4. A graded version of my sweater based on those sizes

Where I currently am:

  • 1. Half a sweater that will be frogged and the yarn used as mini-skeins for test dyeing the base
  • 2. The pattern written up in a spreadsheet around some numbers that may or may not be correct
  • 3. My own size chart that I broadly understand
  • 4. A 'sort-of' graded version of the sweater from sizes 30 to 64

Half a sweater

As per the last post, I had had to recalculate the size and increase distribution as I hadn't gotten the length quite right so was on the point of ripping back.  As I was ripping back I thought ‘You know what, I’d really like this better if the increasing was spread more evenly from the waist’.  That took me to a bit of a pattern rewrite and a lot of fiddling around with increase distribution! 

My design redone in my notebook

Writing this out by hand, I could definitely see the benefit of having all the details in a spreadsheet!

It was while doing these recalculations that I realised that instead of removing 2 inches from the overall size, I had removed 4 inches, so I wasn't even knitting the right size.  A great rookie mistake! : )  Measure twice, knit once might be my new mantra.

Once all the calculations were  done and the ripping finished, I set off knitting again from the waist!

Half a sweater

The half a sweater that will become mini skeins rather soon!

However, while knitting, I created the size chart and started to grade the sweater and whilte doing this, I had an important realisation; it’s fine when designing hats, mittens and socks to knit and design as you go but for sweaters and larger items, that just doesn't work.  The final sample was going to have to reflect the pattern and while what I had was useful, it wasn’t going to be a match for any of the actual pattern sizes and that wasn't going to work.

I’m about to rip it out again and start again.  This yarn will now become mini skeins for dye testing and I'll start with fresh yarn to ensure that the tension etc represents the final pattern correctly.  I'll cast on a final (hopefully) version as soon as I've checked the grading.

I might keep the ribbing though.  It won’t do any harm to say ‘Well, this is someone wearing a smaller size than their actual size’ in the pictures for the pattern, surely?! : )

The updated version of the pattern 

It’s not the pattern instructions that are causing me issues, because of the type of sweater that this is, it’s all about the numbers.  Honestly, reading this people must think ‘but surely that is so obvious’.  I have no defense except that I hadn’t really thought about it.  At the moment my pattern looks like this:

Where my pattern is at the moment

A screenshot of my notes that will eventually become a pattern ... I hope!

To get to this, I started at the cast on edge and worked from there, based on the schematics I'd already done.  I thought about the different distances between points and what knitting I would need to do.  I was surprised by how much of it made sense to me and I think that’s because I have knit a lot and a lot of different garment types so it makes sense that I’m going to knit a rib, knit to a waist, distribute my increases in a particular way.  On the flip side there are definitely things I can’t get my head around just yet and I think it's going to be a lot of fun getting to grips with sleeves!

A size chart all of my own

I sat down with the Craft Yarn Council size measurements, some size charts I found looking around on the internet and Ysolda’s size chart and combined them.  I tried to understand where the measurements were on the body, which sizes were most accurate and then I merged them into a sizing sheet that worked for me.

I would recommend that if you are going to design, spend time doing this and turning a sizing sheet into something that you understand and is real to you.  There are still a lot of things that are puzzling me, particularly elbow to elbow lengths, but you can find a way to calculate different measurements when you have as many as you can.  This then allows you to grade a garment in a way that allows for different sizes in a consistent way.

I’ll share my sizing sheet when I walk through the grading but because I am not a designer and this sizing chart is largely untested, I am not going to share it as it may be spreading something very incorrect into the world.  I would highly recommend starting with Ysolda’s sizing sheet.

A Graded version of the sweater

When I wrote the outline of this post on Monday of this week, I hadn’t started the grading of the sweater as I had been putting it off.  I spent a few hours with the sizing sheet and stepping through the different elements of the pattern and wow I have a spreadsheet with a lot of numbers, assumptions and decisions in them that may represent an actual graded sweater.  

Instead of sharing all the details in this post, I’m going to make a video and share how I got to where I did.  I think it will be much clearer.

My first gradeI have not idea if any of this is correct yet but I feel like I've graded something ; )

One skill that I had before starting this which has been very important is being able to use Microsoft Excel.  I have had an almost two decade love affair with Excel which has helped me no end in doing this.  It’s hard to write that because I know people struggle with Excel and with maths generally but I cannot recommend enough getting to grips with it or a similar spreadsheet tool.  There are some insanely good tutorials on YouTube for Excel (others) and spending just a few hours on it could be hugely beneficial.  I would add though that not doing this is not a block to designing.  I am sure there are many designers who like to do all of this by hand or with other tools that work really well for them.  Never let a tool put you off doing something!

While working through the different pattern steps, I realised that I couldn't manually calculate the increase distributions for every size.  If you look back at the notebook picture at the start of this post, you'll see how mangled I made that look for just one size.  I also figured that designers couldn't be doing that manually either so I went to my friend Google and searched for 'increase distribution formula knitting patterns' and found a super formula from Ysolda.  It took me a wee while to get my head around it but once I did, I knew I'd taken a big jump(er ; )) forward!

So that’s where I am.  Getting there but definitely not there.  I’m sorry this isn’t a glossy post with a beautifully finished pattern and sweater but I hope it shows that there isn’t a straight line all the way to pattern launch but that it is possible for a novice designer to get some sort of a sweater together!

With Unravel coming up next week, hopefully accompanied by the launch of ‘Simple the Simplest Shawls’ on Kindle and Ravelry, I think it will be two weeks before I am back.  I would like to have a finished sweater, a walk through of my grading and a pattern ready to go for tech edit and test knit but we will see how things go! *repeating to self: You can, you will, you can, you will* ;) 

Happy knitting, designing, crocheting, etc ; )


Want to see earlier posts in this series?


Pin for Later

Pin for later

What do you say?

Sign-up to our newsletter. No spam, we promise

No thanks