Archive for November 23rd, 2013

Before I continue with the pattern writing topic I want to say thanks to Salpal for this blog post about the need for hats, scarves, and the like to help people in Maine stay a little warmer this winter. From time to time this past year, I went on a crochet binge of making nothing but hats and matching mittens. Maine is my heart’s home. It is where Dad’s family still lives. All my memories of childhood and my early 20s come from there. I am happy as the dickens to be able to send out this box full of hats and mittens.

We won’t discuss how Yarn Rascal reacted to seeing all these woolly items at once, except to say he was extremely and inappropriately thrilled.

If you are interested in donating, here is the address:
Sarah Nugent
c/o Washington Hancock Community Agency
248 Bucksport Road
Ellsworth, Maine 04605 USA

Now, back to how to write a good pattern.

I was rather shocked the other day when a very good indie designer asked “How much pattern support should I give?” I think a designer who self publishes is totally responsible for his / her design and the resulting pattern. If a large number of knitters are repeatedly having difficulty with the same portion of a pattern, it’s a pretty good signal that something is wrong. Not always, but often enough what is wrong is that the designer failed to provide adequate directions.

It’s a delicate dance. On the one hand, be concise, on the other don’t omit necessary information. The crux is defining what is necessary information, an argument that continues to burn in the knitting community. On one side are knitters who want all words out of their way, they just want to knit. The shorter the pattern the better no matter how complicated the design because they will be changing it on the fly anyway. They are not wedded to a pattern. They have many resources on hand if they need them. On the other side are knitters who want to be guided through the process of recreating the design. They are wedded to the pattern. They do not feel comfortable altering on their own. These knitters are referred to as needing “hand holding”. Often they don’t know of resources to which they can turn. Writing one pattern that would please both extremes is not possible. Sometimes indie designers offer two written versions of the same pattern in an effort to satisfy both camps. Most knitters fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

One way to write a good knitting pattern is to know your audience. Who are you writing for? What type of knitter is most likely to be drawn to your designs? Adventure seeking, off the beaten path, do my own thing individuals or someone who prefers a paved road, yet will take on a project beyond his / her skills as long as the structure to be followed is provided? What do they already know about knitting? What are they likely not to know?

A knitter, it is reasonable to assume, brings to the pattern a knowledge of how to knit, purl, perform a simple cast on and cast off, and knows a Right Side Row from a Wrong Side Row. Beyond that things need some explanation. SSK, K2tog and SKPO stitches need to be spelled out in the Abbreviations section of a pattern. Cast ons and cast offs don’t need to be explained unless the pattern requires a specific type that is not commonly used. For example, provisional cast ons, ribbed cast ons, and the double needle cast on need to be explained. Any of the tubular bind offs, three needle bind offs, and the Kitchener stitch also need explanation. None of these explanations need be lengthy. Nor do they need to be explained more than once. Special stitches, cast ons and bind offs, short rows and the like can be grouped on a special page of their own at the end of the pattern. Knitters can be told before they download a pattern that instructions for short rows and the provisional cast on used in the pattern are on page X. This gives knitters a choice of whether to access the information or not and at the same time moves it out of the way of the minimalists.

Short row work presents a real test for the pattern writer and I will start Monday’s post with this.

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