Design tips & tools #1: Design templates for self publishers

Well, folks, I have progressed from having my toe in the water of design to the “Oh crap! I’ve got five designs due in 10 weeks!” phase. So I have decided to introduce a new feature to the blog called “Design Tips and Tools” as a way of documenting and sharing what I am learning along the road to become a more experienced designer.

To some of you, these segments may make me sound like Mistress of the Obvious, but I figure if I had to learn them, then there are hundreds of you out there like me who haven’t yet had my duh moment — and perhaps I can spare you the pain.

So, first up: knitting design templates — by which I mean a template that you create and follow when you are writing up your self-published knitting designs. If you are publishing a design with a magazine, book, or yarn company, they likely have their own templates that you will follow. My suggestions below apply to those cases where you are formatting and distributing your own pattern.

The key thing to say about design templates is that you should have one. Why? For several reasons.

  • First, having a consistent format for your patterns gives your line a more professional look.
  • Second, a template will save you time. You will have to invest some time at the start creating your template, but if you plan to write and distribute knitting patterns on a regular basis, that initial investment will quickly pay itself back.
  • Finally, a template will prevent many mistakes in your pattern. If you have left prompts to yourself for certain kinds of information, then you will not forget to include it.

Here are some more specific tips for creating your own template:

  • Use the Association of Knitwear Designers’ rubrics as guides to what elements to include in your own template. When deciding who can become a member of AKD, the organization checks your pattern against a set of elements that must be present. Even if you have no plans to join the AKD, these rubrics are therefore great models to follow because they are a professional standard.
  • Create an actual template. Instead of copying and pasting from previous patterns, why not create an actual template that you can open and fill in? To do this in Microsoft Word, open a new file, write in all the prompts that you need (e.g., materials, gauge, schematic, etc.) and include any boiler plate information (standard abbreviations, designer’s contact information, copyright, etc.). Give the document the right “look” as well: put everything in the correct font(s), and place blank boxes where you will include images, for example. When it comes time to save your template, do not save it as a plain document. Instead, choose “Save As” in the File menu. Midway down the Save As dialog box, you will see a list of choices for Format. Select Word Template. That way, whenever you open this file to create a new pattern, you will not be able to accidentally save over the template. Instead, Word will prompt you to save your pattern as a new document.
  • Keep it simple. Knitting patterns can be complicated enough, so keep your template simple. Use one or at most two fonts. The font that you use for the instructions should have serifs and be at least 12-point, because these type faces are easier to read.
  • Minimize color printing. Try to confine all color images and other color elements onto one page. This will allow you to save money in printing if you are wholesaling printed copies of your pattern — or allow other knitters to save money when printing your pattern from a PDF.

If you have self-published your own designs, what suggestions do you have?

2 thoughts on “Design tips & tools #1: Design templates for self publishers

  1. Congratualtions! Looking forward to seeing these patterns ( I know you have an interest in designing for men–yay!) and more of these posts.

    Thanks for the nudge to actually SAVE the template as a template 🙂

    I would add that a photo that is crisply focused and shows the details of the project is a plus. I see a lot of self-published patterns with poorly lit and out-of-focus pictures that don’t help a bit.

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