Saturday 9 February 2019

Why I Write My Patterns and Lay Them Out in LaTeX

Today's @yarnlovechallenge prompt is Draft, so I thought I would talk a little bit about my workflow here. If you are interested in any of the things I write about below, please get in touch via email

Separate Calculations from Text

Screenshot of pattern development workflow
I write my patterns and grade them at the same time.

But I keep them separate while working on them.

The numbers, including stitch counts, measurements, and yarn requirements are in a spreadsheet, and I have code that import the numbers into my pattern.

This means that I always have a one true source, and I never get them confused while changing stuff, and it saves me a great deal of time I would otherwise spend on checking.

Inspect Code, Not Output  

Screenshot of my editing workflow

I do not like visually inspecting things to see if it was done correctly, because my spatial skills are deficient. I cannot tell if the font size is correct by looking at it, but I can read my code and see if I formatted it correctly.

Program My Diagrams  

Screen grab from Australian Under Wrap

I am no artist, and struggling with spatial stuff means that I do not feel confident with drawing at all, whether with pen and paper or digitally.

In LaTeX, I use the TikZ library to develop my diagrams. I write some code, compile it, and I can reason about my code versus what was compiled, and iterate until it is perfect.

I can also reuse my code. It can be really awesome for modular designs, because you can perform shifts, flips, and rotations with math rather than drag and drop.

LaTeX Makes Sensible Decisions For Me 

I do not have any experience doing layouts or things like that, beyond being frustrated by Word or Powerpoint.

By using existing libraries, I can rely on decisions made by someone else who has thought long and hard about how to make documents look good, without giving up control of the document. I can still muck around and change stuff, but so far, most of the time the defaults look quite professional.

Reusing Text 

Screenshot from Australian Under Wrap

Even though I am just starting out, I find that there there are many chunks of text I would like to re-use across patterns, particularly in the Techniques and Abbreviations section that most patterns have.

I have put together a separate file that I use across patterns, so that my text for things like how to do different cast-offs remain the same. And, should I come up with a better way to write something, I can update all of them with a simple script to recompile all the patterns for me.

It was really useful when I was obsessing over my bio section too.

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