The Complete Guide to Creating Knitting Patterns

Are you a knitter interested in creating knitting patterns but don’t have a clue where to start? Make yourself comfortable: let’s get you started on my tutorial series on how to create knitting patterns.

This article series covers all you need to create knitting patterns on your own in 16 parts: from inspiration via yarn and pattern category selection to formatting issues, usability, testing your pattern, taking good pictures, pattern templates and finally how to publish your knitting pattern.

How To Create Knitting Patterns: Schedule

16 Days Of How To Create A Knitting Pattern, Day 1: Know Your Limits (And How To Beat Them), Including The Tools Of The Trade

Are you a fairly experienced knitter? If yes, let’s start! Just directly proceed to step number two.

You haven’t mastered anything beyond knitting garter stitch scarves so far? Sorry to disappoint you, but maybe you should consider getting a little more practice before creating your own patterns. (I’m not known for diplomacy. I’m known for speaking the truth even if it hurts, so don’t take it personally. I’m just honest.)

They Say Everybody Can Create A Knitting Pattern

Yes, everybody capable of basic knitting skills can fire up word and create a knitting pattern PDF. The devil is in the details, because it’s actually quite hard to create good knitting patterns. Sorry to be the bad guy in this game: it takes more than a copy of Word and Excel to write a good knitting pattern.

Ready? Go!

Step One: Improve Your Knitting Skills

If you feel like you could use a little bit more of knitting experience so you can start designing your own: practice lots! Use different yarns, knit as many different garment and accessories as possible, with a range of designers as broad as possible.

Don’t be afraid of purchasing patterns. There are a ton of good knitting patterns available for free on the internet, true. But don’t make the mistake and limit yourself to them – try out a few designers and publications known for creating quality knitting patterns (if you got no clue where to start looking for some – personally, I recommend all patterns published by Twist Collective for example. I own quite a few of their patterns and have never been disappointed. And no, I’m not affiliated in any way. Just personal preferences.)

Learn by example. Try out new techniques and look closely on how the pattern is designed, written and formatted. Take attention to phrasing that makes it easy for you to understand directions clearly. What do you like and what not? Try to make yourself educated about the broad spectrum of knitting patterns out there in the wild.

Step Two: Let’s Start

The outline: let’s create a knitting pattern from scratch, then work on our draft until it becomes a knitting pattern which is actually usable. (And – as a nice consequence – sells much better than the average bad ones and will get you better reputation as a knitwear designer in the long term). We not only aspire to create a knitting pattern, we want to create a good, usable, professional knitting pattern.

You have been warned.

Handy Tools: Which One Do You Really Need?

Text Processing

To Word or not to Word? Patterns can indeed be created using Word. I know many designers who do and there’s nothing wrong with that if that is your preferred text editing program. Personally, I do not use Word for my knitting patterns. I used to but got fed up with it constantly crashing my MacBook, despite the lack of design control this text processing software provides. It’s a text editor, after all – no fancy design software!

Another possibility is to use LaTeX. All major maths related publication use LaTeX for their typesetting but it’s got what most people consider to be a slow learning curve. I recommend learning to use it if you write lots of texts with numerous references, no matter whether they are in-text or external – there’s nothing better than that. My doctoral thesis has been written in LaTeX, what else? But a thesis is not a knitting pattern, and LaTeX is not famous for creating beautiful documents without serious effort. (Except they are math related, then you will drool seriously caused by so much beauty).


For my patterns, I now use Adobe InDesign and never want to create a pattern again without it. It’s professional layout software which gets the job done. No crashing, tons of features, full control over the look & feel of the finished pattern and last but not least a ton of options for document publishing formats.

Want to go print? Easy! Kindle? Yes. EPUB? Of course! I like it, as you might have guessed. The downside: people consider it to be expensive and that’s kind of true. Well, it depends what you consider to be expensive: Adobe offers a range of subscription varieties for their product palette and there’s possibilities to get discounts on their plans. Get more info on the website of Adobe.

Vector Graphics (Scalable)

For creating vector graphics, which is a format scalable without loss as opposed to pixel based graphics created by software like Photoshop and Gimp, I use Adobe Illustrator. If you want a free variant of it, go for using Inkscape. Nothing bad about it except that personally, I find Illustrator more comfortable and intuitive.

The Complete Guide to Creating Knitting Patterns: Inkscape Screen

Pixel Graphics (Photo & Image Editing)

I’m using Photoshop since version 3.0, so don’t expect me to tell you how great Gimp is. Sorry. If you do not want to invest money in Photoshop, Gimp can be an alternative. It’s powerful but – same as with Inkscape – I’m so used to Photoshop that I find Gimp confusing sometimes, although I’ve used it for quite a while when I was working on a Linux box with no native support for Photoshop. It did the job – give it a shot, it’s free and open source (as is Inkscape), which is generally a good thing.

Charting Software

For my charts, I’m using Knit Visualizer and like the clean look and feel the charts generated by it provide – they look very professional and the software features good usability besides a few minor issues (like not mirroring the decreases properly). KV got lots of other handy features like automatic creation of written instructions from a chart and custom stitch libraries, too. But not everybody might want to invest $189 in charting software, which I totally understand. (Took a while for me too to make this purchase decision, not to mention sell enough patterns to finance my copy).

There’s other charting software on the market but I never tried any of it, so I cannot make a statement here about those. Sorry!

The Complete Guide to Creating Knitting Patterns: Knit Visualizer Screen
Knit Visualizer Screen

One can create knitting charts with Excel and a knitting font like the one by David Xenakis, too. Theoretically. Practically, if you want your patterns to look professional, do not do this. Use proper charting software of your choice. Using obviously cheap solutions for typesetting makes your patterns look cheap and puts them into the hobby niche. Who wants to pay for something not optically appealing, not to mention readability issues? I do not. You have been warned.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, I’m going to cover how to find inspiration. Until then, I’m curious to hear from you: have you ever tried to create your own knitting pattern?



39 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Creating Knitting Patterns

  • Stephen Urquhart

    Thanks for your articles about the creation of patterns. After decades of knitting i have decided to take the plunge and write my own patterns to allow for more fitting garments for my family and friends.

    When discussed with fellow knitters they have tried to put me off, claiming it is to difficult, your blog makes it all clear and easy steps to follow.

    Can I ask if day 16 is still to be published as I would be very interested in the further reading list.

    • Thanks for your comment, will check!

  • Hi, I have found a picture of something I would like to knit. Is there any service where you can get a pattern created to then follow? Thanks.

    • Hi,
      This is my question as well! Did you find an answer?

      • Lizzie

        I have a hand knitted sweater I bought 20 years ago in Portugal and I love it so much I would like to knit a replacement. Is there anyone who could make me a pattern from photographs?

        • Lizzie, I’d suggest you ask on Ravelry.

    • Kim Huynh

      Yes, I do have a same question. Please !

    • That’s an interesting idea and an unsolved problem as far as I know.

  • Pingback: Creating Knitting Patterns and Shawl Design Inspiration - knitting.today

  • Isabel

    hi i have a project that I want some feed back on. I started knitting a project last year and just picked it back up again. I never counted my stitches nor did I do a swatch. I started with a knit stitch and then I changed to a knit one purl one when I changed yarns I am thinking it could be a sweater because I am loving the way it hangs so if I do that where should I start my decreases for the arms, shoulders, and neck. I should have done a better job at planning before it started but I had no idea you existed till today.

    • Rebecca P.

      Thank you for sharing! I have designed a couple items, most recently a triangle shaped lace shawl. I create patterns using Microsoft Word, but use a PC and haven’t had issues. I found Stitch Fiddle to be easy to use for creating knitting charts.

      I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge for knitting design!

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  • Thank you for such complete and inclusive information. At my age I doubt the I’ll ever design a pattern to publish, but reading your ‘lessons’ gives me a new appreciation for what a designer goes through before I have the finished pattern in my hands. Some knitters are appalled at having to pay for a pattern, but a designer deserves remuneration for all the work that goes into producing it.

    I certainly appreciate all the free patterns you give on Fridays. They are lovely and well-written, easy to follow, and very useable.

  • For knitting charts I found http://knitbird.com/ I mainly use it to enlarge knitting patterns due to poor eyesight I really think it will work for creating patterns also.

    • Thanks for the link, I’ll have a look!

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  • Pingback: Creating Knitting Patterns, Day 6: Knitting Calculations

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  • Clare Cohen

    Thanks for the sites. I’m at the point that I’m toying with designing. Now to find the time. This site is great!

  • Thanks for this information, it’s very useful. I’ve just hand written my patterns for myself never tried to use software.

    I’ve never had a problem using MS Word but I use a PC not a MacBook. I always have autosave set to save every minute so I don’t lose anything. I have used MS Publisher to DTP Newsletters & leaflets as it has much more flexibility than Word but it doesn’t come with MS Office now, has to be bought separately.

    I have Photoshop Elements (not the latest version) but don’t find it very intuitive. Might be my fault for not spending enough time learning to use it. They have tutorials but it all takes time!
    There are various versions & the blurb about it looks good. Probably better now than when I bought it! You can get a 30 day free trial so might be worth giving it a go.

    • Well I guess MS Word was designed for Windows so it should better work 😉 Thanks for your opinion!

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  • Another software possibility I’d suggest for photo and image editing would be Adobe Elements, which I believe they now call Photoshop Elements. It’s nowhere nearly as expensive as the full Photoshop program, and has many of the same features.

    • Thanks for your suggestion! I never came across Photoshop Elements but it sounds like an alternative.

  • stephanie szelmecki

    This is just what I was looking for. I had been using a relatively inexpensive charting program by Intwined Studio when I needed to learn about charting lace patterns. I had retired from work and was getting back to knitting and realized that I was going to have to make friends with charts if I was going to do the kind of knitting I wanted to do, Intwined Studio was a good learning tool and now I want something more. It looks to me like Adobe in Design would be nice now. There are sptions now that I didn’t have or see before. If Intwined Studio(whose flaws now annoy me) is the shallow end of a pool, I want the deep end of the pool now.

    • InDesign is primarily a layout / typesetting program, not knitting related at all but I’m very happy with it as said. For me, the combination InDesign/Photoshop/Knit Visualizer is ideal.

  • I’m constantly filling note pads with my own patterns as I knit. I start with a basic concept then refine it along the way. I’ve done Pi shawls, 1/2 circle shawls, rectangular shawls and felted bags as well as a few fingerless gloves. I’m a stickler to starting with a gauge swatch to design my work. I have found two tools over the past 20 years that are a great help to my knitting, The Calco-Knit Gauge calculator and the Gauge-o-Knit Gauge ruler. Low tech, been around since the mid ’80’s , tried and true. I would like to learn how to write my patterns into a professional format. One of my bags has been test knit, now I need to incorporate the information from the knitter to my pattern.

    • I tried note pads too but kept losing them! So for me, going digital was a good idea. I’m not constantly looking for my notes any more 😉

  • Pingback: How To Create Knitting Patterns, Day 2: Inspiration - knitting.today

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