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Designer Academy knitting: Short Notice by Taiga Hilliard Designs on the LoveKnitting blog

Published on July 5th, 2016 | by Merion

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Choosing a name for your pattern by Kate Atherley

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When you’ve worked hard on designing a pattern, it’s important to give it a name that stands out in a crowded digital world of patterns. Kate Atherley is here to help you name your patterns…

knitting: Thunderbolt by Heidi Kirrmaier on the LoveKnitting blog

Thunderbolt by Heidi Kirrmaier

If you’re going to publish a pattern, whether for sale or just as a free download, you need to give it a name. This can be harder than it seems! You want a name that’s interesting and memorable, of course – something knitters can proudly yell when asked what they’re working on.

I recommend something evocative over something descriptive. “Jarvis” is a better name for wavy lace sock pattern than my first naming attempt, “Wavy Lace Sock”. Although the second name is accurate, it’s dull, generic, and wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. The crux of the issue is this: a pattern needs to have a reasonably distinct name so it can be easily found in an online search.

When naming a pattern, here are some of the sources I look to for inspiration:

-Names from maps: street names, little towns, geographic features. In my recent sock knitting book, I have a sock called Wellington Road. The wavy lace Jarvis sock I mentioned above is named after a road full of twists and turns, not far from where I live.

-Names of – or lines from – songs. A pattern name doesn’t need to be a single word, after all, and a phrase is less likely to have been used before as a name. I have a sock called Turn, Turn, Turn, after the song by The Byrds.

-People from history or fiction: I have a sock design named after Gladys Thompson, a knitter who in the mid 20th century gathered and recorded regional gansey knitting patterns. And I’m just about to publish a pattern named after the protagonist of a comic novel I very much enjoyed.

If you are using people’s names, remember that a full name is more likely to be distinct than just a first or last name – Smith has been used, but John Smith hasn’t, for example. Of course, avoid controversial or universally disliked figures, unless you want your pattern to also be controversial or provoke negative sentiments… a pattern named after Voldemort or a real-life villain is likely to be discussed more for its name than its merits as a design. And avoid names attached to a well-known person who is still alive – unless the pattern is an homage, or connected to that person. A scarf design called ‘Cher’ will be inextricably associated with the singer, even if you were thinking of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.

knitting: Brackett Street by Cecily Glowik MacDonald on the LoveKnitting blog

Brackett Street by Cecily Glowik MacDonald

The first thing to do when considering a pattern name is to see if it’s been used before. Look the name up here on LoveKnitting and Ravelry. If there are tens or hundreds of patterns with that name, then take it off your list: there’s no way that a pattern with a name so well-used will stand out from the crowd.

Ideally, the name should be unique, but that’s getting more and more challenging! If a name has been used only a handful of times before, then it may well still be a good candidate. For example, if it’s been used only for garments, and you’re designing a sock, then the chance of your new pattern getting mixed up with the other ones is slight. But if the name has appeared on other types of socks, I’d avoid it.

knitting: Limberlost by Melissa Schaschwary on the LoveKnitting blog

Limberlost by Melissa Schaschwary

Once you’ve got some candidates, you need to make sure they are appropriate for a global audience… There are lots examples of products imported from English-speaking countries that have failed in other countries: a classic example is the Clairol “Mist Stick” curling iron, which sold very well in the US, but not so well in Germany, where the word “mist” means “manure”.

Google Translate makes this check easy. Visit Google Translate, enter the term you wish to try out, and ask the tool to translate it from a number of key languages: French, German Spanish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Japanese, Chinese.  If the word does exist in other languages, you want to make sure the meaning isn’t negative, or inappropriate. I was going to use Barret for a mitten pattern once, until I discovered that it’s the Catalan word for hat.

The other direction of Google Translate helps, too: use it to translate English words into other languages. It doesn’t have to be complicated: the Spanish world for apple – manzana – is melodic and lovely, and as of writing, it doesn’t seem to have been used for a pattern!

If you are using foreign terms, make sure that they are reasonably easy to spell and pronounce. (Or if you fear that they might be tricky to pronounce, add a note to the pattern to explain it.) After all, you want people to be able to confidently name the pattern when fellow knitters admire the FO; and then you want admirers to be able to look that pattern up online, so that they can make it themselves.

knitting; Moulin Rouge by Kirsten Kapur on the LoveKnitting blog

Moulin Rouge by Kirsten Kapur

(And just because you find it easy to pronounce, doesn’t mean others will. I speak both French and English, and it never occurred to me that others might have difficulty with the name of Knitty’s famous bias-knit drop-stitch wrap scarf Clapotis. But lots of people do! It’s cla-po-tee. If you’re unsure, ask a few friends if they can pronounce the name.)

This also means that you should think twice about using letters and symbols from other languages or alphabets, or odd punctuation: these make a pattern hard to search for. (There’s a rock band called !!! – imagine how difficult it is to look up their new music online.)

And there’s another, very important language to consider: street language. The Urban Dictionary, a repository of slang and idiomatic usage is very helpful. You don’t want to find that the name you’ve chosen is an insult! (Just be careful when clicking through: for obvious reasons, the language on the site is fairly salty.)

knitting: Get Happy by Kate Atherley on the LoveKnitting blog

Get Happy by Kate Atherley

It’s worth spending time on a good name: it’s an important part of your marketing strategy! People will remember a good name. People will click on an ad for a pattern with a good name. An people will look up a pattern because it’s got a good name.

Explore Kate’s patterns here on LoveKnitting!

The pattern used in the feature image above is Short Notice by Taiga Hilliard Designs.

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About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.


Last updated: February 7th, 2017.

3 Responses to Choosing a name for your pattern by Kate Atherley

  1. Diana Poirier says:

    This was a very informative article! Thank you. Being in the beginner stages of pattern writing, I usually went with the more boring names! Ugh! My next pattern though, it will stand out!

  2. Helen says:

    I love the baby pattern what is this called and is it available to download?

  3. Myriam says:

    thank you for this article, and for the link to the Urban Dictionary. It’s going to be very useful.

    Here’s an example of mistake in name that’s both because of foreign language and street language; Norah Gaughan, whom I worship, published a pattern called Tarte, through berroco. It’s a beautiful little sleeveless pop-over with cables. Problem is, in French, ‘tarte’ could mean either ‘plain-looking’, ‘stupid’, or even ‘prostitute’. Now, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t aware of that. The pattern has been in my queue for over a year, but I hesitate to cast-on, because imagine when my friends ask me the name of the pattern I’m knitting, or the garment I’m wearing.
    I think I’m going to lie – sorry, great Norah. Specially since I’m going to knit it in berroco mica, a discontinued glittering yarn that’s right at home in a dressed-up occasion. Imagine if I have to blurt out ‘tarte’ in polite company…

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