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How our patterns get made

August 20, 2015

Knitters often ask us about our pattern process. I don’t think they are usually prepared for the long list of steps I launch into! So, this is how sausages (ahem patterns) get made here at Tin Can Knits:

  1. We come up with an amazing concept, usually while we’re in the shower (no, we don’t shower together… minds out of the gutter please!).  We’ve got a great post about design as the intersection of inspiration + desire. We usually make a little sketch, talk it over with the other person and then it’s time for phase 2.
  2. The swatch: We make MANY swatches (mmm how I love a good swatch!).  And then we make some more!
    knitting swatches
  3. We make a mini sample (because we love baby knits… and because knitting is obviously the most cost-effective and practical way to clothe our children… ).

    Caribou Cardigan by TIn Can Knits

    Hunter in a mini-sized version of the Caribou Cardigan, from our book Road Trip.

  4. Using what we learned from the mini sample, we proceed to ‘grade’ the pattern (calculate the math for all the sizes) then write up the draft pattern.  Pull out your spreadsheets ladies and gentlemen!  18 sizes is not for the faint of heart!
  5. We knit the adult sample, and make any required adjustments to the pattern.  As deadlines inevitably loom large, this sample may need to be completed over the course of four days solid knitting (40-60 hrs or so…).  This is why working parents like us go on and on (and on) about coffee and wine.  As evidenced by Instagram, we do indeed rely heavily on coffee to keep our business running:
  6. We lay out a draft pattern (making it nice and purdy as you would expect, with draft photos, charts, and a pattern schematic) to send out for test knitting.  With 18 sizes, and at least 2 testers per size means that 30-40 people knit the design, and provide feedback (it’s like a super cool early-access designer KAL, and a bunch of extreme knitters get to see our designs WAY before the rest of you do!).
  7. We adjust the pattern per our test-knitters comments on fit and pattern writing.
  8. We do a final photo shoot (or two… or three if children are involved), sometimes we need a few takes to get ‘the one’ which highlights how positively irresistible our knits are!  Read more about our fun-filled photoshoots for Road Trip and Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe.

    Max was particularly perturbed by this shot. Maybe we weren't getting his 'good side'?

    Max was particularly perturbed by this shot. Maybe we weren’t getting his ‘good side’?

  9. We send the final draft pattern to our Technical Editor (she gets capitals because she is so excellent and so very important!), she does a final check of the math, makes sure our pattern is written and laid out per our standards, and that the pattern sizing matches industry standards.
  10. We make any final changes to the pattern, and add helpful links to tutorials, yarns, and a Ravelry ‘cast on’ button so you can very quickly find the pattern online.  We love our links because they make everything faster and easier for you!
  11. Our exciting new pattern goes live!  We send you an email about it (cause you get our email updates, right?!).  We post the pattern on Ravelry, our website, a few other great places around the web where you can get our patterns and then let our retailers know that they can order print copies to stock in shops across the world!

Are you a little bit exhausted just reading about it?  Well a typical Tin Can Knits sweater pattern requires at least 80-120 woman hours to put together, (this is excluding literally hundreds of hours of test-knitters’ time) a lot of expertise, experience and MAD knit skills!  Put in context, that is 2-3 weeks of full-time work.

We are committed to bringing you an exceptionally high standard of design and pattern writing clarity…and fun photos! We have a thorough process and now you have seen behind the curtain!

What’s an even better value?  Getting the same exceptional design quality FOR FREE… so you can share it with your friends!  We’ve put just as much care into the creation of The Simple Collection, yet all 9 designs are free, and supported by in-depth tutorials.  Check it out, and be sure to share it with all your friends!

SC-wheat-tmb-b SC-rye-tmb-c SC-malt-tmb-a SC-harvest-tmb-a Barley Hat SC-flax-tmb-a SC-maize-tmb Oats Cowl by Tin Can Knitssc-grain-tmb-a



20 Comments leave one →
  1. Megan Chueka permalink
    January 26, 2019 5:02 pm

    This is so helpful! Could you please explain the grading process a little further?
    Thank you

    • February 25, 2019 10:32 am

      Hi Megan – For grading we use spreadsheets. Start with your gauge and your desired measurements and go from there. We usually start with CYC measurements and then decide how much ease to add to the pattern etc. Some parts do end up being a bit of trial and error, and then once it’s all settled we have our patterns tested, just to make sure we got it right.

  2. Mary Ann permalink
    November 14, 2015 1:24 pm

    What a generous gift your Simple Collection is. Thank you.

  3. November 10, 2015 8:07 am

    I cannot imagine doing what you do, but I am glad that you are and you are helping lots of folks like me, get into knitting and improving their knowledge and skills.
    A big THANK YOU for all your hard work and inspiration!

  4. October 16, 2015 5:51 am

    This was very interesting. I can see now why your patterns are so above and beyond in quality and clarity. I have come to rely on your patterns. The simple collection is amazing! I am a mother to 5 children and have made Barley over and over to provide wool hats for my husband, children and myself.

  5. September 11, 2015 9:02 am

    I’ve made multiples of Barley and Oats, and I plan to make more, plus more of different patterns. You’re one of my favorite designers out there right now. Thanks for all your work!

  6. Nikki - Yet Another Crafter permalink
    September 6, 2015 8:38 am

    This is brilliant to know and absolutely insane to have it pointed out just how much time people spend on actually making the patterns! I think most of us crafters do appreciate the work going into a single pattern, but I never fully appreciated it until seeing this post!

  7. September 2, 2015 2:51 pm

    Reblogged this on crafting, life and the art of happiness and commented:
    Wow! This is absolutely amazing. I have often wondered about the amount of time and energy that must go into making patterns. It turns out my imagination didn’t even cover half of it. Such amazing work, and I am so glad someone else is out there doing it. ;) I have made their Gramps pattern and must say it was one of the easiest baby sweaters I’ve made. Thanks Tin Can Knits for all of your hard work and artistic creativity!

  8. September 1, 2015 12:29 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your process. The quality of your patterns shows in your hard work.

  9. Kate permalink
    August 29, 2015 12:41 pm

    Just to let you know the work you put in is greatly appreciated by us kniters – your patterns are very well written and easy to read! And I want to knit all of them…

  10. rainbowgoblin permalink
    August 25, 2015 3:54 am

    This is really helpful. You’ve described the key steps more clearly and concisely than I’ve seen anywhere else. I’m bookmarking this, it’s going to be my goto checklist!

  11. August 22, 2015 4:27 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your work process, so inspiring.

  12. August 20, 2015 9:51 pm

    Wowsers! Now I don’t feel so bad for taking so long to knit something wearable!!! What an achievement gals, and to do it all with bubbas is amazing! Trust me, I know how hard it is to run a business and a family and still make time to have fun!

  13. August 20, 2015 4:06 pm

    This is just overwhelming! Thank you for doing such a great job!

  14. August 20, 2015 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how genius happens! This is a great jumping-off point for hopeful designers like myself.

  15. August 20, 2015 9:53 am

    WOW! So much hard work. You guys are inspiring. Thanks for sharing these details.

  16. August 20, 2015 8:17 am

    Such a cool post about all that goes into your awesome patterns. No wonder they are always so perfect!

  17. Nancy HILL permalink
    August 20, 2015 7:58 am

    Love how you support your patterns with tutorials! They are so helpful. Also, can’t wait for the blanket pattern that is pictured in the “coffee and knitting” picture! love the colored pattern work separated by garter!!!

  18. barara Wyant permalink
    August 20, 2015 7:20 am

    Thank you for taking the time for this email. It is really interesting to see how much time and effort you put into your work.

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