How To Make Knitting Instructions From A Paper Pattern Or Existing Garment

I want to introduce you to writing instructions from sewing patterns or an existing garment. My example will give you the basics of pattern writing so you can start making the project you have in mind. I will assume that you have the skills to calculate stitch numbers and row counts from your gauge.

Knitted garments rarely are shaped by darts or other tailoring techniques used in sewing. When choosing your first pattern or existing garment to make your instructions from, keep it simple in construction. An existing garment that fits you well, such as a favorite T-shirt would be a good choice. Tailored knitting is for more advanced knitters and requires knowledge of pattern design and cutting.

For my demonstration, I’m using the back pattern piece for a simple V-neck tank with a slightly shaped waist. The following are the steps to writing pattern instructions.

Measure the pattern pieces; remember that knitted pieces have very little seam allowance. When measuring sewing pattern pieces don’t include seam allowances in your measurements. Lay the pattern piece on blocking board or other non-slippery surface. (Note: Decide whether you are working in inches or centimeters, then stick to that throughout the process).

Key measurements of my back piece:

Bottom edge – 16 1/2 in

Length to armhole – 13 in

Waist (narrowest point of shaping) – 14 3/4 in

Length to waist – 6 3/4 in

Bust before armhole shaping – 15 1/4 in

Armhole depth – 8 in

V-neck depth – 8 in

Neck width – 9 1/4 in

Shoulders – 1 1/2 in

Measuring Pattern Piece For Writing Knitting Instructions

Measuring Pattern Piece For Writing Knitting Instructions – Waist Measurement

Measuring Pattern Piece

Measuring Pattern Piece – Bust Measurement

Sketch outline of piece or schematic with measurements on graph paper; I used 8 squares per inch paper. Standard graph paper is useful for drawing the outline. Knitters’ graph paper has different grids that represent different gauges, and is useful when designing color patterns, allowing you to design directly on the paper without distortion.

Determine your gauge. Assuming that you have decided on the yarn and made a swatch, measure the gauge, writing down the stitches and rows per inch on the sketch.

Convert measurements into stitches and rows. The horizontal measurements (width) convert to stitches and the vertical measurements (length or depth) convert to rows. I write these numbers on the graph paper. I also calculate the shaping, that is how many stitches to bind off and number of decreases, and what rows to make them. (From my example the width of the bottom edge converted to stitches: 16.5 x 4.5(stitches/in) = 74.25 rounded to 74 stitches. Cast on 74 stitches).

Schematic and measurement conversions

Schematic and measurement conversions

After I have knitted the piece, and recorded any changes or adjustments on the outline, I write the instructions in a format that is readable for other knitters.This step may not be important to you, but for designers, knitters must be able to follow their instructions and produce an exact copy of the project. Pattern instruction format varies from designer to designer.

With this information you should be able to start writing basic pattern instructions from pattern pieces or an existing garment such as a jersey knit with simple construction.


Design And Knit The Look!

You’re perusing the latest fashion magazine, and you stumble upon the cutest wrap, or you see something in the store that speaks “I can make it”. If you are a diehard knitter like me, I’m sure this has happened to you. The question becomes “How do you interpret fashion looks and make them come to life?”.

I’m not going to make this post a comprehensive design lesson, but will give you some pointers to creating those “looks”. I will also make the assumption that you have the skills to create and knit them.


  • Keep a small sketch book or journal with you at all times. A camera or mobile device will work, but you might be looked at in a skeptical manner when shopping, people wondering what you are up to. Ideas come anytime, and no they don’t fall from the sky. Having paper or whatever device works for you, will help you collect and record your ideas. Collect fashion magazine images as well.
  • Carry a measuring tape for quick measurements of items with simple construction in the dressing room! I’ve done this many times, and you just need to measure the key spots including the width, length, and other areas depending on the type of project. As soon as possible make notes of the details to remind you.
  • Do a little research to determine fiber content, and yarn type/weight – is it a textured or fuzzy yarn; is it a fine, medium, or bulky look? Depending on where you obtained the “look”, this information may not be easy to ascertain, so take a best guess. Because you aren’t the original designer, it won’t be exactly the same, but it can certainly be a close resemblance. Who knows, you may enjoy the process so much, you come up with an original by you!
  • Determine the specifics, including collecting the measurements, pattern stitches, shaping, sleeve style, type of neckline, pockets, and any other details you want to incorporate.
  • With garments, I like to begin with graph paper, and draw a schematic of the pieces, a line drawing showing the finished measurements. For a scarf or hat, draw an illustration and note the measurements, pattern stitches and other details. I’m a terrible illustrator, so graph paper works great for me.
  • Choose your yarn. In other posts, I’ve stressed the importance of buying all the yarn at once when following instructions. For this type of project, it’s fine to purchase 1 or 2 balls, because you are experimenting to get the “look”. When you’ve decided on the final yarn, you can purchase more.
  • Test Swatch and Gauge – the most important aspect to designing any project. The gauge provides the knitter with all the information to calculate the number of stitches and rows required for the item. I’ve talked about gauge many times, so I won’t discuss it here. This process will likely require some experimentation to get the “look”.
  • Once you’ve determined the appropriate gauge with your yarn choice you can dive into knitting the project. If you are more of a knitter that enjoys designing on the needle, go for it. Or if you are like me, I write out instructions as I knit; this doesn’t mean there won’t be bugs to address, but writing provides me a guide, similar to an outline when writing an article. At the end I have instructions I can file away for future use. Without some structure, it is less likely to work.
  • Finishing – the all important step in my mind – the difference between handmade and homemade.

Enjoy Your “Look”!

My Pompom Lampshade

The post before last “The Chic Pompom”, I showed my lampshade that needed jazzing up. Well, here are the results!

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Best Posts of 2014

Happy New Year Knitters!

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year, I start thinking about all the things that worked and didn’t work over the past year. My blog is a little over a year old, so it’s time to evaluate it. So here are my most popular posts of the past year. I hope they provide some good reading, and I will work hard to give you more of what you want.

Finally Finished My Sex and the City Inspired Scarf!




I finally finished my “Sexy Red Eccentric Cable Scarf”, I spoke of in my Design Series post. My inspiration had been a red scarf, Carrie wore in “Sex and the City”, the first movie. I am a lover of the color red, so coming up with a design I would wear was easy; I just made sure I purchased the right shade of red. Red is one of those colors anyone can wear, providing you find the right shade for your skin color. There are warm reds with yellow undertones, and cool reds with blue undertones. I fall into the warm camp, as my skin tone is fair with yellow undertones. So my yarn choice was Cascade 220, in Bright Red color #8414, a fabulous basic Peruvian Highland wool (my favorite fiber) that shows off the cable pattern.

I must say I love the results, and I will enjoy wearing this scarf for many years to come.

DIY – Lace Sampler – Part 2

I changed my mind; I’ve decided to just make one swatch surrounding all sides with seed stitch. Instead of 40 stitches, cast on 44 stitches, with the first and last 4 stitches in seed stitch. Knit two repeats as before. When completed make sure to block your swatch, as this will even the stitches, open up the lace, and flatten the edges.

I came across a site Laylock, whose focus is shawls and lace knitting. One of their projects is a lace sampler inserted into a frame, used as a holder for earrings or keys (Sunday Morning Knitting Project – free download). This is definitely worth checking out.

It can be frustrating for beginners when you are following a row, and the instructions ask you to yarn over (yo) between a purl and knit stitch, or at the beginning of a row. Now how do you do this?

Tip 2: Yarn Overs

  1. Yarn Over Between Knit Stitches – Work to where you want the yarn over. With the right hand wrap the yarn around the needle by bringing the yarn to the front of the work from underneath the needle. A loop of yarn is on your right needle; this is the new stitch. When you return to this extra strand of yarn on the next row, work it as a stitch. You will notice a hole created by this new stitch.
  2. Yarn Over Between Purl Stitches – With the right hand bring the yarn to the back of the needle from over top the right needle. This is the new stitch.
  3. Yarn Over Between a Knit and Purl Stitch – Bring the yarn from the back to the front, then over the right needle to the back, and to the front again. You are ready to purl the next stitch.
  4. Yarn Over at the Beginning of a Row – This yarn over through me for a loop (no pun intended), when I came across it. It is a bit unusual. If your first stitch is a knit, set the right needle over top the working yarn. With the right hand bring the working yarn over top the right needle and underneath towards the back, then knit the next stitch. If the first stitch is a purl, bring the working yarn over top the right needle and underneath towards the front, so the yarn is in the correct position to purl the first stitch.

Now back to my project. I blocked my swatch and put it into a modern frame. In retrospect, I think a solid, ivory yarn would have made a better contrast with the black background. You could also insert the lace swatch into a wooden frame, by stretching and tacking the swatch onto the back of the frame, as in the Sunday Morning Knitting Project. The framing ideas are endless – even showcasing a series of framed lace samplers would look great.

I hope my little project has inspired you to create lace samplers, and showcase them in your own way.


DIY – Lace Sampler – Part 1

This DIY project allows you to experiment with lace pattern stitches; a great beginner project or one for experienced knitters who want to try a lace pattern stitch without making a huge commitment. We are going to knit up a lace sample; you can use the pattern I’m using or choose any you like. You can make it any size, make more than one swatch; the possibilities are endless. After the swatch(es) is knitted, we will frame it to complete the project.

Fine weight yarns from lace weight to fingering look fabulous in lace stitches, and they look great in frames. The pattern I’m using is “Frost Flowers” from “A Treasury Of Knitting Patterns” by Barbara G. Walker. Her pattern stitch books are my “bibles”. This pattern stitch is one I have wanted to try for a long time, and my someday project is to make a tablecloth in frost flowers with a linen or cotton fingering weight yarn. My yarn choice is Ella Rae Lace Merino Multi in a beautiful coral color. This yarn is a great fingering weight choice for beginners, because it’s twisted and doesn’t split, making it easy to knit, as the stitches glide across your needles. Lace weight yarn or very fine yarn may be frustrating to work with as a beginner, so stick with fingering weight or double knitting.

Start, by choosing either your yarn or pattern stitch. If you choose the frame first, you will have to do a gauge swatch, so the sample fits into the frame. You may need to experiment with a few swatches to see if you like the yarn with the chosen pattern stitch. This happened to me. The lace stitch was not clearly defined and appeared lost, because of the variegated yarn I used.

Tip 1: Here’s a quick lesson on “multiples”. Each pattern stitch is based on repeating a number of stitches and rows that make up a single “motif”. The number of stitches is called a “multiple”, and the number of rows is called a “repeat”. Some pattern instructions will use the word “repeat” to describe both the number of stitches in a multiple and the number of rows in a repeat. In the pattern “Frost Flowers”, the multiple is 34 stitches plus 2 extra stitches. I only used 36 stitches (34 + 2) for my repeat (one multiple of stitches) plus my border stitches.

For my DIY project, I am going to frame 2 swatches together. For the swatch, placed on the left side of the frame, cast on 40 stitches with 3mm needles. Work 4 rows in seed stitch, then begin frost flower pattern over 36 stitches to last 4 stitches, work these in seed stitch, to create a border. Knit two repeats of the pattern, then 4 rows in seed stitch. Bind off. Make a second swatch; cast on 40 stitches, work 4 rows in seed stitch, work first 4 stitches in seed stitch, then next 36 stitches in pattern (reversing the placement of side border). Knit two repeats of pattern, then 4 rows in seed stitch. Bind off. The following is my sampler in progress and the instructions for Frost Flowers.

Left Lace Sample in Progress

Left Lace Sample in Progress

Frost Flowers

Frost Flowers

Next time, we’ll finish up the project, and I will share some more tips on knitting lace. This is a great opportunity to experiment with patterns, without the frustration. Give it a try!