Adventures in Pattern Writing: Episode 1, Chart It!

Last summer, I tried my hand at designing a pair of socks. They were Green Bay Packer Socks knit for my mother’s birthday. While there are several things that I would change about them, overall I considered the whole undertaking to be a success. The socks were such a huge hit with my mom, she has already requested more!

However, despite the socks being such a huge hit, I still haven’t gotten around to actually writing down the pattern (though I have gotten several requests for it). My notes and hand drawn charts were placed in a pile and left to sit.

Today, I noticed that the pieces of my pattern notes were getting scattered around the house, and I realized that it would be only a matter of time before either the whole pattern or several key pieces were destroyed or go missing. I came to the decision that I needed to sit down and actually write out the pattern.

Now, because on good days, I have the attention span of a gnat, I know that the best way to take on any large project is to take little baby steps. To decide on where to start, I considered what would be the biggest pain to reverse engineer in the event that pieces of the pattern are lost or destroyed? With that question, the answer was clear, the charts.

On these particular socks, there are several pieces that I charted out, the Go Pack Go band around the top of the leg, the numbers on the heel flaps, and the large G on the top of the foot. 

First, I did a little research on the easiest way to make charts on the computer. After looking at several methods, I decided to use Microsoft Excel for charts. It is easier to add and delete rows using Excel, and the charts can then be cut and pasted into Microsoft Word when I start on the final pattern. The next step will be converting the Word document into a pdf file (there’s probably no real need for this, I just prefer my patterns in pdf form), but that can’t be too hard, right?

Now, non-knitters may not know this, but knit stitches are slightly wider than they are tall (if you look at the pictures really closely and know what you are looking for, you can see this), so I needed figure out what sizes to use for the cells. I ended up making the cells 15 pixels wide by 10 pixels tall, giving me a 3:2 ratio, which should work pretty well. After re-sizing the cells, I then turned on the border for each cell and was ready to start charting.

I started with the leg band, mainly because that was the one chart I didn’t want to make any changes to. It went pretty quickly, so I was able to move onto the chart for the top of the foot. I knew I wanted to make the G look a little less jagged around the edges and a little more symmetrical. I started with the original chart in the spreadsheet, and made changes, square by square until I was happy with the result. 

The original heels needed some more work.

The heel flaps made me a little more nervous, as I was making big changes to that piece of the sock. I wanted to switch from a heel flap to a short row heel, which would change the entire shape of the available stitches from a rectangle to a triangle (upside down triangle, in case you are trying to picture it). Like with the top of the foot, I figured the best thing to do would be to block out my available stitches.

From that point, I decided what size to make the numbers. During this process, I had to consider the triangular shape I was working in, and the fact the the numbers on the original ended up being too low. 

One of the revamped heel charts.

I ended up settling on 8 squares wide by 14 squares high (though I will actually have to knit another pair to be sure that this size will work).  I took these figures and went back to my paper and pencil. It took awhile until I was happy with the way the numbers looked, but it was worth it to get the finished charts saved in Excel.

There is still lots more work to do to get the pattern written. Plus, after writing the entire pattern, I want to make another pair, following the revamped pattern to see how those turn out. But I am really hoping that at some point I will be able to post an entire knitting pattern on this sight for others to use. 


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