In the fashion world these are called technical flats, and they are drawn as a finished garment, flattened out. Accompanying the tech-flat or schematics are crucial measurements in some form. In the knitting world they are usually drawn to show the finished knitted piece(s) and are called schematics and the measurements are shown on the schematic itself. At the end of this post are some links for fashion technical flats.
I usually advise knitters to not use patterns without schematics? Why do I think they are so important? Below I lay out the the Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? For several years I taught a class called Pre-Production at FIDM. The class teaches the skills needed to measure accurately, to draw a digital flat drawing to scale, and create full tech packs (they are usually about 10 to 12 pages long) in both Excel and using a Gerber platform.
They are usually provided by the publisher and/or designer. If I submit a design to a magazine I am required to provide a schematic and relevant measurements. Most publishers create their own version using whatever software they prefer. The raw data comes from the designer and is confirmed by the tech editor. Someone makes the drawing and it is not always required that the designer provide a digital version. When I am the publisher (Jill Wolcott Knits) then I make the schematic and add the measurements, which are reviewed by a tech editor. At the recommendation of my tech editor, I now usually put the direction of knitting in each piece.
A schematic is a visual rendering of the pieces of the garment or item, accompanied by measurements. If a piece is knit in the round, the schematic should show the piece as a full, circular piece. If pieces are knit flat, then each piece should be represented separately.
This gets a little tricky, because sometimes pieces are picked up and added to another piece, and other times a piece may go from flat to in-the-round or in-the-round to flat. How the schematic represents is decided by the publisher.
At Jill Wolcott Knits I do pieces as they are knit, so if they have a seaming stitch, the measurement for the piece will be slightly larger than it will be in the garment (width of piece less seaming stitches). If a piece is knit in-the-round, then the schematic should show measurements identical to the finished measurements. I have started showing picked up pieces as part of the piece, using a different line (dashed) to show that it is not part of the original piece.
Just as a note, in technical design knitted pieces are measured flat and the measurement is doubled because it isn’t realistic to measure a piece accurately in the round when the piece has flexibility/stretch.
Schematics provide a visual representation of what the knitted piece should look like. It is my belief that given the amount of time needed to create something with yarn and needles, it will be most helpful to the knitter know what the final shape will look like as well as it’s dimensions. Schematics and measurements allow the knitter to keep track of their progress and check their results against the information given. It also allows modifications to be made. I do not believe this information is accessible in the same way from a photograph.
Fashion Parallel. In fashion, an entire packet of information (called a tech pack) is provided along with the technical flat that sets out measurements, stitching, trimmings, labels, details, packaging–everything that the manufacturer will need to know to create the final piece. There are a number of stages to this process where this information is accumulated and refined. Since most of our fashion is made in a different location than where it is designed (different department, different building, different city, different country), this is a crucial method of communicating important information. Measurements and technical drawings are more easily understood than descriptions or words.
In any world, this is not the most favored part of the process! It may be the most important. Technical designers (who make tech packs) are often paid more than designers. I know that when I am putting the information in my schematics I often find things I have overlooked.
Inside a pattern! Most knitwear designers don’t put the schematic where you can see it before you pay for the pattern. In Jill Wolcott Knits patterns I usually put the schematics on the last page(s) of the pattern so they are easy to find. Magazines and books have schematics within their pages, or as part of a download.
Does everything need a schematic? Do you make one for a scarf? A shawl? A hat? For gloves? Mittens?
I would argue yes, everything should get one. I am probably in the minority on this. I think that my belief may be based somewhat on my ability to create schematics, while others’ opinion may be because it is not something they can do as readily.
I learned to draw technical flats by hand when I went to design school. There are classes online for creating them in Illustrator (which is what I use and what most of the fashion industry uses), and I think you may find instructions for doing similar work in other vector drawing programs online. Here is a class for doing them by hand, which is often the first step to doing them digitally.
Not every knitwear designer can draw or knows how to create these drawings, and I wonder if that impacts the use of them. If you cannot draw them you must rely on someone else to do so, or you can learn to do them, but that takes time and may involve software/program costs. This had me laying awake the other night wondering about the cost/benefit analysis of schematics, even if I believe they should always be given. I did not come up with a satisfactory answer. From my perspective, it seems reasonable that every designer provide them, but I can certainly see the hurdles to doing so.
How I Do It. I can create a schematic for one piece in a short period of time–say 15 to 30 minutes. The initial drawing may take that little time, but I find that as details are added to it, the time spent on it racks up to more like an hour or two. Because I create the schematics in Illustrator, I can often pull up something I’ve already done, and revise it, which might take less time. This is the beauty of digital over hand drawn!
Then I have to add the measurements and other information I want to include. Add another 30 minutes to an hour. Fortunately I love doing these and, having drawn them by hand for many years, I know how much better they are done digitally. Additionally, Illustrator is an expensive software/program option.
Schematics: Useful Links
I found these using a search engine. I have no affiliation with any of them and have not done more than take a look at them. I am now considering doing a Skillshare class specifically on doing Illustrator sketches for knitwear, so if that interests you, let me know.
Technical Drawing for Fashion (book: $35)
As always, I relish hearing what you think! Don’t hesitate to send me an email.