Design Diary: DIY Knitting Graph Paper

For two weeks now I’ve actually managed to find knitting time every day. It’s pretty much a Christmas miracle a couple of months too late, considering the stir-crazy toddler who demands my constant attention. My daily knitting sessions haven’t all been pinecone lace and Brooklyn Tweed LOFT, though I am making good progress on my Pomme de Pin cardigan.  My needles also worked and reworked the same 25 yards of Neighborhood Fiber Co. yarn as I struggled to knit a wrap of my own design. The poor yarn; it’s been through a lot, and all because I thought I could breeze through designing without first making a chart.

Instead I did a few quick calculations to figure out the number of stitches to cast on and assumed I could simply translate my vision from there. I made it to row three of the textured pattern before  I realized I began with too many stitches, despite my pre-knitting math. So I cast on again and began knitting. Just a couple rows into attempt number two and I could already tell it was doomed. This time I’d settled on a 2×2 ribbed edging. Not a good choice, in my opinion, for the understated garter and lace pattern I was going for.  But I pushed on despite my misgivings, only to once again rip back a few rows into my textured pattern.

You’d think I would learn from my mistakes, but it wasn’t until the fourth attempt, which, like the others, ended with a pile of crimpy yarn instead of the first several inches of a gorgeous wrap, that I finally gave in. I fired up the computer, opened an Excel document, and began to plot out the pattern that, in my head, seemed so very knittable. Very quickly I discovered one of the reasons I couldn’t knit my vision into reality: charted out, the pattern looked awful. The directional arrow motif I thought I wanted seemed arbitrary and wrong, with too much space and not enough connective tissue between pattern shifts.

Instead of scrapping the whole idea after I discovered how imperfect my imagined wrap actually was, I decided to continue charting. I’d already spent a couple of hours filling in cells with dashes and dots, and somewhere in that not-so-appealing knitting pattern I caught a glimmer of potential.

Several drafts later and I’ve mapped out what I think will be a lovely chevron that alternates between garter stitch peaks and stockinette valleys punctuated by lace eyelets. It’s the kind of knitting I love best – no complicated lace or cables, just simple stitches that combine to create a deliciously textured piece.

Now that I’ve actually done the design work, I can’t wait to cast on for the fifth (and hopefully final) time.  My Excel chart is pretty straightforward (since I only used basic stitches, the dashes, slashes, and o’s the standard font sufficed). But before I even began filling it in, I formatted the cells to match my swatch’s stitch width to stitch length ratio as closely as possible. After all, if I was going to make my own DIY knitting graph paper, I might as well customize it. Setting up my spreadsheet to match my gauge really helped me envision my pattern as it would look knitted up. Here’s how I did it:

DIY Knitting Graph Paper

  1. First you need to figure out your stitch and row gauge, so work up a swatch, block, and measure. For this exercise, I’m assuming I have a gauge of 18 stitches and 24 rows per four inches.
  2. Divide the stitch gauge by the row gauge (e.g. 18/24 = .75). According to the math, the height of one row will be equal to 75 percent of one stitch width.
  3. Once you open your spreadsheet, click on the “view” tab on the excel menu bar. In the workbook views section, highlight “page layout.” This will allow you to see your cell height and width in inches.

4. In the upper left-hand corner of your spreadsheet, you’ll see a rectangular button with a shaded triangle inside of it. Select this                  button to highlight your entire spreadsheet.

5. Click on the “Home” tab on the excel menu bar, and in the cells section, click on “format.” A drop-down menu will appear.

6. Select the “column width” option. A dialog box will pop up. Here you can enter your default column width. I chose .2 inches.

7. Once you’ve set your column width, you’ll multiply this measurement by the percentage you got in step 2                                              (per my example : .2 x.75 = .15)

8. In the cell format drop-down menu, select “row height” and change the row height to the result you get after completing the above            step (.15″ for me).

That’s it! Now you have knitting graph paper that perfectly matches your gauge.

* Before you print out your graph paper, make sure you’ve checked off the “print” box for gridlines. You can find this option in the Page Layout tab under “sheet options.” You can also add darker lines to help you keep better count by formatting every fifth column and every fifth row to have one side border.

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  4. Design Diary: Learning Knitwear Design with Craftsy
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