Writing up a pattern and wondering what could make it better?
Want to know what goes behind the scenes?
While this should be pretty self explanatory, a good pattern starts with a good design. While I'm not advocating anyone reinventing the wheel, I'll tell you a home truth – there is little, if not nothing, that has not been done before. Sometimes when thinking of coming up with a good design we try to expand our minds far beyond the capabilities of yarn and needle (or hook) and lose focus on the aspects that could create a fantastic yet simple design: figure, colour, texture, yarn choice…
Play. Toy around with needle sizes, yarn texture, yarn colour. Stitch pattern, stitch counts. Mix and match. But mostly, ensure you're not bored with your idea. Your idea for a design should inspire you and get your gears going. The designs that are loved best offer one or two key areas that define the design, letting the rest be “history repeated” – a simple rectangular shawl with an intricate lace pattern. A creatively shaped cardigan in stockinette. A totally new texture in yarn, featured over a simple garter texture. Don't over-do it.
I cannot stress the importance of sizing enough. If we define the adult female bust size from 28 to 60″ and we design a cardigan with only 2 sizes, can you see how much of the market you'd be missing out on?? There are plenty of resources for sizing out there – most professionals (including myself) use the ASTM standards for sizing which are available for sale online and show ALL the sizes and measurements you could imagine.
Do not limit your design unless your design limits you. If the beautiful cable design you created really does look best in increments of 4″, by all means size only every 4″ but make it a wide selection and ascertain you will not corner people out. Nothing can tick off a customer more than a narrowly sized pattern.
The better the photography is, the more likely you are to attract customers. I am not saying the photos should be perfectly styled “a la French vogue”. And you don't need to be Gisele. You need to look natural. You need to be comfortable. You need to be YOU. If you look awkward, your photos can tell and the customer may think “was that neckline strangling her?” “is he sweating under that hat??”
Regarding quality of the actual image… You can achieve great results with a simple point and shoot camera. You do not need a fancy DSLR to create a good image for your pattern. You need good light, a good angle and a photo editing software (Picasa, Picnik… Are free. Splurge for Photoshop Elements or Lightroom if you're feeling fancy).
Get a good friend. A friend you trust, who knows your good and bad angles. Your husband may not be the best choice (mine gets cranky when I ask him to shoot for more than 5 frames). Take your time. Explore different backgrounds. Outdoors, indoors. Movement. Stills. Have them shoot a media card chock full of images.
Word of advice on self portraits – While I know many people out there would say “you can make do with a tripod and a remote” I will tell you one thing. We can tell. It's not the best, really. Pick your friend, have a great shoot and invite them for coffee out to thank them.
If no one is handy and you find you need the services of a professional, shop around. You don't need the fanciest of photographers, and many kids at the local art college will gladly do the job for a bit of money and the use of your photos for their portfolio. But never, ever, try to undercut a pro.
If you are considering being a professional knitwear designer, you need a style sheet. It's the air your patterns breathe. It's the document that says “decreases are worded like this” “i hate using in instead of inches” etc etc.
A consistent look throughout your patterns create repeat customers that are satisfied with one pattern and consider your style good enough to be the one they learn a new skill set with. I can't tell you how many customers say “I bought this sock pattern and I was always scared of garments, but I know your pattern will spell it out”. That was all I wanted to hear. It's why I created my style. My patterns do run long, but not a lot is left to the imagination. If the text doesn't say what, the images will.
Whether your style is wordy and explanatory, or full of illustrations and diagrams, be consistent and listen to your customers.
Nobody, I repeat, nobody, can write a pattern up without errors. Be it missing spaces, wrong brackets, a phantom 2″, or a sinlge misplaced letter (did you see that one there?) we all need an editor. The job of the tech editor is to not only recalculate your pattern to ensure your numbers match up to the instructions and sizing required, but also to check your instructions make sense, your sizing is adequate for someone other than a chimp, your letters are in order and your style sheet is followed. They are your second brain and as such, treasured with coffee.
While a very experienced knitter can look over your pattern and see if your instructions make sense, they may not have the sizing knowledge required to know if an armhole will fit, or they may have trouble seeing the grammar and spelling changes required. At the same time, your copy editing friend may be awesome with the grammar and spelling but not the numbers. A tech editor for knitting and crochet embodies both of those friends.
Are you left with questions? Comment below and let me know!!