Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tips for knitting from PDF patterns

I started a new project a few days ago – Stephen West’s Daybreak shawl. As usual, I made an electronic copy of my PDF pattern and added some notes to it. This is very handy, especially if you have a tendency to work on lots of patterns at the same time and/or stop working on something and go back to it later when you don’t remember the details. I thought I’d share how I do this.

daybreak-wipDaybreak in progress
Most people, including me,  have Adobe Reader on their computers for opening and reading PDF files. But I’ve got another free PDF viewer as well, because it has some nifty tools for adding notes and comments to PDFs: Foxit Reader (click on the link to go get the download). Unfortunately, there’s no Mac version.

When you open a PDF document in Foxit Reader, you’ll see a bunch of icons across the top of your window under the drop-down menu categories. We’re interested in the last few icons – a pencil, a T highlighted yellow, and a balloon with text in it. These tools allow you to add a text note, highlight text, or add a hidden popup note or comment. Just click on the tool icon you want to use, then click in the PDF at the point where you want to insert your note, or click and drag to select text for highlighting.

Here’s my routine. First, I open the pattern PDF and save the file with a new name – otherwise you can’t save the changes you make to it. I made a copy of my Daybreak pattern and named the file “Daybreak-notes.pdf.” This way, you always have a pristine original copy of the pattern, plus a marked-up working copy.

I clicked the highlight tool, then highlighted the size I’m making and the needle size specified. Next, I clicked the pencil icon for the comment tool, then clicked in the pattern and added the two blue comments you see, a note about the yarns I’m using and confirmation that I’m using the recommended needle size:

 On the next pattern page, I’ve highlighted the stitch counts for the size I’m making, added notes about which color is which and how I’m changing colors, and also added a hidden popup note (the yellow thing next to the word “Stripes”):

 When I click on the sticky note icon, I get a popup window that shows me the whole note, which looks like this:

 These popups have a scroll bar, so the notes can be as long as you want – handy when you don’t have room to enter all the text right on the pattern as a comment. I haven’t been able to figure out how to make them print, though.

Other free PDF viewers may have similar comment features – experiment with yours. The next one I’m going to try is PDF-XChange Viewer. I believe Adobe Reader’s sticky note feature has some restrictions that make it difficult to use, but if you use it I’d be curious to know how it works for you.

I’m heading off to the TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association) summer trade show in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday. It’s my first time – looking forward to meeting lots of yarn & knitting industry folks and seeing what’s new for fall. I won’t have time to blog, but I will post updates on the Facebook page and Twitter. There are still a couple of Cool Yarns for Hot Days posts coming as well, but they may take awhile.


  1. thank you so much for this link! I've got PDF-XChange Viewer already installed, so I think I'll try it on there as well - have a sensational time at TNNA.

  2. GREAT tips!! I use Foxit but never thought about using the highlight tools -- fabulous!! and thank you!

  3. very cool. and i want that shawl! love the colors and stripes!

  4. Sorry EA, you're on your own - this one's going to live on my navy blue sofa!