Writing knitting and crochet patterns can be a challenge. Using a style sheet can make the process go more smoothly. Learn what a style sheet is and how it can make pattern writing easier.
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What is a Style Sheet?
A style sheet — also known as a style guide or stylebook — is a document that states how a particular publisher will present information. Newspapers, magazines, websites and publishing houses use style guides to make their words and visual elements cohesive.
The most well-known style guides for writers are The Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press Stylebook, and the MLA (Modern Language Association) Handbook. I won’t try to describe the differences, but it is a fascinating rabbit hole to leap into.
Style sheets started out in the paper publishing world, but made the jump to the digital world. In computing, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) tell a browser what background colors, fonts, and elements to use on a web page. Compare the websites of the New York Times and USA Today. Even though they are both news outlets, they have a very different look.
If you are writing a pattern to be published by someone else, ask for their style guide. If you are self-publishing, you’ll want to create your own “house style” to help readers recognize your patterns and to understand your instructions.
How Does a Consistent Style Help Readers?
The less mental energy a reader — a knitter or crocheter — has to use to understand the words, the more attention they can give to the meaning of the words. You want the pattern to flow, not to trip the reader up by throwing subtle obstacles in their path!
A consistent writing style removes barriers to understanding.
How Does a Style Sheet Work in Pattern Writing?
Writing instructions for knitting and crochet patterns involves a kind of code. It’s not unlike writing a recipe or computer code. Making intentional decisions about abbreviations, style and usage once can save you time and effort each time you write a similar pattern.
Patterns use a lot of abbreviations. Many of these crochet abbreviations and knitting abbreviations are standard, but some are not. The most basic pattern writing style sheets include a list of abbreviations. They may also include items you do not want to abbreviate.
For example, you may want to abbreviate “stitch(es)” and “round(s)” as “st(s)” and “rnd(s)”, but not abbreviate “repeat”.
A really useful style sheet goes beyond abbreviations. It guides your phrasing and the wording of instructions in common situations.
What phrasing would you choose in the following situations?
Ch 16, join with a slip st to form a ring, being careful not to twist the chain. Place a marker in first st.
Ch 16. Place marker in first st. Being careful not to twist chain, join with a slip st to form a ring.
Ch 16, pm and join with slip st to form a ring, being careful not to twist.
Cast on 25 sts. Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist the cast on. Place a marker in the first st.
Long tail cast on 25 sts, Place marker in first st and join for working in the round. Be careful not to twist the cast on.
Long-tail cast on 25 sts. Pm and join for working in the round, being careful not to twist.
See how many options there are? And that’s not even all the variations!
Include common phrasing in your style sheet, so you don’t have to think of it again each time you need a particular instruction.
Typographic & Graphic Styles
What fonts will you use? What size will they be? What rules will you have about using bold or italics?
What graphic elements will you use? Are you going to stick with specific colors? Do you include a logo?
Will your photographs reflect a certain style? Will you be using certain types of angles or shots in your photographs? Applying filters?
Develop Your Own Style Guide
Abbreviations, phrases, fonts, colors and image styles are all elements you can include in your own style guide.
You may also want to develop a pattern template that reflects all your style choices. Each time you start a new pattern, copy the pattern template as a new document. Begin writing the pattern using this template, typing in the instructions for the new project and referring to your style sheet as you work.
Keep in mind that a style sheet is not a static document! Every time you have to make a choice that’s not in your style sheet, add it. As time goes on, you’ll find yourself having to make fewer decisions,because you’ve already decided! You’ll also find that you start to internalize the details. You’ll find yourself just knowing how to say things, without having to look at your guide.
Also, it’s OK to change your mind. If you find that a particular choice isn’t working well, it’s perfectly fine to refine your style (and edit your guide) in a way that makes more sense.
More About Pattern Writing
Style sheets are just one way to improve and streamline your pattern-writing skills. I’d love to teach you more! You can hire me to tech edit your work, or consult with me on your particular design challenges. Take one of my pattern-writing courses and check out my free design resources: