If you write patterns for other people to use, you ought to have a style sheet. Having a style sheet will help to ensure that your patterns are consistent and complete, and save time writing and editing. I wrote this post to answer your questions about what a style sheet is, why you should have one, and how to develop and use your own style sheet. If you are not a knit designer, you may find this post a bit boring, but that’s okay! Come back next time and I’ll have a new pattern to talk about.
Knit design is all about making decisions. If it’s a sweater, cardigan or pullover? bottom up? Or top-down? Raglan? Drop shoulder? Seamless set-in sleeve? These are all design decisions and will likely be different for every pattern. The way the pattern is written, however, should be consistent for all patterns from a single source. That’s where a style sheet becomes incredibly useful and time-saving. It is a set of decisions that you have already made, that will stay the same for every pattern you write.
The easiest place to start is with a list of abbreviations. Your style sheet should include all the possible abbreviations that you could ever use in a knitting pattern. There aren’t any true standards for knitting abbreviations, but every brand has their own list. I’ve listed links to the abbreviations lists used by a few major publishers below, as well as my own.
Phrasing is not what you say, but how you say it. The five sentences that follow say exactly the same thing, but in different ways. Which one you choose will depend upon several different factors. How much space do you have? If you’re planning to publish in print you may want to save space by choosing option 1. Who is your audience? If you’re writing for beginners options 2 or 5 will probably be your best choice, whereas if your pattern is written to appeal to experienced knitters you might choose option 3. Option 4 is not one that I would recommend, but I included it because I see it used sometimes by independent designers. If I saw this in a pattern I was editing I would suggest replacing it with 1 or 2 because it’s not clear what the third asterisk refers to.
- Row 1: [K2, P2] to end.
- Row 1: *K2, p2; rep from * to end of row.
- R1 – Work in k2, p2 ribbing across.
- Row 1: *K2, p2,* rep from * to end.
- Row 1 (right side) *Knit two, purl two; repeat from * to end.
The best way to figure out your phrasing is to write a simple pattern. It doesn’t have to be something you intend to publish, or even to knit, but thinking about phrasing in the context of a pattern will help you to determine what you need to say and how you want to say it. Reading other designers’ and publisher’s patterns will give you an idea of the many phrasing options available, and thinking about your audience will help you to decide which you want to use.
Fonts and Formatting
I think the single most important thing when choosing a font for knitting patterns is the difference between the number 1 and the letter l. Of course, you also want a font that is easy to read, and remains readable in both bold and italic. When to use bold and italic is another decision you’ll have to make for your style sheet. You’ll also have to decide how to arrange all the elements of your pattern. Does your abbreviations list appear at the beginning of the pattern? Or the end? Do your directions cover the whole page? Or are your pages divided into two or three columns? Where do Page numbers go? Photos? Charts?
Using Your style Sheet
Now that you’ve made all of these important decisions you can save a lot of time by setting up a pattern template. Include your complete abbreviations list, cast-on, bind-off, and finishing directions, and examples of gauge requirements and materials lists. This way, the next time you write a pattern you only have to fill in the missing information and delete the abbreviations that aren’t used in that particular pattern.
You’ll also want to send your style sheet to your tech editor along with the pattern you are having edited, but even before you do that, check your pattern against your style sheet yourself. Make sure that it includes all the necessary information and that it adheres to your style sheet. This final check is also a good opportunity to spot mistakes and typos.
You can see what my style sheet looks like here. I developed my style sheet using the template provided in Edie Eckman’s Craftsy Class; Pattern Writing For Knitters, and Kate Atherley’s book; The Beginner’s Guide To Writing Knitting Patterns. It has changed a bit since I wrote my first pattern, and I continue to update it when I use a new technique or abbreviation. Your own style sheet will evolve as you continue to write patterns too, so don’t worry if you haven’t got it all figured out right away!
If you found this post helpful, or you have questions about style sheets or pattern writing in general please leave a comment below. For details of my tech editing services, click here.
Thank you for knitting!