The publication process by Kate Atherley
Part two of our fabulous series from Kate Atherley, author of The Beginners Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns. This week: the publishing process….
Ok, you’re ready to be a designer? You’ve got an idea and you want to share it with the world? Here’s how you go about doing that!
Obviously, knitting (or indeed crocheting) the thing is one of the earliest steps. It might not be the first; that depends on how you work. When I’m creating a sock, I often do a lot of the designing work up front: calculating stitch counts and sizes, figuring out which heel turn I want to use and how to shape the toe, and so forth. I then knit my sample from the notes, as a proof of concept.
If something doesn’t work, or I don’t like it, I will adjust my design and rework. For me, it’s an iterative process: design, knit, design, knit, design, knit… In the “design” stage, I include things like choosing yarn, selecting stitch patterns, figuring out what size or sizes I want to provide instructions for – adults only, kids, babies, etc. I need think about how I want the item to fit – if it’s a hat, for example, do I want it to be fitted or slouchy? And what design elements I’m going to use. (Ribbed or garter stitch edgings? A folded cuff?)
Most of the time, I try to do the calculations for the different sizes up front. If I’m planning a multiple size pattern, I like to think through all the sizes first so I know whether my plan makes sense. As I knit, I take lots and lots of notes – all the details about how I’m working the sample, and what does and doesn’t work. Which cast on method did I use? Which increases and decreases? Did I do something special in the cast off? How did I finish it? Are there any special blocking notes?
When I have a sample I’m happy with, I write the pattern up. If I’m making a pair – socks, mittens, gloves, sleeves, for example – I like to write the pattern up before I make the second so I have notes to guide me, and so I can review them as I work. I often spot issues this way: I’m working a glove pattern at the moment, and I discovered that my instructions to set up the thumb didn’t match how I did it.
(If you need help writing up a pattern, you might find Kate’s book helpful: The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns , published by Interweave Press.)
Then you need to get the pattern proofread. It’s impossible to proofread your own work, so you always need someone else to check the pattern before publication. I recently completed a pattern that asked you to cast on 900 stitches for a hat. I’d been paying so much attention to the complicated bit of the instructions that I missed a very simple typo – an extra 0 – right at the start!
There are really two kinds of proofreading. A copy editor checks the text – reading through any chatty introductions, making sure you’ve spelled your name right and so forth. A technical editor is a proofreader with a special focus: making sure your pattern is complete, clear and correct. A technical editor checks the numbers and the logic and the instructions: if it’s to be worked in the round, does it ask for the right sort of needles? Does it tell you to join the work in the round? Does the cast on number divide evenly by the ribbing pattern repeat?
A pattern needs a technical editor, even if you’re giving it away for free. I’ll talk more about technical editors in a future column: what they do, how they do it, how to find one and how to get one even if you don’t have much of a budget.
A test knitter can be helpful, too, as you work out aspects of the design or the instructions. They don’t replace tech editors and proofreaders, though. They can help with verifying that the various sizes fit right, that the yardage requirements are reasonable, that any tutorials or special stitch instructions you’ve provided are clear, things like that.
Once you’ve got a good solid design and complete instructions, then you need to get some good photographs taken, and lay the pattern out. A pattern needs to look good both on a screen and on paper, and it also needs to be easy to read. You can use fancy software for the layout, or not; the simplest designs are usually the best. Don’t overburden the page with lots of different coloured text or fancy fonts or boxes and edgings and that sort of thing. And the same advice stands for the photographs: plain and simple and clear is better than stylish. Yes, the photos in fashion magazines look really great, with models holding exotic pets while draped artfully over interesting architecture – but you can never tell how long the sleeves are. Keep the photos clean, on a plain background, with a simple, natural stance.
Once you’ve got the pattern laid out and the photos placed, give it one more proofread. I usually give it to my husband to look over at this point. Silly things can happen – you can forget to include your name, or get your email address wrong, or misspell the name of the pattern – and it’s good to have one final review.
And then it’s ready for launch!
Yes, this all seems like a lot of work, but remember, you want crafters to enjoy working from your pattern, you want them to be successful. Happy and successful knitters will show off their projects and talk up your name. They will buy more of your patterns, they will buy your book, they will attend classes you teach. Happy and successful knitters make for happy and successful designers.
Last updated: February 7th, 2017.