Friday, December 14, 2007

Pattern Writing & Standardization

I am forever complaining about the lack of standards in written knitting patterns.... especially for a less-experienced knitter, the quality of the instructions is absolutely critical to both the enjoyment and success of the project.

Case in point:
J. is working on Rosedale. It's a terrific design, Mum's knitted it, and the result was great.

Now, this is absolutely not a criticism of Amy and her design. The pattern is marked as "Piquant" - meaning that it's considered to be challenging, targeted at a knitter with some experience.

When you're targeting a knitter with experience, you can take shortcuts with the instructions... Let's look at how Amy wrote up the instructions for the corrugated ribbing:

To work Corrugated Rib:

Work in K2, P1 rib using two balls of yarn. Work knit sts with first ball and purl sts with second ball.

All well and good. That is, if you've worked an uneven rib before...

J. has really come on strong with her knitting, and has successfully worked a variety of projects. I quickly looked at the pattern and figured that she'd have no difficulty -- no complex pattern stitches, a bit of entirely manageable intarsia, and a great intro to raglan shaping.

She got really stuck on the ribbing, though. It took me a while to figure out why... It was that she hadn't worked an uneven rib before. She's worked k1 p1, and k2 p2, and each time it's been on a design that had the number of stitches engineered so that you work both right and wrong side the same way...

That is, the k1 p1 rib was worked on an even number of stitches, so both right and wrong side start with a k1. And the k2 p2 was worked on a number of stitches divisible by 4, again, so that right and wrong sides both start with a k2.

So J.'s experience of ribbing is that both sides are the same.

Rosedale's body ribbing doesn't work that way... On the right side, it's k2 p1 k2 p1... ending with a k2. And therefore on the wrong side, it's p2 k1 p2 k1... ending with a p2.

Since Amy hasn't written out the rows, J. made what seemed like a reasonable assumption, that both rows are to be worked the same. She could tell something was wrong once she started working it, but couldn't figure out what because the extra yarn was obscuring the shape of the stitches.

Took us a while to figure it out, mostly because I was debugging over email and the phone. We did it, though! I recommended she work a small swatch of k2 p1 ribbing with a single colour before she switch to two colours. All it took was a couple of rows and she was good to go.

A very humbling reminder about making assumptions in pattern writing, particularly when something is *slightly* out of the ordinary.

As this is going on, I see a link to the project of my nerdy dreams...

KnitML A standard language for knitting patterns. W00T!

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