the poorly written

several things have completely surprised me since i’ve started working at the yarn store.

first of all, patterns are often poorly written. most people who come in needing help, just need me to clarify either what the pattern means or that the pattern is wrong. this was emphasized on one particular day when i had 3 (THREE) people come in with poorly written patterns – all of them in books.

let me tell you about my favorite poorly written pattern. before moving to pittsburgh, we lived in vancouver bc. in canada the allure of fleece artist sock yarn is strong – it being the homeland and all. here are some socks i made for my friend pam using it

pamela's socks

needless to say, i did not use their pattern. their socks come with a simple sock pattern. you’d assume, that since it’s a ‘basic’ pattern that it would be good for beginners… but alas. i’ve walked 2 or 3 of my friends through this ‘basic’ pattern. the only mistake i remember off the top of my head is a missing comma that is particularly confusing.

one of the local yarn stores in bc once mentioned the fact that the pattern is not very well written to the fleece artist people and they said something about west coast people just not knowing how to read patterns!!

granted, we are getting into the discussion of how much info one needs to have in a pattern. and it seems to be different when you’re a beginner and when you’re advanced. how much information do you give people? do you write all in knitting code, or do you hand hold a bit more? while just some numbers may do it for some people, others need a bit more chattiness, explanation, security. fleece artist is primarily a dye shop, not a pattern producer. fair enough. and i could navigate their pattern fine having knit socks before, although it was still irritating at times. ‘basic’ should probably not be a descriptor of this pattern. to me, just the actual typos – at least two of them – makes for a poorly written pattern. so buy the yarn (it is beautiful, eh?), don’t use the pattern. this picture is of some of their wool/silk roving that i spun up. mmmm.

fleece artist wool/silk

i know, i know. i have a book coming out and there will probably be a mistake right smack dab in front of you when you get it, although i truly hope not. on christmas eve i received my final proof of the book with most of the photos in place. now i’m off to do a final read through/review – so send good vibes my way so as to find all of those mistakes!

p.s. aren’t you impressed that i made it through this whole blog entry without even mentioning victorian lace today? PDF. can you even imagine intricate lace with a row wrong? ARRHGHGHrgh. i don’t know about the rest of you, but i’d have been willing to pay more for less errata on this one…

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11 thoughts on “the poorly written

  1. thanks for the headsup on Victorian Lace. I have the book, and use it for eye candy when I am too tired to read or knit. So far, I haven’t tried to knit anything from it yet, so I would have been blindsided, because I am really bad about checking for errata FIRST.

  2. Up until recently I hardly ever used a pattern to knit. When I did a few years ago, I found that they were mostly really hard to follow. I found so many problems with the SnB books and so few errata on their patterns, that I found myself going back to playing it by ear.

    I’m with KPWF on this one. Some editors really don’t know how to edit patterns — the photos seem to be much more important to them. But also I think that a lot of pattern makers aren’t pattern writers. Having been a teacher and curriculum developer for so many years, I notice that many people have a difficult time breaking something down to its most elemental components. There should not only be a market for designers but also for people who are able to go through the design and make sense of it.

    I think there will always be people in the knitting/crafting world who really need to have step by step instructions, but hopefully there may also be more patterns out there which serve as a guide to making something, showing people how to use their intuitive and creative senses more effectively.

  3. First of all, I am sending you all of the good vibes I can and cannot wait for your book to come out.

    Second, I am actually having a hard time with a pattern right now because of the way it is written. Get this – – it is a 2 row pattern that you repeat and makes no sense. It is for a neck wrap in a herringbone stitch.

    It was given to me by my LYS which I love, the people are fantastic and it is an original from this store. I checked on their blog for more info. I am not the only one having a problem because quite a few had questions. Still, the explanations do not help.

    I will continue to try, my point is, I know what you mean by poorly written patterns. I like as much info within reason.

    Happy Happy New Year!

  4. I would agree with you on fleece artist patterns, I just knit one of their sweaters and the pattern instructions left me a bit perturbed.

    However, the sweater is lovely.

    Knitting Nature also has a huge errata.

    I think it has more to do with the book publishing industry. From what I hear editors don’t have the power they used to and there are a lot less of them in general. I think the industry sees them as expendable when clearly they are not.

    I look forward to seeing your book!

  5. i totally agree. the worst part is that when you are new to knitting, you can’t just scan a pattern and understand that something doesn’t make sense, you do the pattern, take a week to make a sock and then it is all screwed up, you think you are an idiot, get frustrated and stick to scarves. the snb books have crazy errors. i guess lots of books do, and i know from people who write books that they aren’t given resources to really have people try them out.

    oh, lastly, did i know you lived in pittsburgh? i am in greensburg, about 40 minutes away!

  6. Oh my god I didn’t know you wrote a book!! When is it coming out? What is called? I am assuming it’s a knitting book, right? What kind? Pattern book? Instructional book?

    Okay I’ll stop the interrogation now. I just love books :P

    You probably guessed that :)

  7. A huge part of my job at PKAB (a now-closed LYS that used to be near the corner of Shady and Forbes) was to sit down with customers and go through patterns line by line. A big part of that was the customers being afraid to make a mistake and have to rip back. But yes, poorly written instructions also paid a big part. (Debbie Bliss, I am looking at you!) One of our employees actually rewrote every pattern she ever knit so it would make sense to her, and there are times when I’ve done the same.

  8. Pingback: pattern writing history « cosymakes

  9. Really? Fleece Artist got defensive about that, ahem, “pattern?” Funny. When I started getting serious about knitting and realized that it was possible for me to be right and the patterns to be wrong, my world changed.

    Congratulations on your book! Good for you. :)

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