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Deep Dive: Cartecay Cowl

I published my first stranded knitting pattern: the Cartecay Cowl. I’m incredibly proud of this design – it’s graphic, modern, and looks like something I’d personally pick out at a clothing store. My hunch is that if I feel that way, you might, too!
The design started with a few basic sketches in Photoshop, with this one being the final (digital) sketch before I started knitting. The actual cowl design differs even from the final sketch – it morphed into a lined cowl with a different colorwork pattern – but it was the launching point.


Then I shopped for yarn. I chose a couple of jewel tones for fall, with neutral grays to balance them out. To estimate how much yarn would be required to knit the cowl, I used a spreadsheet that calculated the numbers based on the yarn’s stated gauge and dimensions of the finished piece. I scored Cloudborn Highland Sport yarn at WEBS.
yarn jewel tones
Because the yarn arrived in hanks, I had to wind them into cakes to make them usable for knitting. Winding yarn is really enjoyable, and the finished cake looks like a piece of art!
yarn cakes
Making gauge swatches was also satisfying because it was the first time seeing how the yarn worked up on the needles. After I knit them, I soaked and blocked them just as I would the actual cowl. I made two swatches before I was satisfied with the needle size and drape of the fabric.



Next, I grabbed my sketchbook and started drafting the pattern. Most of the pattern writing takes place here and I’d love to show you more, since pencil and paper are my favorites, but then I’d be giving away the pattern. 😉 So, here’s another preliminary sketch I drew. Mechanical pencils are the best.

I also initially charted the pattern on 2:3 ratio graph paper with pencil, made available in the The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge by Debbie Bliss. This book was instrumental when I was first learning to knit, and I often refer back to it when I can’t remember how to perform a specific technique.

knitters book of knowledge


Once everything was written down, I knit the sample. Being the first to knit the pattern lets me iron out the wrinkles the best I can.


Next came a photoshoot, where I modeled the cowl so knitters can see what it looks like on a real person. Chad and I spent a few days unwinding by the Cartecay river in Ellijay, GA, where the photos were taken (and the cowl got its name). Chad was patient to take photos, while I did the photo editing.

Final Details

Once I was confident the pattern was the best I could make it, I typed it into a Google doc and shared it with my tech editor, Dori. (BTW – she’s a professional knitter and designs patterns herself under the name Fitter Knitter.) Dori and I had a few rounds of back and forth as she made suggestions for improvement. After I made edits, I dropped it into my graphics software for layout, which basically means I made the pattern document pretty. 😊 We went through another round for the layout and, when it had Dori’s blessing, it moved on to the next phase: testing.

I made a call for testers, who knitted from the official pattern document for the first time. They each chose yarn in their own colors and knit samples, making sure everything in the pattern was understandable and error-free. In short, they were an invaluable quality assurance team! After testing was complete, I updated the document for errors found during testing and sent it back to Dori for one last look before the final phase: publishing.

During publishing is when I built the website pattern listings, built a special promotion for the release, wrote this blog post and sent out my newsletter. (Tip: if you’re wondering how I remember to do all-the-things, I use Trello to manage tasks.) Now…the pattern’s out in the world! 🎉

Publishing a pattern requires a *lot* of steps from beginning to end. There are micro-steps involved in each phase that I didn’t mention, including extra conversations, giving feedback on testers, and sharing on social media.

I hope this inside look at the making and publishing of the Cartecay cowl was interesting and helpful.

If you’d like to knit it, download the pattern by clicking here and share photos of your finished cowl!

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