Strengthen Your Pattern: Schematics

Recently I received the newsletter of a knitting organization that focuses on knitting and crochet patterns (some rather pricey – up to US $12).   I skimmed the patterns but only two caught my attention.  I gave them a closer look.  The first pattern was for a cardigan, and the second was for socks.  Both of these had, from a pattern writing perspective, severe limitations.  In this post I revisit the importance of providing schematics.

Knitting_schematicA schematic is a structural drawing, as illustrated on the right.  Unlike a drawing that provides readers a descriptive illustration of your project, a schematic is detailed and contains key measurements (e.g., lengths, widths, sizes, etc.).

Why provide a schematic?

  1. A schematic serves a good road map so knitters/crocheters can self-check and self-correct their progress.
  2. The visual learners can easily “see” where the pattern is going and how.
  3. Schematics are critical for knitters/crocheters who want to ensure good fit.
  4. Schematics are critical for knitters/crocheters who may want to alter the pattern.

I cannot overemphasize #3 and #4. For instance, if the pattern shapes the body of a sweater (e.g., it narrows at the waist), a discerning knitter/crocheter needs the distance between the hem and/or the shoulder and the waist. Why? Because a very tall or a very short person (unless the height is disproportionately from leg length), will need to adjust the waist placement.  There are many other reasons a knitter/crocheter might need to adjust a pattern from its called for measurements:  a wider waist? narrower waist?  larger bust? larger hips? smaller hips? longer arms? smaller shoulders? et cetera.

Of course, a skilled knitter/crocheter could pull out a calculator and, working from the written instructions, do the calculation herself – but why would she?  Why take the time to go through that sort of design technicalities for someone else’s pattern – someone who charged you for the pattern?

An alternative is to simply knit or crochet as the pattern instructs and, from time to time take fittings, and then rip out rows and re-knit/crochet multiple times in multiple places throughout the design until the pattern fits.  Not too many folks would enjoy doing that.

My daughter knit a pattern that I would not have chosen for her (or anyone, for that matter).  First, it is poorly written; it is in a long, rambling narrative style that jumps around.  (Ugh!)  My daughter found the pattern quite frustrating.  If I hadn’t 50 years of knitting experience I’m not sure I could have made sense of the instructions.  I translated the pattern into what I call my Neo-Norsk method (click here  and here to read my posts where I explain that style), which my daughter finds much easier to follow.

Second, the pattern she chose included no schematic (or drawing) though there were several (far too many!) photographs of the author modeling the sweater.  (For some reason known only to the woman, her son/daughter are in some of the photographs.)  My daughter frequently had to rip out whole sections and reknit.  Why?  She doesn’t fall into the “average” woman category.  My daughter is tall with long arms and legs and a low waist.  Further, though a marathon runner and quite slim, she has disproportionately wide shoulders due to many years of competitive swimming in her youth.  Ahhh, yes, alterations galore.

I never buy a sweater pattern that does not include a schematic.  I like my sweaters to fit well.


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Crocheting, Knitting, Norwegian Knitting, Pattern Construction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Strengthen Your Pattern: Schematics

  1. I am not familiar with Herzog’s designs. I will check them out!


  2. Ugh, how frustrating. And I think it makes errors so much easier.


  3. Yes indeed. That leaves a lot of less experienced knitters unwilling to pick up the needles for the next project.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree … If I want to reinvent the proverbial wheel, I just make my own design!


  5. What’s that old saying … A picture is worth a thousand words! 🙂


  6. It sounds like the shawl designer got sloppy. I wonder if providing percentage of overall yarn used for each section might sometimes be useful too.



  7. kiwiyarns says:

    I agree. Schematics are critical. Not only should there be a schematic, but critical measurements along the way. I’m knitting a shawl at the moment that has large sections – I would dearly love to know the measurement for each section. My gauge is not the same as the designer, and the gauge in her pattern does not match the gauge of the shawl’s overall schematic measurement, so a few other measurements would have been helpful!!


  8. Patrice says:

    I like working with only the schematic. Who needs words! LOL


  9. Susan says:

    Yes, and this is why I appreciate Kate Davies patterns and Rowan. Hate reinventing the ‘wheel’ 🙂


  10. writeknit says:

    I totally agree. It takes too many hours to knit a sweater to have ti not fit when complete.


  11. I’m working on one of those long narrative sweaters now. It’s driving me crazy. Maybe I’ll take the time to translate first. Great thoughts.


  12. Rebecca says:

    You are so right. It is much easier to check a pattern will fit and make alterations to ensure that it does, with a good schematic. I am happy to pay for a good design as I appreciate the skill and time it takes to make a good graded pattern. Amy Herzog has excellent schematics designed for easy altering to sit your own body type. I am knitting one now… Such a pleasure.


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