The longer I've been teaching knitting, the less patient I've become with bad pattern writing.
Heck, it's why I wrote the book.
Good pattern writing matters because I want knitters to be successful. A bad pattern decreases the knitter's chance of success. And that makes an unhappy knitters. An unhappy knitter is less likely to keep knitting. A knitter who stops knitting won't buy my patterns. Or anyone else's. Or yarn. Or needles. Or books.
I want to keep doing this for a living, so I want knitters to be successful and happy.
So when I see bad patterns I get grumpy.
And I saw a doozy this week.
(Some details have been changed to protect the guilty.)
It was for a hat. Apparently, an adult hat, but it didn't actually say that on the pattern. It was just called "Heidi's Hat".
It didn't have sizing information - either the size of the person to wear the hat, or the size of the hat itself.
It didn't have gauge information, so I couldn't even have worked out what size it was.
And the for the yarn info, it just named a yarn. Didn't tell me the put-up (size of ball/skein) or the yardage or the fiber content, or anything. Some yarns come in different sizes balls, you know... Paton's Canadiana, for example, comes in a few different sizes - 100gm and 85gm balls, depending on whether it's the tweed, solid or variegated variants); some sock yarns come in both 50gm and 100gm balls - Regia and Fortissima, for example. So to tell me that you need 1 ball of Yarn Co's Bulky Weight isn't enough. What if I can find that yarn and I need to substitute? Even if it was sold at a store selling both the yarn the pattern, what if I wanted to make it again, next year?
And without gauge info, how on earth am I to substitute accurately? Or even figure out the right needle size.
Oh yeah, needles. It tells me I need a 16 inch circular, but neglects to mention that I'll need other needes to handle the decrease (even though it mentions that in the instructions themselves).
And then the instructions. Hoo boy.
The CO was ok, and it did remember to tell me to join to work in the round so that was nice.
So you CO 56 sts, and work some ribbing... given as
Twisted Rib: K1 through back loop, P1.
Continue for 2".
Not brilliantly described, but you could probably muddle through.
But then if offered the following:
Knit 7 stitches, kfb across the row.
My poor knitting student, who wasn't much more than a beginner, had taken it at face value, and worked as follows: k7, and then kfb across every single stitch of the round.
And then, as she was told, she worked for 5 inches, and tried to do the decreases. Leaving aside that the decrease instructions we just as messy, we figured out that what the instruction should have been was:
(K7, kfb) across the round.
K7, kfb to the end on 56 sts gets you a very funny looking round with 105 stitches, instead of the required 63.
(Oh yeah, and the row/round thing? That's not cool either. But again, you could probably have muddled through.)
And the decrease instructions were equally confusing... Lots of stuff like
K5, k2tog across the row
which again, is absolutely NOT correct. And because there was no stitch count given after any of the decrease instructions, my student had no way of knowing if she was on track or not.
Now, an experienced knitter would probably have done ok with this pattern. But my student wasn't an experienced knitter. She'd said that the woman who sold her this pattern said it was easy to knit. Oh yeah, it's a stockinette hat in the round. It's not difficult to knit that kind of hat if the instructions are good and/or you've made a hat before. But neither of these things were true, in this case.
And yes, you read that right. My poor student had paid money for this pattern.
This is not the way to keep knitters happy.
My poor student couldn't make it work and she was unhappy and just about ready to dump the project. When something goes wrong in pattern we're inclined to blame ourselves. She couldn't make it work, so she assumed she was a bad knitter. She was just about ready to give up knitting entirely.
Now, it is true that many weak patterns are weak because the designers writing the instructions don't have the knowledge or understanding or skills to write a good pattern. I didn't, at first. My early patterns were pretty poor. Knit designers are often born with good design skills, but no-one is born with good pattern writing skills. They're two very different skill sets.
I don't expect that designers are all interested/positioned for/inclined towards learning how to write patterns. That's ok. What would make me happy is just an appreciation that the quality of the instructions matters enormously - heck, our livelihoods depend on it - and an understanding that if you're not sure about it, you should get some help.
The good news (she says pompously), is that I can help. Buy the book.
Seriously, though. I love seeing new designers build their careers. I love all the great stuff that knitters are inventing. I just hate seeing new knitters being scared off the craft because of poor instructions.
For those who are asking, it's an in-store pattern from a newish yarn shop in a Canadian city. Not Toronto. Seems to me that it was written by one of the shop staff. Part of me wants to contact them and offer help, but I don't know if that would be appreciated or not. What do you think? Should I?