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Evaluating Patterns - Schematics & Other Designer-Provided Info

Updated: May 12, 2022

Informed pattern shopping

You love supporting indie designers, but you also want to have confidence that the pattern you're buying will result in the sweater you're planning. In part one of this three-part series, we talked about how to review modeled photos of a sweater. Check out part three, all about evaluating other knitters' projects, here. Today, we're going to go deep on reviewing all the other info the designer provides.

All about Schematics

Back to basics - what's a schematic? A set of measurements, typically accompanied by an illustration, that details the exact measurements a knitting pattern will create. Of course, you have to get gauge and follow the instructions, but the schematic will tell you what exactly you're making.

The designer should* provide the schematic

Designers should provide a schematic that you can review ahead of time. If you’d like to see my thoughts on this, I share them on this Instagram post. If the schematic is not available, the pattern description should clearly indicate that the pattern includes a schematic, and at least some key measurements are included before you buy.

Things to consider when reviewing the schematic

Evaluate consistency (will your sweater will look like the model’s?)

  • The armhole depth should not change dramatically – every size should have a similar amount of ease under the arm. If this measurement varies from the smallest size to the largest size by more than 5 inches, I would be suspicious.

  • The neckline should look the same on everyone. Our necks don’t get much wider as our bodies get larger, and yet I consistently see larger necklines relative to neck size as sweaters get larger. I wouldn’t expect this measurement to change much more than 3” across the entire range.

  • Sleeve and body length – from the underarm to the cuff, I would expect this measurement to get *shorter* as the sizes get larger (and in some cases, stay the same).

Does the schematic provide adequate information for you to make an informed decision?

Full bust and upper sleeve are rarely enough information to tell you whether or not your body will 'fit inside the schematic.' Most knitters will get the best fit if they make at least one adjustment. Reviewing these measurements will tell you how the pattern will fit YOU, and give you a heads up on anything you might like to consider changing.

Different constructions have different key fit points. I go into more depth on taking your measurements in this blog post. Here are the key points a schematic should provide to let you know what you're getting!

  • Full bust

  • Waist

  • Hip

  • Cross shoulder (AKA shoulder-to-shoulder) (critical for drop shoulder and set-in sleeve construction)

  • Yoke depth OR raglan depth + back neck depth (critical for raglans & yokes)

  • Armhole depth

  • Front neck depth (learn more here!)

  • Bicep

  • Wrist

Quirks of schematics

A pattern schematic is typically drawn as a 'flat,' which means that any curves on the drawing illustrate shaping.

This is the schematic for Bock, a pullover in collaboration with Hudson & West.

For example, if the line between the underarm and hem curves in, you can expect waist shaping. If the ribbing is smaller than the body, it will look like a rectangle under the body or sleeve. Similarly, if a sweater is shown on the schematic in one piece, you can expect it to be knit seamlessly.

Pattern schematics and measurements do not include neck bands or button bands. Unless marked otherwise, they will include hems and cuffs.

Other pattern information provided by the designer

Has the designer provided these key pieces of information?

  • Which techniques are used? Does the list match the garment you see?

  • Is yardage provided in yards or meters, or only skeins?

  • Does the pattern description tell you what size the model is wearing, and with how much ease in the full bust?

Is the designer a size-inclusive designer?

It's important for me to support designers who are size-inclusive. I evaluate the sizes offered and the consistency checks listed above, and choose to purchase from designers who offer well-graded patterns with consistent ease for bodies with a full bust of at least 64.”

Has the pattern been through a technical editing process?

Tech editing ensures that the pattern you'll receive is accurate, consistent, and clear. Test knitting and tech editing do not have the same goal, and are not interchangeable. There's no wrong way to love knitting or supporting small designers, but if you value a smooth knitting experience, I recommend checking the pattern for credits for a tech editor.

Finally, and speaking of tech editors - one of my fit heroes is Kristina McGrath, and she has written an article to help you get the most from a schematic - you can read that here!

This wraps up this week's post. I hope you have a better sense of how to make the most of the pattern listing and all the information provided by the designer. Are there are other checks YOU like to use? Put them in the comments!

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