Starting a knitting pattern: how a newbie figures out how to design a knitting pattern

This post will be the start of a short series of posts documenting how a complete newbie to knitting pattern design figures out how to do it. Stay tuned for more!

I have been knitting for 6 years, 7 months, 23 days. The first lesson was so traumatic I remember the exact day — just kidding, I blogged about it.

I have knit hats, mug cozies, scarves, cowls, one pair of fingerless gloves, a never-ending shawl and one sock.

Quadratic Cap knit by Mandy Bee
Quadratic Cap (I need to start taking better photos…)

The projects I’ve worked on have been fairly straight forward and close to beginner level. My stitches have become more even with time and I’ve even been able to wing a simple hat and cowl without needing a pattern. Because I’ve become so comfortable with the basics I’ve started working on projects that are a bit more challenging so that I could learn new techniques.

Last January, I decided to try my hand at stranded colorwork. Stranded colorwork involves holding two strands of yarn at once and knitting with each one at a time according to a chart. I thought there would be a tough learning curve with the technique but I found that the most difficult part was keeping proper tension behind the work. I guess with all knitting, tension is mostly going to be the issue to work around.

While working on my first stranded color project – the Quadratic Cap designed by Angela Geosits – I realized the color charts reminded me of the pixel art I used to create in high school. Every pixel in the drawing has its own clearly defined space with no blurred lines. I used to spend hours and hours drawing these, which got me thinking that maybe I could bring something like that into knitting. From that point on, I had it in my head that I wanted to make my own knitting color chart.

Pixel Art by Mandy Bee
An example of some pixel art I drew back in high school

I needed a base pattern for my color chart because there is not much of a point to the chart if it never makes it on to a completed knitting project.

My first idea for a base project was a pair of socks. I love ridiculous socks and I would love to wear a pair of my own design and making.

I started to illustrate the color chart digitally. I created a very simple illustration in Photoshop and struggled with color selection for a while. I don’t know if knitting designers usually have the yarn in mind before they start a pattern or if they pick the colors then find matching yarn, but I figured the very subtle color changes I had chosen probably wouldn’t have a yarn equivalent. As I started searching for a sock yarn palette to use in my pattern, I could see that it was true. Even with 30+ colors in the Knit Picks Stroll yarn selection, this was about as subtle as I could get.

Sheep in a pasture illustration
The start of my color chart for knitting

Once I got to this stage, I stalled a bit. I wasn’t sure if I should just start pixelating the illustration as it was or figure out the gauge then work from there. The answer seems obvious now (gauge then chart) but for some reason I let it stall me.

I ordered the sock yarn during the most recent Knit Picks sale – woohoo, I was on my way!

Planning out different sheep
Planning out different sheep

The next problem is that I finished my first practice sock (a nice lacy sock kit that I got with my first Signature Needles) in August 2014 and I still haven’t gotten the patience to start the next one. I was starting to doubt that I would be getting this pattern does any time soon.

Then I made about 8 mug cozies as Christmas gifts this past year. They’re fairly small and quick (always a relative term in knitting, it seems) to knit up. That is the base project I was looking for. With the mug cozies, I could kind of dip my toe in the waters of pattern design.

Since I have more time on my hands (an extra 10 hours a day), this made it back onto my to-do list. I had bought a gridded notebook to work on charts by hand, so I sketched a few ideas, seeing what looked right at different sizes.

Sketching for a color chart
Rough sketches based off of the digital illustration
Knitting chart illustration
Colored sketch
Final chart, based off of 42 stitches
“Final chart” – 42 stitches wide

I was super happy to have made this progress!

But, and it’s a big but, I hadn’t even started to make a gauge swatch for the cozies using fingering weight yarn. I don’t know why I’d wrongly assumed that knitting the cozy with fingering weight yarn would be about the same as the cozies I’d been making with worsted weight. Or that I would be able to easily go from 42 to 84 stitches so that I could use the chart as-is.

So last night I started the gauge. It’s looking like the cozy will be around 72 stitches, which doesn’t quite fit the chart. I will definitely need to change things around.

Based on how tiny the stitches are, I will be able to add a lot more detail – the sheep bodies can be a little more fluffy-looking, the heads won’t have to be quite so square.

I’m a little worried that the tiny sock yarn won’t be so insulating though. But hey, if it works for your feet, I guess it should work for some coffee.

I’ll continue to post about my first knitting pattern journey. Hopefully it’ll help others on theirs!

Read more about my adventure in creating my first knitting pattern:

Design challenge, day 25, extreme knitting

I found this quote the other day and I was all, “Man, I could totally see that quote overlaying some mountain climber. How inspirational!”

If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ then you’re not doing it right.

Then today, I start thinking about what kind of photo could go with it and the thought of a giant yarn stash crossed my mind – one where you’re stuffing yarn into your desk drawers because there’s no more room in the allotted basket/shelves/tupperware set of drawers/closet/guest closet. If you knit or crochet, you know what I’m talking about… It starts with a ball or two of yarn when you start out, then you start visiting yarn shops and you think, “Oh, that’d be great for a [insert knitting/crocheted object here that you’ll probably never even start]”.

So I started searching Flickr for images that I could use and found this amazing woman – my hero – knitting on Splash Mountain with undeniable proof.

Extreme knitting on Splash Mountain

The challenge here was trying to get something usable out of an image that was too small and too grainy.

Photo credit:


Rainy Day

It’s raining here and I’ve decided to do what seems like a cold winter day kind of thing to do: knit and drink hot tea. (And for some reason I felt the need to share.)

I’m knitting again!


It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about knitting. I’ve been trying to do more knitting lately and decided to devote myself to knitting a hat for my mom. She’s been asking for one for more than a year now so I needed to get off my butt and just start working! (Actually, I guess I can knit and sit at the same time.)

This is the pattern: Robin’s Egg Blue Hat. It’s terribly cute, pretty easy and has so much potential for personality due to the button detail.

This is my first project to use a seed stitch too, so it’s great practice. Also, the use of 10.5mm needles to get gauge makes this hat “fly off my needles” as they say.


So, it’s been more than a month since I started writing this post. I’m now finished with my hat!

The button is from As Cute As A Button. I still have to send it to my mom, but hopefully she likes it!
Mom's Hat

Gray Button Hat on Ravelry

What do you think?

Knits for Needs: Use your stash for charity

As soon as I decided to learn to crochet, I began collecting yarn like a maniac. A ball of this, a skein of that. I have tons of mismatching yarn and scraps leftover from projects sitting in my closet.

I started following @KnitsforNeeds to help myself find some new projects and inspiration because I haven’t been knitting or crocheting much lately. Knits for Needs is a charity that you can donate knitted and crocheted items to throughout the year to help those in need.

Most recently, Knits for Needs has posted about Prayer Squares, four-inch knitted or crocheted squares used while praying. Prayer Squares sent to Knits for Needs will be sent to Knit Wits who attach charms and prayers to the squares before donating them to chemo patients in cancer centers. These Prayer Squares are great for using up leftover yarns and yarn you just don’t know what to do with. Soft yarns will work best as they’ll be more comfortable to hold (- don’t use wool). For more information, read Knits for Needs Prayer Square blog post and/or join in the discussion on Ravelry.

I’ve started my Prayer Square and will post pictures when I’m finished. Is anyone else working on Prayer Squares? They’re a quick and easy project that will help give someone a little comfort, so I urge those of you that knit or crochet to start a Prayer Square and send it to Knits for Needs.