WIPWed #21: Learning Lessons

Well folks, I’ve returned from my dangerous journey with no dragons slain, exactly, but instead tamed and made less fearsome overall. It was an exhausting ordeal but one worth doing that will ultimately lead to better times ahead (here’s hoping). In my absence, I enjoyed reading the Inspiration Saturday posts put up by Joanna at the knitlit twit and Erin at Knitting in Beantown. Thanks, guys, for keeping the inspiration flowing!

I’ve sadly only gotten a tiny bit of knitting done, which is not great for my Malabrigo March goals as March is swiftly coming to a close. For some reason, instead of working on some of WIPs, my stressed out brain decided it would be a good idea to start a completely new project… a lacy scarf without a pattern, based on a stitch from one of Barbara Walker’s dictionaries. I’m not far yet but the yarn is such a bright, springy green that it’s making me very happy indeed:

Proof of exhaustion: I pinned and photographed the scarf backwards. This is the reverse side. Oh well.

A generous Raveler was willing to trade a skein of the much-coveted-but-hard-to-obtain Malabrigo Dos with me, and a little bit of Dos is just the thing to make everything better.

Finally, the other day the Yarn Harlot posted some very interesting thoughts about how much guidance knitters need/want within patterns. It’s something I’ve dithered over while writing my own patterns (write something out or point to a resource, specify a technique or assume it’s known already, etc.) and I tend to lean towards the ‘more detail is better’ camp with the caveat that the detail has to be clear and concise, it shouldn’t ramble on and prevent the knitter from seeing the forest for the trees. A specific pet peeve of mine as a knitter, is that I like to know how many repeats were knit to obtain the length shown in the sample for things like hats, scarves, cowls, shawls… yes I know these are all adjustable in size but I’m better able to judge which modifications I’d like to make if I know what I’m looking at on the model. Plus, I can make up my own hat design, but if I purchase a hat pattern it’s because I want to make EXACTLY THAT HAT, so I’d like to know what was done. And last but not least, I learned most of my favorite knitting techniques from patterns that either described them or pointed to a resource for learning them. I’ve personally learned more from knitting a whole bunch of different designers’ patterns than I have from books, videos, or in-person knitters, so I like to treat parts of my patterns as ‘teachable moments’– including some of these tips and tricks and keeping beginner knitters in mind. How do you prefer your patterns: detailed and all written out or concise and more choose-your-own-method?

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8 thoughts on “WIPWed #21: Learning Lessons

  1. I think I agree more with your ideas of wanting details. It may mean more pages, but if in the end if means less questions than I think it's worth it. Sometimes I do feel that it's obvious and get annoyed, but in the end I just think having it all there is nice.

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  2. Pretty scarf pattern – a spring green and leafy 🙂 Must be the season that made you cast that on!

    I like brevity in my patterns with additional info in sidebars or separate highlighted sections in case I want or need it. I also like to know exactly how many repeats the photo shows.

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  3. I like detailed patterns, IF the detail is added in such a way that when I go to print out the pattern or make a blown-up photocopy of a chart I don't have to print out or copy that detail. As much as I like the technique description as a resource, I don't actually want to haul around six pages of how to cast on in my knitting bag, and I really don't want to do that if I already know the cast on in question.

    I don't mind the concise patterns too much, as long as there are enough clues for me to figure things out– keys for charts, for instance, or a sidebar that says “check knitty/youtube/etc.” That side bar can even be on the Ravelry page, as long as there's some indication that the designer understands that some of us are going to have to do our own research to knit their pattern… Honestly, even when a pattern is really detailed there are places for ambiguity due to language usage. Isn't that part of the fun?

    And I'm with you– I want to know exactly what the model's wearing: repeats, ease, and any other modification that may not be immediately obvious!

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  4. Do we need to have a Dos intervention for you? The first step is to admit you have a problem! But if you find a yarn you truly love, why not knit with it any chance you get? I definitely agree with you pattern-wise, whenever I work with a pattern (especially a paid one) I expect and appreciate a certain degree of guidance. I also like having exact numbers for repeats and so on, just like you. I'm glad to hear that you survived the dragons! Hopefully it will pay off in a meaningful way.

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  5. I like details. I figure that if you have the information, you can use it or choose to modify, but if you don't have the information, you're likely to end up with some kind of unintentional modification, caused by having to make an assumption, that you may or may not prefer. And as long as there's not clutter and the pattern is well organized, that bare minimum that others need should be easily accessible.

    I've found that detailed patterns have been great entryways for me as a knitter to step up the ladder of skills, allowing me to stretch myself with something new without giving up the safety net completely.

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  6. I'm in the “extra details” camp. Typically, when I'm knitting someone else's design, it's because I want to not think while knitting. I'd rather be designing my own pattern if I have to do extensive amount of math to make the pattern come out. But I don't mind looking up techniques.

    I do feel that there is a fine line between making something better and making something more confusing. It's a dance all designers have to perform.

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