Helpful Resources for Designers- Charting and Layout Software

In this final post for Design Week, I'm sharing an excerpt from Kate Atherley's Book 'Pattern Writing For Knit Designers'. No matter what level of designer you are, how you layout and chart your knitting instructions can be crucial  to the final clarity of your knitting pattern. Here, Kate shares her favourite software knit and crochet design. 

"Pattern Layout Tools
Layout software

Graphic designers go to school for years to learn good layout skills. If your budget permits – or if you’ve got the software and skills yourself – a professional layout job will always look great.

That having been said, with some simple tools and simple guidelines, you can create attractive and usable patterns without hiring a professional. This chapter is not intended to replace graphic design training or the services of an expert, but it should at least give you enough knowledge to talk to a graphic designer, or set you on the way to improving your own skills.

No matter how you achieve it, a tidy, well-thought-out layout is critical. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to look good. Access to computers is pretty much universal, and expectations about pattern quality are higher than they have ever been. Hand-written, hand-drawn or “unformatted” documents are simply not acceptable any more.

Many graphic designers use a layout tool like Adobe InDesign, but even the most mainstream of office suites includes some kind of layout software. Even classic word processors like Microsoft Word offer sufficient functionality to create a nice and tidy pattern. Essentially, all you need is the ability to embed an image, change text fonts and sizes, make text italic and bold, and add a second column.

Google Docs and Open Office are free solutions that are remarkably powerful.

It’s better to stay with a program you know well than to spend a lot of money on software like InDesign and struggle to use it.


Charting Tools

There is a variety of software applications available to create charts, but you can do it perfectly well without special software. I started my career using Microsoft Excel to create charts. (Now that my budget permits, I swear by StitchMastery.)

knitting chart in excel
 These two charts show the different between those created in Excel (top) and those created in StitchMastery (bottom). 

These two charts show the different between those created in Excel (top) and those created in StitchMastery (bottom). 

The lowest-cost solution is to (neatly) draw them by hand, and scan the drawing. For a long time, I happily used Aire River’s Knitting Font, a free downloadable font, in conjunction with a spreadsheet program. You can download the font here.

XRX (the publisher of Knitter’s Magazine) has also published a similar font, Knitter’s Symbol Font, available for download here.

Installing a font with knitting symbols allows you to use them in your word processor, spreadsheet or layout software.

Many designers create their own charts in a drawing program like Illustrator, but in many ways a spreadsheet program can be easier: stitches and rows can be automatically created, numbering is automatically handled, and grids are easily added and managed."


Do any of you have software you can't live without? Let me know and I'll be sure to get pinning those resources on the Making It Work Pinterest board for others to find too!

If you've enjoyed the DesignWeek posts, I hope you've thought about entering the Designalong where you can win tech editing from Kate, yarn support from Fyberspates and business and marketing advice from me. 


Next week? Get ready to get Skilled Up as I announce the first theme for An Inspired 2015. I can't wait to share it with you either- I have so many goodies lined up!