Part Two: Drawing the Design

This is part two of a three part tutorial series in which I am going to teach you how to create knitting schematics with Inkscape, a free vector editing program. These are the technical drawings that go with your knitting or crochet designs. They give the people who are making the pattern idea of how everything should measure up.

Part One Introduction to Inkscape and basic tools

Part Two How to draw the outline of your design

Part Three How to add measurements

If you have never used a vector editing program before, you should go to part one before reading this tutorial and learn to use the tools. This part of the tutorial will show you how to trace a photograph you have taken of your design to create the outline for your schematic, and will briefly touch on free-handing (which is often the best solution.)

Tracing a Photograph

One way of drawing your design in a vector program is to trace a photograph of the finished object. This works really well if you’re not super confident in your spacial relations. You don’t have to do any guesswork when it comes to proportions–you just have to trace a photo.

It’s best to use a photo of your object laid flat and spread out. If you are creating a schematic of your design pre-assembly (as might be the case when you are knitting a sweater with seams as opposed to one that is knit in a single piece) pictures of your work mid-blocking are perfect. Keep in mind that if you ARE drawing schematics for multiple pieces, you will need to follow these directions for each piece. (It’s up to you if you want to do separate drawings for similar pieces or not. Sometimes I will layer back and front pieces into the same schematic if, say, the neckline is the only thing that differs, and then indicate the difference with differently shaded necklines.)

These photos don’t have to be beautiful pictures you’re using for marketing, they should just be accurate representations of what the design looks like flat that you can portray measurements on easily.

To start, go ahead and open up Inkscape and go to File > Import.


Select the photograph you wish to use and open it up in the program.


A dialogue box will pop up, go ahead and select “embed” and click OK.


Now go to Object > Fill and Stroke. We’re going to turn the Opacity of our photo down so that it’s easier to see what we’re doing when we trace over it. Using the opacity slider, turn the image down to somewhere around 30-50%–you want to be able to clearly see the outline of what you’re tracing, but you also want it to be pretty light.


Now select your Bezier Tool and begin tracing HALF of the finished object (assuming your design is something symmetrical. If it is not symmetrical, then trace the whole thing.) Trace it roughly with straight lines–don’t worry about any curved edges at this point. Try to keep your outline as simple as you can while giving an idea of the overall shape. Add as many points as make sense to suggest the outline, but don’t go crazy– this is a technical drawing, after all. And don’t worry if something ends up a little wonky, we’ll edit our points to make it look nicer in a second.


Slide the opacity on your image down to 0%. You can slide it back up later when you need to reference it, but for this part we don’t want the distraction.


Select your** [F2]** Edit Paths tool, and start dragging points around so that they look less jagged.


Don’t forget that you can** [ctrl+click]** various points to make them rounder and you can drag lines out to make things look smoother. You can also delete points that are unnecessary to the outline.



Once your half-object looks pretty good, we’re going to create the other half. Click on the object so it is selected and press [ctrl] **+ **[D] to duplicate it.


Then press [H] to flip it horizontally. Voila, you have all you need to make a nicely symmetrical schematic.



Drag this object over so that it connects to your first half. Now select both objects with your [F2] Edit Paths tool. We’re going to combine the points that are in the middle so that we have one object. To do this, drag a box so that you select both of the points that are at the middle of the neck.


Now press [shift] + [J] to join these nodes together. I usually delete this joined node, but you can decide whether or not the point is important to you. Do the same thing with the nodes at the bottom.


Now it comes time to continue tweaking your outline so that it looks more and more like your finished object–add whatever details make sense to your design. You can always turn the opacity back up on your original image if you get stuck on what goes where: You don’t want TOO much details, but anything that helps to show pertinent aspects of your design are good to include.


Don’t forget that you can turn down the opacity of any of your objects. I often put in lines to denote where certain design elements go, and then turn down the opacity so that they aren’t as prominent as the more important outlines. For this sweater, I wanted to show the drop shoulder line as well as where the ribbing ends.

I also thought it was important for this design to show the collar and button placket. I put a little note in place to show what edge gets sewn down, because I thought the written instructions for this could be confusing.


Remember how in part one we messed with start and end markers? Arrows are great ways to portray information.



I realized that I drew the collar backwards from how it actually is in the design, so I did a little detailed editing. Just like you can join nodes together with [shift] + [J] **you can break nodes apart with **[shift] + [B]. This is incredibly useful for when you need to get rid of lines or sections of paths.


It’s also really useful to know that if you Double Click somewhere on a path with your [F2] Edit Paths tool, it will add a point. If you add a node in the middle of a segment, break it apart, and then delete a node you can remove a section of a line.


Keep messing with your outline until you have a schematic that shows the general outline and any important details of your design. Keep in mind what measurements you are ultimately going to put into your schematic and what information you need to portray graphically for those measurements to make sense.

Once you’re done you can select the whole thing by dragging a box around it, and then resize it as needed.


Free-handing a Schematic

So now that I’ve shown you how I traced a picture for this schematic, I’ll tell you that I decided not to use that particular schematic for that pattern. The reason was because the picture I used wasn’t actually the best one for portraying this particular sweater–Even though the picture was a lot more visually pleasing because of how the sweater was hanging, it is a lot easier to portray measurement information with a schematic that looks like the one below:


It’s easier to put measurements on this drawing, and better shows how you would actually block the sweater. Since directions in pattern generally say to “block pattern to schematic measurements,” it’s helpful if the schematic looks like the blocking, yes? Yes.

The great thing about free-handing schematics is that you can really control the way you portray the information you think is most important for knitting the design, and you can also control how much space is around the schematic so you can fit measurements in there.

The basic technique for free handing is exactly the same as above–draw half of the object, duplicate and flip it, and then change details based on the design. I generally free-hand my schematics MOST of the time because it ends up being quicker and (believe it or not) more accurate.

Keep in mind proportions are not the most important aspect of your drawing. Don’t ignore them entirely, but don’t worry too much about it being perfect. It’s impossible to be totally accurate with proportions when it comes to most knitting schematics because the proportions of most garments’ small sizes versus big sizes are completely different. (For baby sweaters, the length varies a lot more than the width, particularly with sleeves. For adult sweaters, it tends to be the opposite.)

It is far more important to focus on putting accurate measurements that clearly relate to a given part of a design, that way even if someone is making an XXL sweater from the schematic you based on a size S sweater, they know that their knitting it to the right measurement.