Category Archives: Community

On accessibility – guest post by Kate Atherley

There’s been a lot of discussion recently in the knitting world about accessibility. It’s a broad topic, and we know we can’t possibly address all concerns or answer all questions, but there are few aspects that we wanted to talk about. We thought it was worthwhile to review some of the features in Stitchmastery that help when you’re considering accessibility in knitting patterns.

In particular, we want to address the published guidelines for “Low Vision” pattern layouts, and the use of screen readers.

A note: I’m using quotation marks around that phrase very specifically, as it is a phrase with a specific meaning in discussion of accessibility. In using it, I’m not making any statements about the knitters who might choose to use these types of pattern. Allow me to make a simple analogy: I often watch movies and television with the descriptive captions turned on, even though my hearing is relatively good. I find that it helps with comprehension, especially for things with particularly loud or busy soundtracks, or situations with actors who deliver their lines very quickly. A “Low Vision” pattern layout is, by design, cleaner and easier to read. In addition to being helpful to knitters with visual impairments or limited sight, some knitters may choose to use them simply because they prefer that cleaner layout.


The guidelines listed below are agreed upon by accessibility advocates, and the objective is to deliver an uncluttered and straightforward pattern that can easily be read on screen or on paper, by someone who has low or limited vision, or that can be read aloud by an automated screenreader. Some of the content guidelines are more relevant to screenreader use. They can be grouped into two categories: formatting, and content.

For formatting, the following standards are recommended:
1. Black text on white background, only.
2. Sans serif and mono-spaced fonts (Arial, for example) at 22-24 points in size.
3. Normal and bold text only, no italics.
4. Text must be left-justified, in a single column, and page margins should be set to 1 inch.
5. Line spacing: single or one and half spaces. A single space between paragraphs.
6. Page numbers should appear at the top or bottom left of a page.
7. Headers and footers should not contain important information. Automated screen-reader software can’t always deal with them.

On matters of content, consider the following:
1. If using images, captions should describe the image or technique shown. This includes schematics. If there’s a photo tutorial of a technique, provide detailed written instructions.
2. Abbreviations can be very problematic. Any abbreviations used in the pattern must be defined. Consider replacing abbreviations longer than a single letter with full words. A number of multi-letter abbreviations have more common, non-knitting equivalents: for example, many automated screen readers will see “st” and read that out as “street”.
3. Charts can be used, but full written instructions must also appear. For “Low Vision” layouts, make the charts and the keys as large as possible on the page.

Written instructions

On that last requirement: this means that if a chart appears, a pattern must also provide fully-written out instructions that are exactly the same. Stitchmastery’s Export to Text feature is, of course, very helpful for this. Do make sure you’re using the repeats correctly so that the Text matches the chart exactly. This blog post outlines how to do this:
Article on Repeats and brackets.

The Stitchmastery team are looking at adjustments to make it possible to turn off the automatic condensing of implicit repeats eg “(k1, p1) 5 times” in the output text, as some screenreaders struggle with information contained within brackets. It may be more user-friendly to edit your written instructions to spell these out.

Chart and key appearance and layout

In terms of visual appearance, Stitchmastery allows you to choose a clear font in your chart row/column labels; to specify the pixel size of your exported chart and to use a vector-graphic format (eg EPS or SVG) which will ensure the chart remains clear when scaled up; and to export key items individually so that you can arrange your pattern elements as you prefer. For example, if your pattern includes multiple charts which appear on separate pages, it may be helpful to include the relevant key items alongside each chart. Adding gridline highlighting and using colour to highlight specific stitches may also help with reading a chart. Some helpdesk articles that can help with these include:
Editing text fonts
Exporting to image
Choosing an image file type
Editing diagram properties (includes gridline highlighting)

Before publishing, consider getting a tester to work through a version of the pattern with the charts removed, and/or ask your tech editor to ensure that your pattern can be worked without referring to the charts.

Stitch abbreviations

The written content of the chart key is an important element of accessibility, too. For many stitches, the abbreviation only gets listed in the key – e.g. k2tog, ssk, etc. Each of those needs to be defined fully for the pattern to be considered accessible. As noted above, when considering accessibility, it’s often preferable to spell out those words in an abbreviation.

In some cases, in the key, the words in the stitch name are already spelled out. By default, Stitchmastery spells out “make 1 right” and “make 1 left” in the Key, rather than the fairly common abbreviations “m1r” and “m1l”.

The challenge with spelling out the words that correspond to knitting abbreviations is that sometimes the words are sufficient to provide the instructions, sometimes they’re not. For example, consider k2tog and p2tog. If we spell out the words in that abbreviation – knit two together, purl two together – we get instructions for how to do that thing. It’s clear, it’s unambiguous.

But other abbreviations aren’t so straightforward. Consider ssk. If you spell out the words, you get “slip, slip, knit”. The challenge is that the words seem to spell out instructions, but simply slipping two stitches and knitting a third does not produce a decrease as intended, not to mention that there’s no indication on how to slip those two stitches. Make sure that you’re including instructions for other stitches like these – ssp, yo, s2kpo are classic examples.

At least with “make 1 right” you’ll be forced to look it up if you don’t know it, there’s not even a suggestion of how it should be worked in those three words! CDD is another example of this type of stitch name. It stands for “centered double decrease”, which describes the result but not the steps to make it. This is not to say that these are bad stitches, or bad stitch names. Not at all! Just remember that if you’re going to use them, please also do remember to provide actual instructions for working. This is something else your testers and tech editor can help with: making sure all special stitches are not only spelled out, but actually properly defined.

Further information

If you’re a user of Ravelry, there is a group dedicated to accessibility and there’s some information and guidelines posted there – Accessible patterns group on Ravelry. Ravelry has an attribute you can set if the pattern adheres to their requirement list, which is explained in that group. This allows knitters to more easily find patterns that meet their needs.

For a more detailed explanation of accessibility, I strongly recommend visiting the website Accessible Patterns Index. This was established by two designers in North America, one of whom is visually impaired. It features a constantly-updated list of patterns that meet accessibility requirements, and designer and knitter Renne Van Hoy has posted a recording of a 45-minute class about making your patterns accessible. For USD$20, you get access to the e-course and accompanying written guidelines, and a free accessibility assessment of one of your patterns. And of course, if your pattern passes the test, make sure to get it added to the list.

Any thoughts?

If you have further suggestions, tips or insights to share, either about patterns in general, other sources of information, or things specific to Stitchmastery (either useful things it can do or you wish it could), then please get in touch via the comments box below. We moderate all comments so don’t worry if your post doesn’t appear immediately.

New help centre for Stitchmastery

For the past while we’ve been working on setting up a one-stop help centre on Zendesk, which now contains everything from our User Manual alongside relevant links to blog posts and videos, all with searchable tags. Anybody can post a comment to ask a question against a specific topic and it’s integrated with a supportContinue Reading

“Grading + Pattern Repeats” – a guest post by Kate Atherley

This lesson is little different than some of the others I’ve written: this one is designed to share a little less about how I use Stitchmastery and provide more of an insight into the design process itself. A problem that designers often struggle with – and one that you may well have encountered yourself withContinue Reading

Stitchmastery is 7 – tips and tricks for getting started knitting stranded colourwork

We’re enjoying seeing some progress on our knit-along (if you’re new to the blog, see our Stitchmastery is 7; Anniversary Mittens KAL and design-along! post for full information) and we’re delighted to hear that some intrepid knitters are considering trying stranded colourwork for the first time. We thought it might be helpful to point youContinue Reading

Stitchmastery is 7 – getting started with customising a mitten chart

Thank you to everyone who has sent kind messages for our 7th anniversary! Today we’re sharing some tips on how to start customising the mitten pattern if you’ve never used Stitchmastery before. First off, you’ll need to download Stitchmastery, which you can do for free in the demo version (which is the same software asContinue Reading

Stitchmastery is 7 – Anniversary Mittens KAL and design-along!

Stitchmastery is 7 – Anniversary Mittens KAL and design-along!

July 2018 marks 7 years since Cathy first released Stitchmastery, so we are celebrating our 7th anniversary and happily the associated material for 7th anniversaries is WOOL! So we have a woolly (or at least, yarny) community project in mind – a mitten knit and/or design along. Cathy has designed a mitten pattern, which youContinue Reading

Photographing Knitwear – guest blog by Katie Blair Matthews

If you follow our blog/social media accounts for Knitmastery you may have seen this post there. When we received the article from Katie we realised it could be equally useful for designers taking photos for their patterns so with permission from Katie we are sharing it here too. Enjoy! Hello, I am Katie Blair MatthewsContinue Reading

Publications using Stitchmastery – Knit Now

Last week I blogged about Knitty who have been using Stitchmastery to create all of their knitting charts for nearly 5 years. There is another magazine, though, that has been using Stitchmastery for just over 5 years and has a record number of editions (67!) published with charts created with the use of Stitchmastery. KnitContinue Reading

Publications using Stitchmastery – Knitty

One of the first publications to begin using Stitchmastery to create all of their knitting charts was Knitty. That was nearly 5 years ago in the Winter bis 2011 edition;-   Save Save In that edition Knitty also published a review of Stitchmastery and explained the reasons why Knitty adopted Stitchmastery as their official chartingContinue Reading