How To Streamline Your Pattern Writing Process and Save Money On Tech Editing

I’ve recently been asked for advice on how to produce more patterns faster, and how to keep tech editing costs down when a designer is just starting out. Below is a list of the things that have worked for me and other designers. There is also a list of resources at the end of this post. If you have specific questions about a pattern you’re writing or my tech editing services you can always email me using the form on my tech editing page. I am happy to answer questions!

The Beginner's Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns book cover photo

First, buy this book. If you already own it, read it! And refer to it whenever you have questions about pattern writing. There’s a handy index in the back, and the book addresses every aspect of pattern writing, with resources listed for topics that aren’t covered in-depth. I use it as a reference for tech editing, and for writing my own patterns. There are dozens of books about knit design, but this is the only book solely about pattern writing.

Create A Style Sheet

I talked about how to create your own style sheet in this post. It does take some extra work, but having a guide to follow when you write your patterns, and for your tech editor to refer to when they check your patterns, will improve consistency and save time. Most patterns will contain the same categories of information, so also setting up a pattern template with the headers you use and the basic layout of your pattern will allow you to fill in the blanks when you’re writing and help to ensure that all of the necessary information is included.

Copy And Paste

Your style sheet should include a list of abbreviations and commonly used phrases that you can copy and paste into your pattern. This will save you time typing and ensure consistency within your pattern catalog. If the same actions are repeated in the pattern, you can copy and paste the directions into each section where they are used. If something is done the same way it should be written the same way. Different phrasing is a clue to knitters that something is done differently, which can be confusing if it’s not.

A picture of an excel spreadsheet showing the concatenate function
=CONCATENATE(I8," (",J8,", ,"K8,", ,"L8,", ,"M8,", ,"N8, ")")
Cell O8 is the result of the CONCATENATE function shown in the formula bar.

If you write multi-sized patterns you should copy and paste the numbers into your pattern using excel to avoid transcription errors. This can be a little tricky because the numbers won’t automatically be formatted the way you write them in your pattern. I use the CONCATENATE function to format my numbers with commas and parentheses in excel. I then copy and paste using the special-keep text only paste function to insert the formatted numbers into my document.

Make Sure Your Pattern Is Complete

The pattern information page is where I see things left out the most. Have you included needle size and length? Stitch and row gauge? Are all of the abbreviations listed and defined? Did you adjust the measurements to reflect the actual stitch counts? Your tech editor can’t check it if it’s not there, so be sure to include everything that will be included in the final pattern in the draft you send them.

Photos are also important and often left out. Close-ups of stitch patterns and shaping details can be very helpful in illustrating instructions. Even if you haven’t done the final layout and added the best photos to the pattern, include a few photos when you send the pattern to your editor. They don’t need to be perfect, but they should represent what the piece looks like.

Check Your Work

Before you send your pattern to a tech editor let it rest for at least a day, maybe more, then check the pattern yourself. Setup a spreadsheet and check all of the numbers in your pattern. We all know that you can’t accurately edit your own work because you will see what’s supposed to be there, not what you actually wrote. That does not mean you shouldn’t edit your own work at all, just that you should not be the only editor. Having someone else look over your pattern with a critical eye, especially a professional tech editor, is a crucial step in ensuring that your pattern is as error-free as possible.

Just Ask

If you’re having difficulty writing part of your pattern there are designer forums on Ravelry and Facebook where you can ask questions and get opinions from other designers. Test knitters are invaluable for making sure that a pattern is easily understood. You can also ask your TE to recommend resources for help with specific issues, or to pay special attention to something you had difficulty with while writing.


Marnie Maclean’s pattern writing tutorials

Budding Designers Ravelry Group

Designers Ravelry Group

The Tech Editor Hub Facebook Group

Knit Designers On FB Facebook Group

Craft Yarn Council Standards And Guidelines

Thank you for knitting!