Design Diary: an ode to spreadsheets (and my first patterns!)

One thing I never expected was that I’d come to love spreadsheets, specifically, Excel spreadsheets.  But here I am, admitting my fondness. It didn’t start this way. My first real brush with Excel was in graduate school. I worked for a temp agency over the summer, and one of my assignments was to work the front desk at a geological surveyor’s office while their administrative assistant vacationed in Florida. The work was easy – answering phones, a little data entry, scheduling meetings. When she returned, I expected I would leave for another assignment, but instead I found myself sharing a cramped office with the surveyor’s summer interns. For reasons I cannot fathom, one of the geologists had decided I might be able to fix the formula errors that had rendered one of their massive spreadsheets useless. I labored over that thing for two weeks and I don’t think my work made much of a difference. But I did learn a lot about Excel.

I was happy with my new skill, but I didn’t think I’d ever really use it. Then, when I returned to work from maternity leave a couple of years ago, I found myself staring, once again, at a sea of spreadsheets. My company had given me a position as a financial analyst. I struggled through the first few months as I learned how to manipulate data sheets and accounting logs, but somehow, despite sleep deprivation and new mom anxiety, I got pretty good with Excel.

The past couple of months, I’ve learned to love Excel even more, because now I am using it to justify my obsession with knitting. One of my goals for this year was to become a knitting pattern designer.  I’d knit some sweaters and hats, designing on the fly, but those pieces never became fully realized knitting patterns. This year would be different. I meant to plan, design, and work out all the numbers before I picked up my knitting needles(aside from swatching). While I could have labored over a sheet of paper, pecking numbers into a calculator, I decided to create a spreadsheet and let it do most of the work for me.

The first time, when I worked out the numbers for my Cedar Lake cardigan, it was amazing. I only needed to work out the formulas for one size of the cardigan, and once that was finished, a simple click and drag populated the other sizes with numbers. These numbers would become the foundation of my first ever knitting pattern.

I enjoyed the experience so much that I rushed to complete a second pattern – Pattaconk, and now I’m working on yet another. So yeah, I really, really love spreadsheets. Without them, I’d still only be daydreaming about publishing my own patterns.

To celebrate the publication of my first patterns, I’m holding a little giveaway. Comment below for a chance to win a PDF pattern of your choice – Cedar Lake, Cedar Lake Baby, or Pattaconk, and $25 to spend at Quince and Co. Just leave a comment below, letting me know what’s in your knitting queue, by midnight eastern time on June 15. I will pick a winning comment using a random number generator.

While the giveaway is running, blog readers will get 25 percent off all patterns in my Ravelry store. Just enter the coupon code blog25 at the checkout.

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