Book Review – Pattern Writing for Knit Designers, by Kate Atherley

Pattern Writing for Knit Designers (everything you didn’t know you needed to know)

Serenity Now!

The quality of mercy may not be strained, but the quality of a knitting pattern can make the difference between a heavenly or hellish knitting experience. It’s no fun working on a project if the instructions are confusing, the layout is illogical, the photos misleading or there’s no schematic. Conversely, a beautifully laid out, clearly written pattern that makes sense and has an overall “flow” along with pretty photos that show the details of a project will go a long way to making knitting the relaxing and rewarding occupation it should be.

When I started writing up my own patterns, I wanted my work to look professional so I studied the patterns of my favorite designers to get inspired by their layouts, language, fonts, photos, charts, white space, etc. but didn’t really know the reasons why those aspects are so important. As a fledgling designer, I can’t afford to hire a tech editor or graphic designer so I really want to learn how to translate my designs myself into patterns that really work.

My search is over! 

I have been rescued by Kate Atherley and her new book, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers. It explains in clear, step-by-step detail everything designers need to know, including, as the book’s subtitle says, what they didn’t know they needed to know. I snapped up the e-book the moment it was published and read it from cover-to-cover almost before the ink on the PayPal invoice had dried.

Who is this book for?

Everyone, from newbie to experienced designer, can benefit from Pattern Writing for Knit Designers. Whether you want to learn to write patterns from the ground up or you’re an old hand who wants to add polish to your patterns, this book is for you.

As Kate describes it, “this book specifically addresses the details of how to create complete, clear and easy-to-use knitting patterns, for any type of design, and for any level of knitter.”

What will you learn?

There is a LOT of genius information in this 162-page book. Some of the topics include:

  • what information needs to be included in a knitting pattern
  • how to properly and clearly communicate sizing and measurement information
  • what schematics are, why you need them, and how to create them
  • how to use charts and written instructions to express special pattern stitches like cables and lace
  • stitch nomenclature (especially related to cables), abbreviations, and glossaries
  • how to handle multiple sizes and versions
  • use of brackets and * to indicate repeats
  • how to establish a personal style sheet

Practical Information Galore!

Every chapter is loaded with a ton of practical information. One example is Chapter 2: “The Actual Knitting Instructions”. It explains in detail how to use consistency in language, style and formatting, includes fun “pop quizzes” that illustrate how instructions can be improved and outlines the importance of developing a personal style sheet.

There isn’t a single chapter in this book that I will not apply to my work immediately. Kate explores every topic in detail and explains not just the “how” but also the “why” of each process. Nuggets of sage advice from other experts are included throughout the book along with real-life knitters’ perspectives on patterns.

A truly invaluable resource, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers belongs in every designer’s arsenal.

What are you waiting for? Buy it now!

You can read more about Kate and purchase Pattern Writing for Knit Designers on her website at  (You’ll also find info there about purchasing the book from Patternfish and Webs.)

Full disclosure: I am not related to Kate nor have we ever met. I’m just a big fan and love awesome books that teach me stuff I’m dying to know! 

Happy knitting and designing y’all!


Book Review – WHO KILLED MOM?

Who Killed Mom?: A Delinquent Son’s Meditations on Family, Mortality and Very Tacky Candles, by Steve Burgess

The best book you’ll read all year

Steve Burgess, where have you been all my life? I feel like you are my long-lost brother from a parallel universe and instead of a dysfunctional family like mine (think The Corrections, without the coffee cans of urine), you had pretty decent parents with relatively high-functioning siblings. I “get” everything in Who Killed Mom? I’ve seen how hard a Mom can work for her family and how loved she was. I recognized so much of myself and my five brothers and sisters in it. In fact, I’m a little mad at you because I feel like when I write my life story, people might think it a rip off of yours! I totally “get” your humour and laughed my head off so many times, except for the parts that made me weep. But even then, I would start laughing again soon after so I was never down for long.

Not your average family memoir

Who Killed Mom? is not a murder mystery as the title might suggest nor is it one of those family memoirs where three-year olds almost burn the house down because they had to cook their own hot dogs (The Glass Castle). It’s not about enduring an impoverished childhood with a psychologically abusive father who was emotionally unavailable and unrepentant to this death and the mom who moved heaven and earth to keep everything from falling apart. (You’ll have to wait for my memoir to read that story). No, this is a beautifully written, very moving and often hilarious story about the life and death of a little red-headed prairie girl who grew up to become a remarkable woman who married a great guy and raised a big family. It’s a treatise on life, death, family and true love and every word spoke to me.

A Bookclub favourite

I read this with my bookclub (write to Steve at his website and tell him you want a “bookclub in a box” and have him make a personal appearance) and we all loved it to bits. And not just because there he was, all 6’4” of him, sitting in the living room with us, eating Barbara’s yummy food, making us laugh so hard we’d cry. We loved it because nothing beats a great story well told. And if you don’t love it too, there must be something very, very wrong with you.

Thanks for the memories

People who survived dysfunctional families often have a hard time remembering the good parts.  Bad memories have a way of overshadowing the good bits.  One of my favourite things about Who Killed Mom? is that it reminded me of the many happy times in my childhood and what a wonderful, smart and complicated person my own mother was and how much I miss her.  For instance, Steve writes of the magical year when he had his mom to himself all day while the older kids were at school.  I was reminded that I too had such a year and it was heaven on earth. Sometimes we’d go downtown to Woodward’s where we’d sit at the counter in the restaurant, she with her cup of coffee and cigarette and me stirring a spoonful of sugar into an Orange Crush. I’d swing my legs and swivel on the stool and we’d just talk and talk. Thank you, Steve, for letting me remember that anew.

Oh, more than just a memoir

Who Killed Mom? is a family memoir, but it’s also a very revealing portrait of Steve Burgess himself. As the subtitle tells you, there is indeed some high-octane delinquency and he’s as honest in his portrayal of himself as he is with his Mom and Dad. It’s obvious that he loves his parents very much but the story never gets sentimental. By the end of the book, you’ll feel like you’ve known these people your whole life. As my sister Nancy likes to say:

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll become a part of you.

Just buy it for chrissakes!

Anyone who has ever been born needs to read Who Killed Mom?. There is just no excuse otherwise. Go to Amazon or Chapters/Indigo now and order copies for everyone you know. It’s also available as an ebook on Kindle and Kobo.

BOOK REVIEW – Little Red in the City

Want to knit a sweater that actually fits?

I’m just going to say it: Little Red in the City is simply awesome.  The book contains patterns for 7 ultra pretty sweaters but what it’s actually about is fit and technique.  Anyone who can knit can make a sweater, but if you really want a perfect fit and loads of compliments, no matter what your size, following Scottish knitting guru Ysolda Teague’s dead-easy instructions is the key.

Ysolda’s six simple steps to successful sweaters
Learn these simple steps can be applied to practically anything you knit:
  • Yarn Selection – choose wisely and avoid unnecessary frogging
  •  Swatching – world’s greatest time-saver
  •  Taking Measurements (come on, be honest!)
  •  Choosing Your Right Size
  •  Creating the Perfect Fit (contented sigh…)
  •  Blocking – it ain’t over til it’s blocked
Knitting how-to’s that add polish
These easy to follow techniques will transform your knitting:
  • provisional cast on (easy-peasy lemon-squeezy)
  • tubular cast on (this will change your life)
  • three (yup, count ‘em, three) short row methods
  • one-row buttonholes (two rows is so yesterknit)

Who should buy Little Red in the City?

Obviously Ysolda can see into my soul and wrote this book just for me. But since each pattern is available in up to 17 sizes with bust sizes ranging from 28-60”, knitters from beginner to expert of any size or shape who want gorgeous sweaters and to learn new skills from a knitting goddess will adore Little Red in the City as much as I do.

My favorite sweater pattern – Chickadee-dee-dee

All 7 patterns are delightful, and I especially love Cria’s pockets and ingenious seamless set-in sleeves, but the sweater that chirps my name the loudest is Chickadee.  Any cardigan that combines cute little birdies with top-down seamless construction sets my heart a-flutter.

Chickadee – a little birdie told me to knit this cardigan
Cria – a garter and stocking stitch delight
Where to buy Little Red in the City?

Little Red in the City is available through or your LYS.  I found mine while holidaying in Chicago at Loopy Yarns.  Or you can order the book directly from Ysolda’s site for £20 (or £17 for the digital version only).

Bonus e-book

The hard copy of the book includes a unique code to redeem for a complimentary download of the pdf e-book.  Be sure to log in to your Ravelry account before you redeem and the e-book will be filed directly into your library.

There is no good reason NOT to own this book – no one can resist the genius of Ysolda.  Buy it now – you won’t regret it.

Happy knitting!



The sock-knitting book you’ve been dreaming of

It’s finally here: Sock Knitting Master Class, Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers published by Interweave Press. It’s another instant classic by best-selling author Ann Budd and it’s definitely worth the wait. This time around she has collaborated with 15 other top designers to produce 17 stunning new sock patterns, all of which beautifully incorporate the signature elements and techniques each designer is famous for.

Contributing Designers

Devoted knitters will recognize the work of these master knitters:

  • Cookie A.
  • Kathryn Alexander
  • Véronik Avery
  • Cat Bordhi
  • Nancy Bush
  • Evelyn A. Clark
  • Chrissy Gardiner
  • Priscilla Gibson-Roberts
  • Anne Hanson
  • Eunny Jang
  • Melissa Morgan-Oakes
  • Deborah Newton
  • Clara Parks
  • Meg Swanson
  • Anna Zilboorg
  • and of course, Ann Budd herself

The patterns in Sock Knitting Master Class are divided into two main categories:

  • top-down
  • toe-up

Within each construction type, you’ll find:

  • lace
  • cables
  • stranded colourwork
  • slip stitches and
  • twisted or travelling stitches.
I’m drawn to squishy textures like cables and lace and my personal faves from the book are Melissa Morgan-Oakes’ Terpander (which I’ve cast on already), Cookie A.’s Asymmetrical Cables and Ann Budd’s Mock Cables and Lace:
Cookie A’s Asymmetrical Cables

Terpander socks by Melissa Morgan-Oates

Mock Cables and Lace – Ann Budd







Everything you need to know about sock knitting

In addition to how-tos for the various cast-ons/bind-offs (including the brilliant Judy’s Magic Cast-On and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off), there are chapters on mastering the elements of good design: fit, comfort, yarn and gauge, needle choice, heels, toes and aesthetics. To borrow a quote from a recent KnitPicks podcast, this book makes me want to drop everything and knit something from it right now!

Why should you buy it?

What sets Sock Knitting Master Class apart from other knitting books is that it’s perfect for newbies or intermediate knitters and anyone in between. If all you want are gorgeous new patterns, look no further. If you want knitting instruction, that’s here too.  Beginners can learn about socks from the ground up and the adventurous will be inspired to pull up their socks and take their knitting to the next level. Everything you could possibly want to know about knitting and designing socks is in Sock Knitting Master Class. Helpful insider design tips and notes accompany each pattern, including yarn suggestions and tips on how to customize to suit your preferences.

Oooh, there’s even a DVD included!

The book includes a bonus 95-minute instructional DVD in which Ann Budd brings Sock Knitting Master Class to life by discussing and demonstrating tips and techniques, including cast-ons and bind-offs, which can be difficult to learn “off the page”. It’s very easy to skip ahead chapter-by-chapter on the DVD if you want to pick and choose topics. It’s not necessary to watch the entire presentation if you only want to see a specific technique demonstrated.

To paraphrase, this is the best sock book that has been published so far. That is all. Go buy it.  I couldn’t agree more. After all, it’s what you’ve been dreaming of.