Archive for November 18th, 2013

For a long time I was a writing instructor teaching others how to produce a well written project specific to their field. There are many types of writing out there and each has its own rhythms, constructions and standards. Writing a knitting pattern is no different and so I thought I would like share what I know about the elements of good pattern writing in a series of posts.

One of the most important pre-requisites to good writing of any kind is reading good writing. Immerse yourself in reading well written patterns. How do I know what a well written pattern is, you may ask. Trust yourself. You know.

Take a pattern that you had no trouble understanding. A pattern whose directions were clear, whose order was logical, that you consider to be well written. Now take a pattern that you had all kinds of trouble understanding, where you kept flipping back and forth through pages to find this or that. We all have these types of patterns in our pattern stash. Take them into a quiet room with a pen and paper. Read them. What makes one better than the other? How is the information in the patterns organized? Which seems to be better organized? Why? List the reasons. Also note what you don’t like. These will be what you avoid in your own pattern writing. Does the pattern contain long unbroken lines of instruction? Or does it have breathing space, where eyes and mind get a chance to rest before moving on to the next task? Which do you prefer? Why?

Most knitters, it has been documented, find that space between tasks is more restful on the eyes and mind. The space gives a clarity to the ending of one thing and the beginning of another. Knitters react with anxiety and anticipate confusion when faced with long unbroken lines of text.

Think about the wording in each pattern. Is it clear? Can it be easily understood? Are row counts clear? Are stitch counts clear? Are the construction tasks clearly broken up? For example, if the pattern is for a sweater, does it clearly divide the tasks into Back, Front, Shoulder Shaping, Neck Shaping, Sleeve, and so on. Does the pattern provide the information you need to complete the tasks or do you have to guess at what the next step is, or what the instruction means? Do you need to go to outside resources to complete a task or is the information for completing the task included in the pattern? Which do you prefer: guessing what the next step is or being told? Why?

Next post will be about the elements of good pattern writing. I’ll list what they are and give you ways to achieve them. For now I have to go. I hear the human bear rustling things in the kitchen most likely looking for food we don’t have because he ate everything last night at 2 am. And I hear the squeaking of wicker which can only mean Yarn Rascal is chewing on and eating his wicker bed. Wonderful.

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