The Pleasures (and Perils) of Free Patterns


This Baby Yoda Sweater is a great example of a popular free pattern on Ravelry


A significant amount of what I do during our never ending knitting classes at KnitTraders is not so much instruction in techniques or skills of knitting, but instead is pattern interpretation.

Historically there has been little to no standardization within the industry so one yarn company may use one set of abbreviations and another may use quite different ones, even in describing the same stitch pattern. Add to that the fact that patterns are often translated from other languages, sometimes expertly and sometimes not and the possibilities for frustration, especially among new knitters mount.

Sometimes patterns are poorly written, unclear and not infrequently just plain wrong.  And most frequently when we encounter these sorts of problems it is in a pattern which someone has downloaded for free off the internet.

Let me say two things straight off – There are some absolutely wonderful sources of free patterns, and we’re going to talk about those in a moment.  Equally we occasionally encounter a paid for or published hard-copy pattern that is full of oddity and error, though fortunately that is a rarity.

So where can you find good, free patterns?  Yarn companies are a great place to start – nearly all of them will list a website on their ball-bands or tags and many of those have patterns.  Because it’s in the interest of the yarn company for you to have a successful experience working with their yarns and patterns they will have taken the time to edit and test their patterns.  Some of these sites will require you to sign up to view patterns but they’re still free.

The first, biggest and most established of the free online knitting magazines is Knitty.  It has been around for nearly 14 years, and it’s latest issue published last week.  All of their back issues are online and easy to search through.  Patterns for everything from socks to hats to baby things.  Because they are supported by advertising, they’re able to provide high quality, tech edited patterns for free.  Editor in chief Amy and technical editor Kate are both based in Toronto – practically neighbours.

The waters get a little less clear when we begin to look at designers themselves.  Many independent designers offer free patterns for smaller items or early in their careers while they are trying to establish themselves.  There are literally thousands of these patterns out there.  So how do you tell the good from the not so good?

Quite easily, as it turns out.  The answer is Ravelry.  Type the name of your pattern into the search box on the patterns page of Ravelry and see what comes up.  You will be able to see how many of your fellow crafters have made the pattern (more is usually better) and have a look at their projects and read their comments.  If a pattern has serious issues it usually becomes apparent pretty quickly.  If a known problem with a pattern has been fixed, that information is also included on the Pattern Details page in Ravelry.

So with all these free patterns out there, why would you ever buy a pattern again?  Well for lots of great reasons, but that’s another post for another day.

Autumn is surely knitting season and your knitting time is valuable, a high quality pattern, free or paid, makes that knitting time more likely to be relaxed and productive, which is what we all hope for.


Talk to you again soon,

Alana Baig

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  • can you make a ‘baby’ yoda’ sweater to fit a “woman of a certain age”? Like a “woman-of-a-certain-age yoda” sweater, I guess?