Common pattern mistakes and how to avoid them

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Hi everyone! My July Designer Newsletter went out this morning. I had a very busy month of tech editing in June and it got me thinking about some of the common pattern mistakes I tend to see over and over again. In my newsletter this month, I shared the list I compiled, in hopes that I can help you ensure your pattern is in the best possible shape when you send it to me for editing. A more polished pattern takes less time to edit which means lower tech editing costs for you!

And as always, I included my tech editing availability for the coming month. I’m already fully booked for this week and nearly fully booked next week, but I have some spots available during the rest of July. Get in touch soon (fill out the form on this page) if you’ve got a pattern nearly ready for editing!

Common pattern mistakes and how to avoid them

As a tech editor, I see it all. From having no yarn listed to forgetting to bind off, I’ve seen every pattern mistake under the sun. But that’s ok! Everyone is human, and this is why you hire an editor. However, the better shape your pattern is in when you send it to me, the more quickly it can be edited, which helps keep your tech editing expenses down.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of the same avoidable issues over and over again, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to compile a list to share with you. If you’ve made these mistakes before, don’t worry! I’ve made many of them myself in my own patterns. My goal here is to help you make sure your pattern is in the best possible shape before you send it for tech editing.

1. Lack of consistency in measurements, unit conversions, and rounding

I didn’t know there were so many different ways to calculate/convert/round measurements until I became a tech editor.

Do you calculate both the imperial and metric measurements directly from your gauge? Or do you calculate all your measurements first in inches and then convert to cm? If you do it the second way, do you convert to cm before rounding your inch measurements, or afterward? Do you use 1″ = 2.5 cm, or 1″ = 2.54 cm? Do you round inches to 0.25″ and cm to 0.5 cm, or do you use a different way of rounding?

I won’t get into the pros and cons of each, but I will say that no matter which method(s) you use, it should be done consistently throughout the pattern. When I plug your stitch/row counts and gauge into my spreadsheet, I should be able to reproduce your measurements consistently to a fraction of a unit using the same formula.

2. Abbreviations list is not accurate

Your abbreviations list should contain all the abbreviations used in the pattern – nothing more, nothing less. It also helps to have things alphabetized (easier for the knitter to look things up, quicker for me to verify).

3. Needles list is not accurate

As with the abbreviations list, the needles section should contain all the needle sizes and styles required. Everything in this list should be referenced at some point in the pattern, and every needle referenced in the pattern should be included in this list.

Also, if your pattern calls for circular needles, be sure to include the cable length as well as the needle size. If cable length isn’t important, it’s still helpful to include a minimum size that will work.

4. Tools/notions list is not accurate

This list should always contain the basics (e.g, tapestry/yarn needle for weaving in ends), but often designers will use a template, or copy and paste this section from another pattern, and forget to update it. Does the knitter need stitch markers, buttons, blocking tools, waste yarn, etc.? If they do need stitch markers, how many? Do they need different colours/styles to mark different pattern elements? Be specific.

5. Using “Row” and “Round” incorrectly

Flat knitting instructions should reference “rows”, and circular knitting instructions should reference “rounds”. This goes for pattern instructions AND gauge. A simple find and replace in your word processor can help you easily verify you are using these terms correctly.

6. Forgetting to label the RS and WS for flat knitting

This should be done for at least the first two rows, although you can get away with just labeling the first RS row. If you follow these row instructions with something like “work Rows X-Y Z times”, I also recommend indicating RS and/or WS again on the next row.

7. Neglecting to denote stitch count changes.

Most patterns have increases and decreases that change the stitch count and it’s helpful to provide knitters with stitch count information so that they can be sure that they haven’t made a mistake. It also helps me verify that the instructions and stitch patterns that follow will work over the new stitch count(s).

How to indicate the stitch count change depends on the type of instruction:

  • When an instruction is worked only once, include the new stitch count. The new stitch count is by far the most useful piece of information to give the knitter when the instruction is worked just once.
  • When an instruction is repeated later in the pattern, include the number of stitches increased or decreased. When you want to repeat the same increase or decrease instruction more than once, the new stitch count total is only accurate the first time the instruction is worked. For this reason, including the number of stitches increased or decreased becomes more useful (and correct).
  • When an instruction is repeated a fixed number of times, include both. If an instruction (or group of instructions) containing an increase or decrease is repeated a fixed number of times before moving on, you can include the number of stitches increased or decreased in the line-by-line instructions, and then list the new total stitch count at the end.

Confused? I blogged about this topic back in 2017, including examples: Indicating Stitch Count Changes

8. Including charts but not telling the knitter how/when to use them

My clients will tell you that I am a vocal advocate for writing patterns from a neutral point of view.

This means that when including two representations of the same information (i.e. charts and written instructions to represent a single stitch pattern) I always recommend designers write the pattern in a neutral way so that the knitter can follow the pattern from start to finish regardless of the representation they choose.

At the very least, it should be obvious how each representation can be used by the knitter. I often see patterns written from start to finish, and then charts are included at the end, seemingly as an afterthought, with no indication of which part of the written pattern they can be used to replace.

I actually created a resource to help explain this concept, so if you’re interested in learning more, you can click here to download the PDF: Writing patterns with both charts and written instructions.

9. Key pattern elements missing

Omitting key elements of a pattern is more common than you would think. When you’re knitting your cuff-down sock sample, you *know* you’ll be closing the toe using Kitchener Stitch, but it’s one of those things that’s so obvious that it’s easy to forget to write it down. Here are a few of the most common offenses I see:

  • Components missing (needles, yarn, gauge, abbreviations, sizes, finished measurements, etc.)
  • Yarn listed, but actual amounts required not given
  • Actual garment elements missing (sleeves, heels, thumbs, etc).
  • Finishing instructions missing (binding off, Kitchener Stitch, weaving in ends, blocking, etc.)

10. Yarn names styled incorrectly

When listing an actual brand name of yarn, it’s important to style the name the way the dyer or yarn company does. This not only helps knitters locate the correct yarn, but it’s respectful to the dyer/yarn company to write their name exactly as they prefer to have it written. Plus, misspellings of brand names and companies look unprofessional!

Would you believe me if I said this is just scratching the surface? In all seriousness, I want to repeat that if you are guilty of any of these common mistakes, please don’t feel bad! I have done many (ok, most) of them myself in my own patterns, especially when I was starting out. We’re all human, and this is why you hire an editor.

Tech Editing Availability

I have the following tech editing spaces remaining for July:

July 2nd – 6th: full!
July 9th – 13th: 1 space remaining!
July 16th – 20th: 4 spaces
July 23rd – 27th: 6 spaces
July 30th – August 3rd: 6 spaces

Fill out the form here if you’d like to reserve a spot!

– Allison

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