pattern writing history


today i thought i’d bring Anne L. Macdonald’s historical voice into the mix of thoughts on pattern writing. for that, i’m referring back to quotes i made from her book, No Idle Hands: A Social History of American Knitting, in earlier blog entries.

in this blog entry Macdonald talks about how patterns were passed from generation to generation in unwritten form… 1830 to 1986. i don’t know about you, but 1986 does not seem that long ago.

this entry quotes Anne L. Macdonald on gauge towards the bottom of the entry. gauge was first mentioned in 1870 – which is also not really that long ago. how could patterns work without gauge? hmmm. i think they often didn’t. or successful knitters needed to be more intuitive to make them work. i remember from reading A History of Hand Knitting by Richard Rutt that some of the first published ‘knitting’ books were actually needle point patterns… very intricate and wouldn’t work for knitting at all.

anyhow, i must admit i’m fascinated by how recent pattern writing is and truly it gives us some idea of why it has taken so long to work out the kinks. i also don’t really think there will ever be one standard way to write a pattern and, i must admit, i kind of like it that way. write what suits you. for me and my teacherly nature, i’ll try to make my patterns a bit more easily accessible. for fleece artist? those west coasters don’t know how to read patterns.

happy new years day!

p.s. those long papers with sticky notes on them below the books are my book in progress!

p.p.s. tonight may see me going through some of my older patterns to see if i can find a glaring example of this craziness… stay tuned.

5 thoughts on “pattern writing history

  1. Wow, such a collection of history right there. It really is interesting to think about the way crafts have evolved over the years and what was once an intuitive process has now become one of careful measuring and specific directions. I’d be terrified to try to knit something like a sweater now without measuring gauge.

  2. that makes me feel better for all those times i struggled through patterns – maybe it wasn’t all me! i had a really tough time when i first started, but now that i know more about knitting, i can figure things out more.

  3. I picked up this book last summer but have not found enough time for reading it–you have spurred me on to take it off the shelf and peruse it this weekend, before the onslaught of essays and finals to grade. Of course, reading will cut into my knitting time, but it’s all good. Thanks!

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