sequencing a pattern

A lot of time, effort, and love goes into sequencing a yoga class and writing a stitching pattern.

A lot of time, effort, and love goes into sequencing a yoga class and writing a stitching pattern.

These last several weeks, I’ve been outlining my Stitch & Stretch workshop (next Saturday’s the day!). I planned the layout of the workshop, trimmed the information waaaay down (I think I could talk for eight solid hours about stitching and stretching!), and identified the elements to incorporate. 

Not knowing if the participants that will attend the workshop will have ever practiced yoga before, I wanted to create a beginner-friendly sequence that would address problem areas for stitchers, while keeping with the theme of relaxation. I also wanted to keep it relatively short, so that it is approachable and easily factored into a busy day. It has brought me back to the days where I used to plan several classes a week (when I taught in a studio as well as a rehabilitation center). It’s also made me think about how similar planning a yoga class seems to writing a stitching pattern.

I’ll tell you this much: I know nothing about how to write a stitching pattern! I know it takes a lot of skill, creativity, vision and experience to even begin such an undertaking. Below are some of the steps I imagine must be considered to write a pattern.

Identify Materials Needed

As far as yoga goes, identifying materials could be as simple as: one yoga mat. But, depending on the type of practice or poses, or the level and preferences of the student, the materials list can be a lot longer. It could include things like a strap, blocks, a bolster, an eye pillow, a blanket. You may even want to include an optional item like a towel (for those hot, sweaty types of yoga) or a water bottle. Not necessary per se, but maybe preferred. 

For knitting, the materials I know you need off hand are needles and yarn! Identifying what types of needles and yarn needed would have a lot to do with the type of project it is. For instance, perhaps you’re writing a pattern for a summer top. You wouldn’t want to use super bulky wool, but rather a light fingering linen, cotton, or blend. The needles are basically determined by the yarn choice and construction, so perhaps you try swatching with a couple different sizes to see which tension you like the best and then suggest the type (straight, DPN or circular) that you feel would best support the process. As far as suggested materials on knitting patterns go, I’ve seen things like: stitch markers, waste yarn, row counter, measuring tape, tapestry needle and scissors.

Glossary of Terms

I will admit that I have never seen a glossary of yoga terms on a wall in the practice space for practitioners to reference while they practice, but the specific terminology that may be new or confusing to first time students is usually described, or identified in an understandable way. For instance, a teacher may say, “Now start your ujjayi breath.” If there’s a new student in the class (and sometimes as a benefit to long time practitioners), the teacher would typically describe what that breath technique is, how it should feel and sound, and perhaps some of the benefits of its application.

In knitting, I am so grateful when patterns have a glossary of terms and notes about how to perform anything out of the ordinary! Although I sometimes still have to YouTube the technique to see it being performed in real time, I really, really, really appreciate the confusing bits described in written form as well. If I were to write a pattern, I'd definitely include one of these. 

Construction

During yoga training, we learned several ways to construct a yoga sequence. Once it has been determined what type of class it will be and if there will be a theme, or challenge poses, to practice, then its a matter of filling in the blanks. A typical 60 minute class will have an identifiable warm-up, middle section (to work the bulk of poses that may be a progression to a challenge pose), and cool-down. 

When I look at it that way, a sequence very closely resembles how a knitting pattern is written. Usually, there is a cast on of some sorts, and then some set-up rows, the ‘warm-up’ if you will. Then, in the bulk of the work there may be a progression to a more challenging bit, or sometimes you get the challenging bit over at the beginning and the bulk of the work is easy breezy. (I’m looking at you, lace-bordered Tegna!) The finishing techniques and cast off are akin to the cool-down in yoga. And the feelings of accomplishment and joy once finished (both the class and the pattern)? Those are the inherent side effects! 

Testing

In order to teach a yoga sequence, I think it is important to test the sequence. That could be as simple as practicing it a couple of times leading up to the class you’re teaching, or even asking a friend or family member to test it out. Sometimes you’ll find that everything just works, other times, you’ll probably tweak it a little. Either way - valuable feedback is to be gained when testing your sequence. 

I absolutely know that pattern designers have their patterns tested before they release them to the greater community because I have been a test knitter on more than one occasion. Similarly to yoga sequencing, there are some patterns that just make sense right off the bat, while others need a tweak here or there. Designers are always sooo appreciative to their test knitters because of the helpful commentary. 

Release

It’s fascinating teaching a sequence to students. Sometimes, no matter how much time you’ve spent constructing it, testing it, practicing it yourself, describing all of the terminology in great detail, there still may be some confused faces out there. Other times, a sequence can work so well that you file it under amazing and break it back out every now and then, or use it as a basis to create other equally incredible sequences. 

I think the same must go for patterns. Some patterns are the perfect blend of challenging, engaging, meditative, and fun. Others can be a little more tedious, or difficult to understand, or may not look great on. When it works, you can reuse your construction or styling, and when it doesn’t work perhaps you modify it to find out where it missed the mark. Either way, you learn, you celebrate, and you feel pretty darn good about the gift you've had the opportunity to share. 

I know that sooo much more goes into writing a knitting pattern, as it does for yoga sequencing. But at first blush, these two creative pursuits seem to have a lot in common. What do you think? Do you do either or both? Do they feel similar to you? Should I apply these principles and have a go at writing a pattern some day? Some days I feel it's totally plausible that I could write a pattern, other days I think it way out of my league, but I guess that's all a part of the process!

As always, grateful for your company as I explore the thread between my two favorite things...