Helpful Resources for Designers- Charting and Layout Software

In this final post for Design Week, I'm sharing an excerpt from Kate Atherley's Book 'Pattern Writing For Knit Designers'. No matter what level of designer you are, how you layout and chart your knitting instructions can be crucial  to the final clarity of your knitting pattern. Here, Kate shares her favourite software knit and crochet design. 

"Pattern Layout Tools
Layout software

Graphic designers go to school for years to learn good layout skills. If your budget permits – or if you’ve got the software and skills yourself – a professional layout job will always look great.

That having been said, with some simple tools and simple guidelines, you can create attractive and usable patterns without hiring a professional. This chapter is not intended to replace graphic design training or the services of an expert, but it should at least give you enough knowledge to talk to a graphic designer, or set you on the way to improving your own skills.

No matter how you achieve it, a tidy, well-thought-out layout is critical. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to look good. Access to computers is pretty much universal, and expectations about pattern quality are higher than they have ever been. Hand-written, hand-drawn or “unformatted” documents are simply not acceptable any more.

Many graphic designers use a layout tool like Adobe InDesign, but even the most mainstream of office suites includes some kind of layout software. Even classic word processors like Microsoft Word offer sufficient functionality to create a nice and tidy pattern. Essentially, all you need is the ability to embed an image, change text fonts and sizes, make text italic and bold, and add a second column.

Google Docs and Open Office are free solutions that are remarkably powerful.

It’s better to stay with a program you know well than to spend a lot of money on software like InDesign and struggle to use it.


Charting Tools

There is a variety of software applications available to create charts, but you can do it perfectly well without special software. I started my career using Microsoft Excel to create charts. (Now that my budget permits, I swear by StitchMastery.)

knitting chart in excel
These two charts show the different between those created in Excel (top) and those created in StitchMastery (bottom). 

These two charts show the different between those created in Excel (top) and those created in StitchMastery (bottom). 

The lowest-cost solution is to (neatly) draw them by hand, and scan the drawing. For a long time, I happily used Aire River’s Knitting Font, a free downloadable font, in conjunction with a spreadsheet program. You can download the font here.

XRX (the publisher of Knitter’s Magazine) has also published a similar font, Knitter’s Symbol Font, available for download here.

Installing a font with knitting symbols allows you to use them in your word processor, spreadsheet or layout software.

Many designers create their own charts in a drawing program like Illustrator, but in many ways a spreadsheet program can be easier: stitches and rows can be automatically created, numbering is automatically handled, and grids are easily added and managed."


Do any of you have software you can't live without? Let me know and I'll be sure to get pinning those resources on the Making It Work Pinterest board for others to find too!

If you've enjoyed the DesignWeek posts, I hope you've thought about entering the Designalong where you can win tech editing from Kate, yarn support from Fyberspates and business and marketing advice from me. 


Next week? Get ready to get Skilled Up as I announce the first theme for An Inspired 2015. I can't wait to share it with you either- I have so many goodies lined up!




The Non Yarn Gift Guide for Knitters and Crocheters.

It was while ordering needles this week that I realised my notions and the bits and pieces around my crafting needs some serious addressing. I have a delicious stash that I cultivate from time to time but what I am serious lacking is a full arsenal of needles, knitting pouches to keep my wips in and several bits and pieces to make things run a little smoother. Some of my notions are a bit.... Macgyver? Booby pins for stitch holders are functional but don't exactly make my heart sing!

I had a very serendipitous moment when Anj from Meadow Yarns reached out to suggest sponsorship across the month of December. I jumped on it because I've ordered a few times from this fine online store and found it well stocked, fast on delivery and Anj was great at talking me through what I needed help with. So together we hatched some enabling- a perfect prize for the MEalong running right up till Christmas Eve and this list to place not so subtly in front of your nearest and dearest. 

While there's something to be said for a carefully packaged skein (or 3) of yarn, I've yet to meet a non knitter who could grab me just the right shade of sock yarn vs something special for a hat. So here's my favourite non yarn gifts that I've added to my Christmas wishlist this year- thanks for the enabling Anj!

For the knitter who likes a challenge?

sirka counter

The Sirka Counter:  This little gadget fits snugly in your project bag and was specifically developed for those more complex instructions that ask for you to repeat counts simultaneously and keep track of multiple rows. There's 3 'crowns' that layer up to be clicked into position each time you need to count a different layer of instructions. It's pretty stylish too and there's colour coding which makes my highly visual  self happy. 

For the sock knitters/ photographers?

knit pro sock blocker

The Knit Pro Sock Blockers: I've wanted some of these for ages. I simply don't take good enough pictures of my socks and all that time and effort can feel a bit wasted during the 'ta DAH!' moment when I show them off. Also I hear blocking fixes a lot of the scruffy stitches you might have spoiling your pretty finished object. I approve. 

For Lace lovers and the tech adverse?

magma pattern keeper

The Magma Knitting Chart Keeper: I often use a quick iphone app to track my knitting these days but I'll confess something to you- I've used this pattern keeper over and over again. It's whenever I need charts that I find myself turning from tech and going old school. I love to have the chart big enough to actually see each little stitch box (the keeper folds out to A4 size), Also, I can prop it up if I leave it folded in half and the magnet trackers are brilliant unless the Tot gleefully finds them. 

That little something?

frippery and bibelot ringos

Fripperies and Bibelots- RingOs: I adore these. The stitchmarkers don't catch on the needles or yarn and slide pleasingly along your work as you stitch away. The tin is designed modestly but I find it super pretty. Again, it's a toddler magnet though. Don't say I didn't warn you!

That bigger something?

oak yarn swift

The Meadow Yarn Oak Yarn Swift: I love the story behind this and I love the craft quality! These swifts are handmade in the studio that is directly under Meadow Yarns and are beautiful to behold. The problem I have with my swift is that it needs clamping but this one solves that problem as it's designed to sit on the table top and won't jump around because of it's rubber feet. Clever!

The perfect precision needles?

hiya hiya interchangeable

Hiya Hiya Sharps- interchangeable: I am a massive fan of Hiya Hiyas. Infact, you'll be hearing me chat all about Hiya Hiya Sharps this weekend on the podcast because I ordered some in the hope the precision point and smooth cord will ease my RSI. I think interchangeable sets are really handy and I regret not plumping for these last Christmas as the join has a specially designed cuff to stop it coming loose- a problem I've found with a lot of interchangeables as I magic loop a lot.  

And if all else fails?

Gift Certificates: No really, hear me out on this one. I don't understand why gift vouchers have become such a dirty present?!?! I would love to treat myself to a no holds barred shopping experience in a yarn store. Fine, if I had a voucher for itunes or something I'd be less than thrilled but come on- knitting and credit? That's perfectly acceptable in my book. 

What's on your Christmas list this year?



~Anj has also kindly donated the winner's choice of 3 bestselling products for the MEalong- come check it out! 



Meet the Sponsor: Kate and YAK

One of the things I love about deciding to host sponsors for the blog and podcast isn't just the fabulous giveaways (huzzah!) but also sharing an insight into their personality and businesses. I asked Kate, the owner of YAK to help us get to know her and discovered that she takes her ice cream and lolly decision making very seriously. She might be my new favourite person as a result. 

Over to Kate....

Hello, my name is Kate, I am the owner of YAK, an independent yarn shop based in Brighton. I moved to Brighton about two years ago and straight away felt the lack of anywhere decent to buy good quality yarns. Like me, everyone - knitters and non-knitters alike - are astonished that there isn’t an independent yarn shop already in Brighton. And so, after a lot of dithering and a lot more planning I decided to open up a shop to solve the problem. We currently sell online but will be opening a physical bricks and mortar shop in central Brighton later in the year. 

Kate, owner of YAK and ice cream maven

Kate, owner of YAK and ice cream maven

And YAK?

YAK specialises in luxury yarns made with natural fibres. We have really tried to focus on getting our stock from British independent yarn companies and hand dyers but we also have some really special yarns from further afield. We also have a great selection of knitting needles, tools, notions and accessories. We really do have something for everyone. 

The Sirka Counter, one of many notions you can find at YAK

The Sirka Counter, one of many notions you can find at YAK

If you had a magic wand to create your bricks and mortar store, what impossible feature would you add?

I would have a live band, playing at all times. They would be able to do amazing covers of any song imaginable but their best feature would be that they would always just know exactly what I wanted to listen to so I would never have to go through the agonising pain of trying to decide. How is it when you have thousands and thousands of songs to choose from you just cannot do it?! Maybe they could be up on a mezzanine floor, like they’re serenading the shop from on high. But now I think I’m getting carried away...

What's your favourite thing about being an LYS owner?

I think it is probably the social aspect. I’ve met so many nice and passionate people through setting this thing up, it’s been really great. I had no friends who knit before, and now I do! It’s also the reason I am so excited that it’s going to be an actual physical shop as well; I am going to get so meet so many more. Also, as wonderful and amazing as the internet is there is something still to be said for being able to sit around with some likeminded people, beverage of choice in one hand, knitting in the other and having a chat about what is on your needles face to face. Similarly, a computer screen will never be able to capture the true fuzziness of angora or the subtle colours of a hand dyed semi-solid skein. For that we need to get hands on and I can’t wait to be the person to provide that space in Brighton.

Dye for Yarn exquisiteness- one of YAK's lovely yarns 

Dye for Yarn exquisiteness- one of YAK's lovely yarns 

Ice cream or ice lollies? Discuss 

I think both have their place. I love real gelato ice-cream but the sophistication stops there. I am a child when it comes to flavours; I always just want one ball of chocolate, one ball of strawberry, no fuss. But sometimes it’s just too hot and all that wafer does more harm than good or you’ve only got an ice-cream van. For those times I always go for a Twister, the best combination lolly, little bit ice-cream, little bit lolly.


With Spring rapidly approaching and the start of a new month, it is fitting that today I am welcoming Alana Dakos as this month's blog and podcast sponsor! Today is an especially good day because it sees the long awaited release of Alana's latest Collection, 'Botanical Knits 2'!

'Forest Foliage', (c) Alana Dakos

Here's a teaser for those of you who can't wait:

'Continue to embrace the beauty of nature with Botanical Knits 2. In this follow up collection, traveling cables, organic textured stitches, and lacy stitch patterns make a reappearance, along with easy to read charts and written pattern instructions. From the cables of a heavy sweater coat to the delicate stitches of a lace shawl, the essence of plant life is worked into each of the 4 sweaters and 8 accessories included in this book'.

'Bare Branches', (c) Alana Dakos

Botanical Knits 2 is available as an ebook ($18) or to pre-order in print ($22 plus shipping). Everyone who pre-orders the book in print will receive a complimentary ebook to download right away. Those who pre-order will a;sp receive a botanically inspired gauge measuring bookmark as well as a new complimentary knitting pattern designed by Alana Dakos with their book shipment in June. To get your preorder, simply click on the button in the side bar. 

The Botanical Knits Ravelry Group has KALS for each of the designs which you can find here

'Thicket', (c) Alana Dakos

Want to find out more? I'll be featuring the latest Collection in the next podcast and you can win a copy. So join me on 16th March 2014 to celebrate Botanical Knits 2. I can't wait to share it with you!

Big Love

So how are you feeling today? Are you feeling the love? 

Over in the Playful Group, we've been sharing some gorgeous stories about selfish knitting, unselfish knitting, knitting memories, crochet dreams and spinning to die for. Why? Because we're all about the Big Love Along I'm currently hosting. There's even prizes just for entering!

Rules are simple:

  1. Kick off when the Ravellenics end
  2. WIPS and double dipping allowed.
  3. You have to be a group member
  4. You have to tell us your BIG LOVE story.

So what will it be? A skein you’ve loved for a long time? A technique you adore? Fibre you’ve lovingly spun for a friend? Something loving for YOURSELF?

Tell us!

We have some gorgeous skeins donated from Whimzy yarns who collaborated with our sponsor this month, Inspiration Knits, to bring fabulous kits to Unravel. You can read all about the patterns Louise recommends Whimzy for here

On the left is Sokkusu O, (O for Original), a 100% Superwash Merino base in the 'Summer Storm' colourway. On the right is 'Johanna' on Silkie Merino, another 

fingering weight yarn but this time 50% Superwash Merino, 50% Silk. To lucky winners will get a skein each, drawn at random from the FO thread. 

Another Way (c) Inspiration Knits

Then whether you have a hankering for 'Another Way' or a different design of Louise's, you can choose a pattern if you're the 3rd lucky winner in this solidarity along! 

The along has already started and I think I'll close the FO thread at the end of March so come on over and join in the chatter!

Featured: New Sponsor, Inspiration Knits!

We have a new friend for the blog and podcast! Please welcome Louise, the designer behind Inspiration Knits. You can find lots of amazing accessory patterns that are just perfect for using up stash and playing with colour. What's more, we have a coupon code and who doesn't love one of those right?

Louise aka Inspiration Knits and her 'Trust Me' design

I asked Louise a few questions to help you get to know our Playful new friend...

What was your favourite childhood game?

I played a lot of different card games and board games when I was little. I used to play basketball competitively (read: very competitively). When I was a student, if I wasn't in the textiles studio you'd find me on a basketball court.

What is your favourite Munch or Schlurp?

Good chocolate, good coffee and good wine. Great food, in general. I'm a cliché. I prefer quality over quantity. Having said that, I probably wouldn't turn down cheap chocolate! I really am a dreadful coffee snob. I won't drink instant coffee unless I'm ambushed with the stuff. If I suspect I'm being offered instant, I'll always choose a cup of tea instead because it's harder to fake.

Do you have a current knitting crush (can be yarn crush)?

Hmmm. This is difficult. I have loads of things I want to knit, and loads of yarns I want to try. Pick any hot indy dyer and you'll probably find I want to try all their yarns - right now! I'm not into the big brands because it can feel a bit bland by comparison. Some of the character will have been squashed out by the corporation, or at least that's how it makes me feel, which isn't good for my creativity.

'Song of the Sea'

I have been slightly obsessed with Blue Sky Alpacas Metalico over the last year. Finally, I have it on my needles. I'm making an ombre version of Song of the Sea. It feels amazing - my kids keep cuddling it, which is terrifying when I've crammed the stitches onto slightly-too-short circulars. I am a card-carrying environmentalist at heart, so I always have my eye out for environmentally-responsible choices that don't involve sack-cloth and sandals. This yarn is undyed and is all-the-more spectacular for it.

Having said that, I'm also obsessed with Fyberspates' silk colours. Whether blended in Silk Twizzle or Faery Wings, or all on its own in 100% silk, the way the silk fibres take Jeni's colours is truly spectacular. That's my colour obsession right now.

What is your favourite ever FO?

I don't think I can choose one! I have a few things I do wear all the time though. I've a small triangle shawl in Handmaiden SeaSilk in Hemlock which is wrapped round my neck for half the winter. It's so soft and the colour is perfect. I'll take the fifth on the pattern I followed. Suffice to say, was a real eye-opener as to how full of errors a free pattern can be!

If I'm in a rush, I grab my Song of the Sea snug cowl instead because it's so easy to throw on under a coat. It's warm round my neck but not bulky. Mine is in Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply in a one-off colour called Sea Green, appropriately. I love that yarn.

With little kids, fingerless mitts are essential. I absolutely adore the pair of Blue Sky Alpaca mitts a lovely friend made for me last Christmas. They're soooo warm, and purple!

Midnight Ocean (c) Inspiration Knits

Midnight Ocean gets compliments whenever I wear it, so it makes me feel proud to have designed it. I wear it if I need to look presentable. The sparkle in the Fyberspates Sheila's Sock really lifts it. My grey Stay Awhile in Sokkusu O is my new alternative for dressing-up. Both of these are perfect day-to-evening. Their versatility is probably why I wear them so much. 

And finally...... Your knitting nemesis?

I hate badly written patterns, but that's more of a bete noir than a nemesis.

There is an individual who writes about knitting in a popular magazine. They're probably closer to a nemesis. My husband tries to stop me from reading their contributions because I get so angry about the poor quality of the writing and lack of basic grammar. I suppose reading these pieces does at least encourage me to knit…so that I can calm down! 

I think I am particularly sensitive to bad writing and long sentences because I try so hard to make my patterns clear. I confess that if I see a really long sentence I have to count the words. I know that's really geeky but I can't resist it if I see a possible new record. The writer I mentioned holds the current record with a 62-word sentence. Yes, unsurprisingly, it was completely incomprehensible. I know I break the rules when I write, but I do it knowingly and for effect; I just hope it comes across that way!

A big thank you to Louise for joining our Playful tribe and taking the time to answer these questions. Louise will be donating a pattern of the winner's choice to our Big Love along that will kick off at the end of the Ravellenics. What's more, she's offering 10% any of her patterns with the code playful at the Ravelry Checkout. Go forth and knit!