Thursday, July 03, 2014

Patterns: What Do You Love? What Don't You Love?

I'm a glutton for punishment. Or it could just be that I have a lot to say.

I teach a lot of classes, and two of my favourite are Pattern Reading and Pattern Writing. Clarity of knitting patterns is very important to me. I have lots to say about it.

A knitter's experience working with patterns can be make-or-break: a badly written pattern can put a knitter off a particular type of project - that's a loss for the knitter. A badly written pattern can put a knitter off the work of a given designer - that's a loss for the designer. And a really badly written pattern can put a someone off knitting entirely - that's a loss for us all.

I don't want to lose any knitters. Knitters buy yarns and books and patterns and classes, and keep the industry going. We want as many of them as we can get.

I don't want knitters to stop knitting socks, and speaking more selfishly, I don't want knitters to stop buying my patterns and books.

It is important to me that patterns are good and clear and helpful and well-written and easy to work from.

So I'm writing a book for knit designers, providing guidance on how to write patterns.

I want to make sure that I'm speaking for the knitters. Tell me what you want to tell designers about how to write patterns.

What do you love to see in patterns? What's important to you? What do you look for when choosing a pattern?

And what drives you insane? What do you find difficult or unfriendly or unpleasant? (Don't worry - I've already written about how much you all dislike "reversing shapings".)

Talk to me! You can comment here, or email me at kate at wisehildaknits dot com. I'm all ears! 


Reluctant Penguin said...

Schematics: Almost all patterns should have them! Okay, maybe not socks, unless the construction is unusual, but certainly any fitted garments. And the schematics should include measurement information for the various sizes.

And, speaking of sizes, not everyone is shaped like a Vogue model. It would be lovely if patterns would include a generous range of sizes and at least hints for altering the pattern to make it larger/smaller/longer/shorter when it isn't obvious.

Rayna said...

PLEASE provide descriptions of how to execute stitches, especially where there is some disagreement on the internet as to what that stitch means. I recently had a pattern that had a stitch I had not used before and when I researched, I found three completely different ways to do it. (Might have been p2togtbl, but I cannot remember) I, of course, chose the wrong one.

Clarity is key. Do not use silly (comic sans, for example) and/or overly elaborate fonts. I need to be able to read the pattern without too much trouble.

Lastly...a silly thing but I hate being shouted at. I once had a pattern that said "stitch markers - USE THEM!!" I think I can judge whether I need to use stitch markers. Ironically, I really didn't need them for that overly simple pattern. A simple "stitch markers are recommended" would have sufficed.

Anonymous said...

It's not an exam. I don't like being told to read the pattern all the way through before starting, even if it's the correct thing to do and I usually do.

Wanderingcatstudio said...

I hate it when I have to think for myself - if I wanted to do that, I'd just design something. I'm an indie designer, so I do - but when I'm knitting someone else's pattern, I don't want to have to do that.
The instructions that fall under this are things like

"Decrease 10 stitches evenly across the row". I don't want to do the math! Just tell me K5, k2tog, k5, k2tog... etc.

"Knit right front as for left front, reversing pattern and shaping." Spell it out for me!

And I personally love charts - I know not everyone does, but some patterns are just too much written out (especially lace). I have a lovey Debbie Bliss pattern book and every pattern I've knit from it I've had to chart out first before knitting.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Wanderingcatstudio on instructions like 'decrease 10 st evenly' type stuff. It's really the same type of thing as instructions to reverse. As there is no one monolithic knitting tradition, and we have not all had similar instruction in knitting, and we don't all look in the same place for 'how to' (links to 'how to' pages or vids *from people who use the same methods as the designer* would help), you can't count on everyone understanding when to use an SSK or a K2Tog. Knowing *how* to do it is not the same as knowing when to use it.

Seajaes said...

I like to see lots of measurements for each piece. And good pictures of front back and sleeves. Not just bits. I hate guessing whether it is continuing to be on gauge.
I prefer Charts but sometimes you need accompanying written line by line.
I totally agree I hate reading whole pattern. And it is best when each step is spelled out and I don't have to do the math.
Since I'm built like a block I like sweaters that options are given about shaping.
Thanks for asking.

Jen said...

I was also going to say decrease evenly as possible across row! I am knitting a sweater right now where it isn't an even K5, K2tog, so I had to put my knitting down and figure it out. I ended up doing something like K8, K2tog 7 times, then K9, K2tog, 10 times and finally another K8, K2tog 7 more times. When I'm paying for the pattern it would be nice if this was already figured out.

Emma said...

I love it when patterns tell me what size the model in the picture is wearing and what size her bust measurement is or the amount of ease in the garment (and whether it's positive or negative!). I find it infuriating when you are only told the size of the garment and have to guess at whether you think the model looks bigger or smaller than that - I'd much rather not be told at all than be told half of what I need.

Paige O'Brien-Welker said...

Assumptions! Let's just assume that I don't know what the hell I'm doing....

I also agree with the comment above re: figuring out the math. Unless there is million different sizes that would make reading the pattern impossible, please just tell me.

May said...

I really like schematics with measurements and information on construction, is it top down, knit flat and seamed, etc. This helps me decide if the style is suitable. Dare I mention that Brooklyn Tweed has wonderful schematics and information on construction? Stitch counts are helpful and useful to let me know that the knitting is going well. Nothing worse than finding out at the end that my stitch count is wrong. augh!

Sickofitcindy said...

I like having stitch counts after each line or section. When I started my first sweater, these weren't listed and I found them invaluable. It let me know if I was doing the correct number of increases, etc.

I agree with an earlier poster that techniques should be explained within the pattern. It's especially annoying if I'm on the go and have to wait to look it up.

Anonymous said...

If like to see sweater patterns with variations. Like two neckline choices, or two sleeve lengths. Usually I will love a pattern, but not the neckline, or maybe I'd like a long sleeve instead of short.

Meghan said...

I always have to modify where the waist shaping is located in a sweater so I hate when the length between the bottom or armhole and the waist isn't included.

Anonymous said...

I agree with SickofitCindy. There is nothing worse then knitting a large section of a garment only to be told you should now have x stitches. I usually have y stitches. I then have to go back and do all of the arithmetic to figure how many stitches I should have as I progress. This is particularly annoying in areas such as necklines where you may be decreasing every 2nd row on one edge and every row on the other.

quiltcontemplation blogspot said...

As a visual learner,I find video instructions very helpful when learning a new technique. I also like to see pictures of how the actual object/pattern is supposed to look when knitted. It helps me know I am understanding it.

iris said...

I like at least one photo to be of the entire item without creative styling (like, not just a photo taken from the front of a shawl draped on a body). I won't buy a pattern if there aren't photos of the entire thing(yes, I do want to see the back of a sweater, bottoms of sleeves, etc.) I also tend to not buy patterns if there aren't photos of the item on a body (i.e. sweater patterns photographed lying flat.)

We've talked about this before but I want you to spell out for me the amount of ease intended. And I like schematics with measurements listed (not just bust measurements!)

I am currently knitting from a pattern with a 13-row cable repeat that is written out line by line, not charted, and I hate it a lot. When I was a new knitter I loved it when there were written instructions along with charts, but I prefer both of these to be separate from general/shaping instructions.

A thing I love is when designers do blog/video tutorials about pattern elements & then link to those. This is my favourite kind of cross promotion. I don't need you to teach me techniques in the pattern itself (and i hate printing out like ten page patterns.)

I don't like having to decide which cast on/off or types of increases/decreases to use. Tell me what you recommend! (Uh, which doesn't mean I don't deviate from those suggestions all the time.)

I'm the kind of person who will do what the pattern literally says even if my common sense tells me it's an error, so also, I love tech edited patterns and I have no problem paying more for professionally edited/test knitted patterns.

Anonymous said...

I'm primarily a sweater knitter, so most of this applies to to those patterns...

Always have a schematic showing the length and width of the body, shoulders, armholes, sleeves at armhole and cuff, and neck opening.

Before I buy, I want to at least know the available widths. Saying the pattern is offered in "S, M, L, XL" tells me nothing.

List the actual yarn used to knit the sample.

Give me a clear, full front and back view on an actual person who is standing in a neutral pose with their arms held at their sides. And do not obscure the neckline with hair/scarves/etc.

Cable and lace patterns should always have a chart and, preferably, also written instructions.

Don't say "knit for X number of rows" (give me a measurement).

Don't size things "to fit X bust". Or, if you want to do that, still give me the measurements so I can calcuate how much ease _I_ want.

I can't stand overly verbose patterns. I bought one pattern for a relatively simple sweater that was 10 pages long. The sheer length and verbosity of the pattern made my eyes cross. I could have edited that thing down to half that with no loss of clarity.

I hate it when people intersperse pictures within the pattern itself. Unless you are including a picture to clarify a particular section of instructions, leave them out or put them all at the beginning or end so I can print it out without wasting a lot of paper.

For shawls, include a picture of the shawl laid out flat. Sometimes you can't tell what shape a shawl is when it is draped over someone's shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Agree with SickofitCindy and Anonymous--please tell us stitch counts for each change, not at the end of a 14" section.

Also "Work decrease row every 2 inches." I worked hard to get gauge; please give me an accurate row count so that I don't have to keep stopping and measuring! Using row counts also makes it easier to match up fronts and backs, or the two fronts of a cardigan, or the second sock.

Bonnie said...

I want to know if the pattern is designed to have negative ease, no ease, or positive ease, and I want to know how much. Telling me that the model is wearing a 32" isn't helpful if I don't know the measurement of the model. This omission makes it difficult for me to figure out what size to pick when I'm starting a sweater. Thanks for asking!

17th stitch said...

I love it when the pattern starts with an overview, such as this: "We will be using a tubular cast-on, progressing through five different cabling patterns, and using a sewn stretchy cast-off."

I love patterns that have both diagrams and written directions.

I love patterns that give me updated stitch counts every time the stitch count changes.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all of the comments above. I want to know about recommended ease, I can decide from there what will work for me (I've heard that in some cases, the model's sweater is pinned at the back - so much for knowing what size to make or how it looks on a "normal" body. Let me know if I am wrong on about this)

Anonymous said...

Hear hear for tech editors!

I once saw someone use "repeat once", to my mind a total of twice, when they meant "work once". Luckily it was obvious from the picture that once was correct.

Stitch counts for long lace rows with many increases and decreases in each row can be very useful.
Then again one of my favourite patterns Windward (Heidi Kirrmaier) has no lace but offers stitch counts for each section, row by row. I definitely used the stitch counts and have knit the pattern three times.

As I get older and my eyesight worsens I want the charts to be a good size ...

I agree on the even increases or reverse shaping.

thanks for asking!

snoringcat said...

I personally hate it when I see the instruction "And at the same time..." though I know sometimes it can't be avoided. A little forewarning that such a thing is coming up would be nice, for all the times that I've knit something only to discover I missed reading ahead enough to find that little tidbit... I actually am working on a pattern that has an "and at the same time" followed by an "and also at the same time". Yeah, caught the first one but NOT the second one until it was too late.

Another pattern that is driving me nuts has shaping, but not for all the sizes at the same time, so it states: dec 1 st every 14 rows 1 (1,1,0,0) times, then every 8 rows 0(0,0,1,1) times, then every 2 rows 1 (0,0,0,0) times. So does that mean for the 2nd size, you have to include in your row count to the next increase the rows that you have a 0 increase, or do you just ignore that instruction completely? Can't the designer just simplify it to read: for size 1, dec on rows a and b, for size 2, dec on rows d and e, for size 3, dec on row f, etc. rather than the knitter not knowing whether to count a 'zero' row when they're trying to figure out where to decrease.

emarci said...

I have recently begun loom knitting, after being a needle knitter for over 50 years (yikes!)

I have become overly dependent on You Tube videos to take me step by step through projects - it does not have to be a bells and whistles production - just the ability to see the loom and a step-by-step of the technique/project that I can follow.

I also am addicted to Ravelry for patterns. I don't mind paying a bit for a pattern.
I hope this helps you!

bittenbyknittin said...

All too often, I find the instructions peter out near the end, as if the designer just got tired of explaining everything or assumes no one is actually going to get that far. Also, make sure the instructions are *correct*, especially the numbers.

Anonymous said...

Chart. Chart Chart Chart. I recently purchased a pattern that had four cables and two lace repeats executed several different times across a row with different row repeats and there wasn't a single chart. I had to make them myself and that's not something I would expect from a $6+ pattern.

Don't be a hero. Don't invent new chart symbols. Don't invent a new stitch. Don't invent a new technique. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee discusses this in one of her classes but while there are still more discoveries to be made in knitting, hundreds of things already exist. While internet tutorials are great, anyone can put anything on the internet.

This comes from a few projects that gave me so much grief that I had to put the projects down. I know many people want to be unique and have a distinctive pattern style but in my experience this causes more confusion and wasted time than anything. Based on previous comments, I don't think I'm alone.

Be realistic about charging for a pattern. I will happily pay $10 for a pattern that is tech-edited, has polished graphics and schematics, used a professional or highly skilled photographer, and is well written. It makes me less excited when I see pattern that aren't free that don't have good photography, don't use a model, are not unique or original, or are so basic I could have designed it myself. I would go so far as to say that a pattern should not even be available unless it has been test knit by several other skilled knitters.

Finally, cite your technique or the technique to be used. Based on previous comments, there are as many different ways to do things as there are knitters. If a designer means the technique to be used comes from an article in, oh, Knitty, cite that article, the author, and provide links. This can add some legitimacy to techniques used because instead of getting techniques from well-intentioned but possibly incorrect youtube videos, utilizing proper resources is reinforced.

tack said...

This is so great!
Some of my favorite things found in more modern patterns:

The intended ease range and amount of ease shown on the model.

Detailed schematics that include all pertinent measurements.

Granularity about gauge: listing gauge in all included stitch patterns, width and depth measurements for cable panels, and gauge in a stockinette swatch--if necessary.

Detail about special techniques: is a special cast on/bindoff required? Does it require special blocking instructions, etc.

Hollive said...

I'm with tack above--please tell me about gauge and ease and measurements for the finished object (even for something where gauge might not matter quite so much, like a rug, blanket or scarf). It surprises me how many patterns I've seen that do not mention gauge at all.

I love patterns that list the sections (toe, Foot, Heel, Leg; Sweater front, sweater back, etc.) and give an overview sentence about what's coming next. (For example: Next, pick up stitches for the gusset.) It helps me better visualize what I'm going to be doing.

Please pay attention to page breaks and where the photos are in the pattern lay out. If I can print only what I need easily, I really appreciate it. I also strongly prefer pattern text to be printed in black in an easy-to-read font, so it is easy to print/copy.

Having both charts and written instructions is my preference.

Make it easy to find the errata, if there is an error. Correct the electronic version in an obvious way, so I know I've got the up-to-date version.

Looking forward to reading this book when it comes out! :)

Anonymous said...

I was going to leave a comment about what I would like to see in a pattern but I think it has been covered (ease and schematics) so I will just say thank you for covering this subject. One thing to keep in mind is that everyone who reads your pattern is coming from a different background and will want something different. You can't please everyone. Good luck with the book. Beth

Anonymous said...

Formatting with returns or paragraphs helps me check off what steps I've completed. (I've actually retyped some patterns that were only confusing because of the formatting.) Also, I crave suggested techniques that an intermediate knitter could employ, say, for a cleaner exposed edge, so that the project helps me grow as a knitter.

Anonymous said...

Please write your pattern in consecutive order. If that is not possible because of the detail, then please at the bottom of each put a nice sentence that tells me what I am doing next.

Also, if you have a pattern that you are rating as easy try your test knitting with a new knitter.


Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the above: I like things spelled out. Don't make me do math, it takes too much time. Whenever appropriate I would rather have row by row instructions.

aliceq said...

Most of what I want has already been mentioned. But putting aside design issues (size range, etc.), and focussing on pattern presentation...

(1) Stitch counts. I end up making a spreadsheet for just about every shawl I knit with a row-by-row stitch count. Granted, it helps me understand the pattern to do so, and it lets me track whether I'll have enough yarn, but I shouldn't have to do this when I've paid for the pattern.

(2) Charts, charts, charts. And, please put the symbol key adjacent to the charts, and not elsewhere in the pattern.

(3) Pay attention to ways in which instructions to repeat a block of rows can be misinterpreted, even by experienced knitters, and take steps to avert confusion, such as using a heading "decrease block" or some such, followed by a specification of how many times to do it.

Back in the old days, when patterns were printed in agate type in the back pages of knitting and needlework magazines, conciseness was a virtue. These days, when so many patterns are distributed by PDF, not so much. White space in a layout, and orienting headings can, and should, be used.

Also, while it's a good idea to provide instructions for unusual stitches (I just started a pattern with k5tog!), not every pattern needs a tutorial for everything.

Anonymous said...

Please have someone test knit the pattern, or even two people! And then check it all over again ... in addition to what others have already said about schematics, ease, measurements, etc.

Nancy E. Banks said...

Schematics with measurements. Often I tailor patterns to fit my body type, and I really need to see the schematics to do this. It also helps me choose patterns. Charts, please. For colorwork, lace, and cable patterns. I will walk away from a pattern without charts. And I definitely agree with the poster who wanted charts to use the standard symbols. Chart symbols are a language, and you wouldn't write your pattern in a language your intended audience couldn't read, so please don't write your charts that way. Stitch counts are really important. I am often distracted while knitting, and regular stitch counts help me keep things on track. Lots and lots of photos, especially if the pattern is challenging, or the shaping is not standard. Photograph those details. Good detail photos can prevent a lot of mistakes. I like 2- or 3-column formatting, because then I don't have to read across a long line of type, where I may lose my place and make a mistake in the knitting. Explain ALL your techniques. If there is a good tutorial somewhere, include the link, but write out the explanation anyway. Things can disappear from the internet, but if they're written down in your pattern, they are always there.

Raychill Canuck said...

I thought I was going to be the only one who wanted designers to cite sources and let the knitters know which version of x technique they are using. I wouldn't even mind if they gave a bibliography of books/resources they used to design the piece. Even if I don't have the book, I can always find it in a bookstore or library and possibly add it to my knitting library(another sale).

I also agree that the designer shouldn't expect the knitter to spend the precious time they have to knit to figure out the pattern. I'm working on one now where after the first half the directions stated - for the middle 24 stitches repeat Rows x-y, for the first and last 9 stitches repeat rows z-y and then z to x. I could feel the cells in my brain explode and neurons just shut down. I ended up creating my own line by line instructions for the second half of pattern because if I had just used what was provided for me I would have lost track of where I was every other row.

I know this seems unfair, but as a designer you have to understand that not all knitters think alike. That's why you have to provide as many details as many ways as possible - ie: line by line and charts and schematics. If you want to sell to a wide audience you have to capture every segment.

Anonymous said...

I agree on a lot of things metioned above. And please add measurments in (inches and) centimeters in the schematic.

Good luck with your book!

Anonymous said...

As many others have mentioned, charts! They are amazing. I don't bother with patterns that aren't charted. It's easier to see the progression of the piece when knitting off a chart, and also easier to catch mistakes.

And, this may sound ridiculous, but... printer-friendly formatting. It's a pain to deal with charts that wind up crossing two pages, or constantly flipping back and forth from written instructions to charted instructions. Or to have printed a pattern with an unusual stitch that appears midway through, that I then have to go google.

And, as others have said, patterns that start with a simple narrative are awesome. Part of what sets Knitty's patterns apart is the narrative- both of the inspiration and design process, but also the verbal walk-through of how the item will be knitted. It's nice not having to read through the whole pattern to get a sense of what steps will be involved/how I'll be able to mark my progress.

Oh, and photographs- clear, neat photos of the entire item. If your item has an unusual shape,a photo of the item laid out flat (instead of on you while you're jumping) would make it easier for me to see if I want to knit it.

Unknown said...

I agree with everything that has been posted so far.

I would like to see suggestions for modifying fit for various body shapes. There are many patterns presented as 'for women' that could easily be worn by a guy if the pattern was written correctly. Using detailed schematics, ease measurements, etc can help us determine how to adjust the pattern regardless of body features.

Ellen said...

I agree with all of the previous comments many good points made

As a pattern grader I'd like to see information on grading hand knit patterns included.

My 2 biggest beefs
1) Clear front back and maybe side views I operate on the theory that if the model is doing contortions or has a big honking necklace/scarf a fitting flaw is being concealed.

2) i would really like to know the bust measurement of the model and the size she is wearing (how much negative/positive ease am I looking at) and don't tell me she's a small and wearing a medium give me the actual numbers.

Written patterns vs charted I think both should be there along with a clear schematic.

Tell me how to do unusual stitches, cast on/cast off used is a great idea, stitch counts are always appreciated, math on increase/decrease evenly would be great

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with many of the previous comments - lots of measurements, clear photos.

I think these are additions...
1 - "AT THE SAME TIME" - This is often used in a way that's really confusing, if the two sets of instructions are both quite complex (e.g. varying numbers of rows between decreases for arm and neck). And, there should always be an instruction before the whole segment to warn the knitter that it's coming before the first of the two sets of instructions (not at the beginning of the pattern - those of us with a short attention span and/or long knitting duration will have forgotten about that!).
2 - stitch counts, please include lots. They're so helpful if the instructions seem ambiguous or to pick up when you've done something silly BEFORE you've finished the whole sweater and sewn it up, only to realise that you can only get one ear through the neck!

Renee Anne said...

As a fledgling designer, these suggestions are helpful for me.

As a knitter, some of my "pattern pet peeves," so to speak, include (but are probably not limited to) the following:

1. Never assume anything. Yes, we know what a SSK is...and there is general agreement how it should be done but sometimes, there is discord in the knitting community about how certain stitches are executed. Be specific. If you want us to do a SSK, specify how you want those stitches slipped.

2. Schematics. This is especially helpful for sweaters/shirts/tops...not so much for socks.

3. Some people really love charts. Others hate them with the passion of a thousand suns. Knitters have been known to avoid patterns based on their like or dislike of charts. If it's possible, have both available (not necessarily on the same publication - but perhaps an option to choose either one)...unless it's just not something that can be charted.

4. Printer-friendly formatting. So many knitters prefer to print patterns (especially ones with charts) and it's quite the pain in the butt to have to flip between pages because the charts don't play nicely. Now, this is not always possible but it would be nice.

5. Tutorials. While tutorials are helpful when you have something strange going on, you don't need a tutorial on Jeny's Super-Stretchy Bind Off. You can link to it but we don't necessarily need it right on the page.

6. Shaping instructions. There are so many ways to do this but the "at the same time" or "do the same for left side, in reverse" just don't cut it. Don't be lazy. Also, put something in there about ease (positive, negative, none, etc., even if it's just to say "meant to fit loose").

7. Sock instructions. Is it written for DPNs, two circulars, magic loop? Sometimes, things make more sense when you know how they were originally constructed.

8. Photos. Front, back, side, odd techniques (how they show up). Shawls should be laid flat. Socks both worn and on blockers (if possible).

I'm sure I have more...but these are big ones for me :)

Unknown said...

I completely agree with Aliceq above. Stitch counts, definitely! And charts!

Speaking of charts-- I'm working on a shawlette, and it has two small stockinette dividers that break up the lace. I read the written directions and then started following the chart, which contained no mention of the divider. There was no mini-chart for the divider, which would have helped. Naturally I forgot all about it. The shawlette still looks gorgeous, but here's a suggestion for those of us who use charts-- include charts for things like this too. It helps us remember once we get going on the chart-- especially if it's on two different pages, or people like me are using KnitCompanion. Thanks!

Stardancer said...

Things I like in a pattern:

- Written directions. I don't really use charts, but I could muddle through a charted pattern that also has written instructions
- a basic diagram with dimensions. I have a short torso, so I would often prefer things to be shorter
- agree on the request for directions on how to execute stitches. Great for if I'm not sure what it is, and helpful in case I want to change the stitch
- recommendations about ease (with photo). It's really helpful to know how something is supposed to fit vs. how I want it to fit me
- Stitch counts at the end of rows, especially when doing increases or decreases. This is great because if I want to modify a pattern, I have the original counts for reference
- clarity about total numbers of repeats!

Thought: I do find that after a few rows, I'm okay with "knit in pattern" if it's a simple one.

Melissa said...

First, a request for all designer's of clothes. Please tell us if the pattern is knit with positive, negative, or no ease. Also, tell us what ease and size is shown on the model. This will help with creating an object that the knitter can actually wear and look good in. It's terribly disappointing to spend all that time on a garment to discover that it makes one look so awful. If you can even get it on.

Second, this is a problem I caused in a shawl I designed as a communal knitting project. I placed yarn overs next to stitch marker. Since, I know how to read my knitting this wasn't an issue for me, but several other knitter's didn't handle the fact that the yarn over could move to either side of the stitch marker. It's a small thing, but it did cause real trouble in the shawl we were knitting. I rewrote the pattern to have the yarnovers always at least one stitch away from the stitch marker's,

Holly in CT said...

I hate patterns that don't give enough details, like decrease evenly over row x stitches. Why make me Google the app that tells me how to do this, just include it in the pattern. I like to knit lace. I cannot knit lace from charts. If you want me to buy your lace pattern write it out and include a chart. I have taken courses on chart reading and just can't get the hang of it.

Anonymous said...

Charts AND written out instructions. I find it easier to learn from the written instructions and then follow the chart.

and I agree with the need for stitch counts. Nothing like finding a mistake early!

Finally - in sweaters I love notes on how to modify for a larger bust or stomach, i.e. suggestions of where to add darts. I know this is hard so I'm willing to do it, but I find myself choosing sweater patterns that help me do this.

onesharplady said...

Good photographs that show the structure of the finished object, tricky or unusual details.

Good gauge information and ease information.

Nice options: chart vs. written out directions, stitch counts for rows (especially if they increase, decrease a lot).

Someone mentioned things being printer friendly. Page Numbers. It also means that if you have a really long pattern, it's nice to be able to leave off some pages (photos, charts if you don't use them, etc).

ClimbingwithYarn said...

Three pet peeves:

Too many repetitive directions. If the pattern is exactly the same for each row but increasing by X, I'd prefer to see the repeat Row 5 16 times ending on a wrong side row (you will have 184 stitches at the end of the 16th repeat).

Patterns with too many pages/or poor design. I like to print minimal information. If multiple options are given for each portion, split them by page so I can pick and choose what sections I'm working on.

Nor providing enough information and not labeling it as a basic 'recipe' instead of a pattern. If I can't check my work against stitch counts occasionally and have some guidelines as to where stitch markers might be appropriate I might as well write my own pattern.

Anonymous said...

I find it difficult when you are knitting from a pattern that has many beautiful pictures of the garment but not many pictures of things like the stitch patterns, the shape in key areas or places where you will be picking up stitches if it is not a 1:1 ratio. I find it very helpful to have more detailed pictures with a pattern as well as the beautiful ones that make you want to knit it so that you can actually make your project look like the pattern if that is your aim.

Josiphine said...

My number one grievance with patterns? Inaccurate yardage. If I'm knitting a shawl that has one 12 stitch row of cream there is NO WAY UNDER THE SUN that I will need 376 yards. I realize that the designer is just listing the yardage of the yarn she used, but I want more accuracy than that. Some of us use stash here. Tell me how much yarn you had left over from that 376 skein.

Otherwise, I like to have in progress pictures if it's fiddly, and pictures that clearly show what the darn thing looks like.

Oh, and please don't write patterns for a specific sort of needle. Socks seem to be the primary culprit here. Don't write them for sets of four or five needles. Use stitch amounts, not needle numbers.

knitknigel said...

I have not read through all the comments, so this topic may have been covered. One of my major bugbears is patterns that exhort one to do a swatch to ensure correct gauge and to block the pieces, but that also shows a schematic with the finished dimensions with instructions in the pattern to knit to those dimensions. If blocking is going to change the size of the piece, then it would be wonderful if the pattern suggested a potential size after knitting and a final size after blocking. I know it's a lot of doing, but at least give a heads up that you might want to check before blocking and after blocking measurements and adjust your measurements while knitting accordingly.

Jess said...

"writing" a pattern that is rendered entirely in charted form isn't writing a pattern at all, it's playing around in excel or on graph paper. It may be structurally well-designed, but lots of us will never know. Written instructions, although relatively cumbersome at times, are a make-or-break-the-purchase issue for me.

A thesis is relatively cumbersome as well, but often, the abstract alone won't yield all the relevant information.

Sylvie said...

- Detailed schematics for garments.
- Accurate yardage (not X skeins or Y ounces of something).
- Sizing and ease descriptions are helpful. It's particularly maddening if a pattern describes the sizes as "to fit a 38" bust" (for example). How large is the actual garment? How much ease, how much shaping, etc?

This isn't exactly about how patterns are written but more about what patterns get written/published, but I feel like there are thousands of patterns and books "for dummies" and "made easy" and whatnot. I wish there were more things that didn't shy away from a little complexity - especially when the complexity serves the fit or the design somehow.

Emily said...

I really love it when a pattern tells you how much ease the finished garment is meant to have. That really helps me know which size to choose. I also really love charts, so having the instructions charted is a big plus for me. And I also really like it when the pattern text is formatted in 2 columns so that when I copy it into my knitCompanion app it fits nice & neat and I can read it.

Some things I hate: like others have said, I hate it when I have to "decrease evenly" or "reverse shaping." I like it when all that kind of thing is spelled out for me. Also, I hate it when I'm told to "m1" without specifics on how they want that done. There are so many options, and I think it's so nice to know which one the designer wants me to use. Truth be told, I actually have a favorite method now, which I am inclined to use no matter what the designer thinks, but still, if there's an m1 that is particularly well-suited to the pattern, then let me know!

Emily said...

Oh, I just thought of a couple more...

Please tell me if you want me to slip that stitch knitwise or purlwise!

And others mentionted this one, but I will add a vote for a narrative at the beginning... A piece of knitting with a backstory will hook me so much more frequently than one without.

Becca said...

I really need patterns to spell out construction - please don't assume that I know what set-in sleeves are or that I know how to join them. Any pattern that requires non-knitting skills (sewing, crochet, embroidery) should have that clearly stated somewhere right at the beginning. Most of my pet peeves are with patterns that assume I'd be willing to develop a completely new skill set on the fly.

I delight in patterns that include additional information about the yarn used to aid in substitution - why it was chosen, the drape and elasticity it should have, etc.

For sock patterns with fancy leg designs, I seriously appreciate additional charts or instructions for altering the pattern to fit larger calves.

Anonymous said...

Here are my suggestions:

If you're going to abbreviate, put a list of abbreviations in the article!

And any unusual techniques should have instructions so I'm not guessing what you want me to do.

I also agree with Anonymous at 10:08: if you're going to say something is easy, please have a beginning or basic knitter try it. I stopped even considering one company's patterns after the PR department told me a full-size lace shawl with nupps and several alternating stitch patterns, combined with extensive shaping, was "easy - anyone can do it!"

Thank you for asking.

Unknown said...

I think others have already covered everything, but just to add strength to what you have all already said:


1) Schematics, with measurements
2) Charts. Always have written instructions too, but charting can be a pain to do (particularly with complicated lace stitches or cables) and for visual learners, they are SO much easier to use.
3) Provide the size of the model wearing the item, as well as the size of the item made. If it's a hat, tell me the model's head circumference and the size they're wearing; if it's a sweater, tell me the model's measurements and the size of the sweater.
4) PLEASE provide some schematic/construction information in the pattern blurb in Ravelry that you can see before purchasing. I understand that some of this is 'secret sauce', but I want to know if waist shaping is included, how the sleeves are attached, whether the hat is top-down or bottom-up.
5) Yardage information, not # of skeins.
6) Clearly marked sections. For example, if a sweater pattern tells me where the waist shaping begins and ends, if I need to move it it's easy.
7) Basically, everything Brooklyn Tweed does.
8) I'd love to see more patterns that are clearly designed to take advantage of handspun yarns. I feel like handspinning is seeing a revival, but I don't see a lot of patterns addressing this.
9) Similar to #8, more patterns that take advantage of a special skein, but not necessarily in a single-skein pattern. Fancy sweater yokes, hat accents, home accessories, etc.
10) Train your photographer to know what's important to a person potentially purchasing your pattern. They want to see how it fits, how it can be paired in outfits, where the details are, what kind of construction it has.

1) Actually, if you do all of the above, I don't have any don'ts ;-)

Thank you for asking, this will be a great resource when you are done!

joan said...

please do not waste pages on the basics of knitting as most books I purchase seem to do. there are a ton of how to books. It makes me cross to find the first or last 10 pages showing knit and purl, and etc I know how to knit or would not have purchased the book. I agree with the schematics being necessary. All size smalls are not the same.... thanks for asking

Anonymous said...

I am horrible at following charts, so I would vote for avoiding them unless absolutely necessary. I strongly advise giving the definitions for all abbreviations (and even very short how-to's for rarely encountered stitches). If a special type of cast-on is used, either give the directions or give the book citation or url of a reliable source for the directions.

Just as women's patterns may need adjustments for certain body types, so do the patterns for men. Include the how-to's for making such adjustments, whether it be for a very busty lady or a guy with a beer belly.

Finally, large, rectangular things (afghans, blankets, scarves, stoles, table runners, etc.) should NOT need to be blocked! (They also should not recommend a yarn that needs to be hand-washed and/or laid flat to dry!)

Jennifer said...

I agree with most of the comment above, but just to confirm what I look for:

1) A clear schematic with as many measurements as possible.
2) A note on the amount of ease intended for the garment
3) An overview of the pattern and general techniques would be great--rarely see that.
4) Charts and written instructions. I use the charts, but this is a good check for errors and helpful for beginners (and blind knitters!).
5) Suggestions for yarn substitution. If the yarn used for the patterns was chosen for particular qualities, what were they? What should the knitter do if that yarn is discontinued or not available in their area? Or exorbitantly expensive?
6) More than minimal instructions that simply say, "Knit right front as for left front, reversing pattern and shaping." (Quoted from another comment.) I can manage these instructions as an advanced knitter, but they were befuddling as a beginner.
7) Similarly, "increase X stitches evenly across the row." I still find that annoying. I think there is a free calculator that helps with this--could the pattern writer either use it themselves or provide the link?
8) A clear photo of the finished item can be very helpful--front, back, showing all the details. A full picture of a shawl, on and off a body, is really helpful. Both sides of scarf, especially if there is a "wrong" side.
9) clear layout and sized for printing is nice.
10) not a requirement, but sometimes I've wanted to drop a neckline or raise it--a note to indicate where you should make such decisions would be nice but not essential.

That's all I have!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for asking! I've designed patterns for myself for a while and I was stumped a number of years ago by pattern grading (adding multiple sizes to a pattern). I took a class at Stitches on designing and when I asked about grading - the teacher told me that she wouldn't teach it! Her words - "That's really what I get paid to do - you need to figure it out for yourself…" If you can shine some light on this process - that would be great -

Unknown said...

Not sure if anyone else has posted this because there were waaaay too many comments to read through, but one of my pet peeves is designers who put the technique descriptions all at the end or in a box on page 6 when you use the technique on page 2. Flipping pages back and forth is annoying, but scrolling back and forth on my phone is absolutely maddening. Put the techniques next to where you first use them, end of story.

And put charts with the written instructions, so people can choose which to use. Don't hide the charts at the end (same problem as above).

Finally, if you find errata, update the pattern! Sure if it is published in a magazine it is too late, but if it is on a website or it is a pdf don't just post in the Ravelry project page. Change the pdf and re-upload.

All of these apply to paid patterns of course. With free patterns, well, you get what you pay for!

Ellen said...

Wow - I agree with everything everyone has said. It's all very true and important, and I will try not to repeat but a few things struck me while I was reading the comments. One commenter said that many patterns peter out towards the end as if the designer got tired of the pattern. I have noticed that many times and think it's a real problem. Especially since we hear all the time about how important finishing and blocking are - help us out a bit here.

I love when patterns give the yardage required for the project rather than just saying X number of skeins of X yarn. I rarely use the yarn that the designer used (price being a major factor)and while I know that yarn substitution can be risky, I would like to know that x number of yards of worsted, sport, fingering, etc. are needed.

Finally, I recently heard a designer say on a podcast that she picks up extra stitches at the underarm to close potential gaps then decreases the extra stitches away later. Great idea, so why isn't the pattern written that way? Designers should write patterns the way they actually knit, incorporating all the tips and tricks they use to get a really well-crafted finished item.

Thanks so much for the chance to comment - good luck with the book!

ypsiknitti said...

I agree with many of the comments that I read (honestly I did not read them all) and if this has been said before, oops.. I am frustrated when the pattern photo is written as one yarn but the pattern is written for a yarn of a different weight. I'm not experienced enough to know if what I fell in love with will look the same in the pattern weight yarn and i would not have purchased a lace wt psweater pattern. I love the ravelry tags because they provide information that some designers haven't, but should (construction tips- one piece? Seamed? Knit in the round?)

MmmYarn said...

This is what I look for in a pattern:

For any project: a short description of construction details (top down, side to side, in the round, that kind of thing).

For garments: a schematic (S-M-L aren't the same everywhere) and a photo showing the item worn with arms down at sides (no funky poses or scarves covering necklines).

For stitch/lace patterns: a chart (for ease of execution) plus written instructions (to muddle through the designer's choice of symbols).

For sock and other small in-the-round patterns: give total number of stitches rather than "you should have 28 stitches on needle 1 and 36 on needle 2." This allows me to choose the needle type for the project; e.g., double-points vs. circulars.

For digital patterns: make them a PDF and ensure printer-friendly formatting (e.g., so a chart isn't cut off mid-page).

What I don't like: patterns that spend a good chunk describing basics such as knit and purl. It's a pattern, not a "how to knit" book.

I look forward to seeing your book!

José said...

I agree with Emma on the modelling size info.
Other things I love in pattern are, as mentioned, a schematic with measurements and information about ease.

I would also like yarn possibilities, especially since over here, sportweight doesn't seem to be that regular, for instance.

Therefore I would also love good info on the gauge, like whether the gauge is measured pre- or after washing/blocking.
What I really hate in this regard, is when ( while browsing on ravelry for instance ) it only tells you the gauge 'in pattern'. This makes it very hard to wonder if I have a good substitute yarn if the original is not at hand to me.

Tegan Kehoe said...

I am a longtime knitter and I'm just starting to make the transition from improvising some of the patterns I knit to designing patterns for others to knit.

In following other people's patterns, I really like a clear description of which pieces fit together where. Not just a schematic, but which edge is which. I recently frogged a stuffed animal (which was not, itself, a frog)after the third attempt at putting the head together.

In writing out my own patterns for others' use, the advice I would like to see in the book is about borders. If a pattern has a simple border such as a slipped stitch two stitches in stockinette, do most knitters prefer to be told in advance to work the pattern with that border, or to have those instructions in each line? Does it differ between charted and written instructions?

Rebecca said...

I rarely use the recommended yarn - for various reasons. Designers rarely put the yarn weight in the pattern so I am left to guess based on the needle size. Please include info on the recommended yarn - such as weight category (sport, fingering, lace..)better yet, WPI and fiber type.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to add one from the international knitter here. I'm an Aussie, learned British knitting terms mainly and now knit lots of American (and English patterns).
Pllease define the abbreviations you use in your pattern at the beginning. For example I learned SKPO (Slip 1, Knit 1, Pass slipped stich over). The standard American term appears to be SSK (which is done slightly differently too).

Other things I love in a pattern.
1. Lots of pictures of garment being worn sensibly and artistically and of the unique details.
2. Schematics with measurements in both cm and inches
3. Ease and sizing information (with detials of the size the model is wearing).
4. Yarn yardage and weight (for substitution) - I'm working with what I can source locally.
5. Gauge details for all patterns used (and in the round if the garment is in the round).
6. Needle sizes in American and European and metric. (Especially with crochet hooks!)
7. Charts for cables and lace patterns + written line by line instructions.
8. And I'd also vote for the narrative for a pattern, what's the inspiration and the construction techniques.
9. Construction information where appropriate.

(and for Anonymous near the end - everything needs blocking - it's amazing what a differnce it makes).

Anonymous said...

I am sure this has been said, but I love when a pattern states the yarn used, then, for substitution purposes, details the spin, weight, and fiber content. I only have one pattern book that does this, and I think I have now knit everything in that book, for this reason -- the Knitter's Book of Yarn.
I also don't bother with lace and cable patterns that aren't charted.

Louise said...

1. I don't mind what EZ called "pithy" instructions, but an online backup with more details might be in order for some patterns. I understand paper space is limited, but this would seem to be a good solution. 2. Also, I'd like to see a better reflection and editing of larger sizes. I just finished a cardigan where the scaling for my size, which was the largest, left me with a huge 30 inch neck opening. I was able to rip back and fix it, but I had to rip back and fix it. Not great on a paid pattern. 3. More knit porn. I need more pictures. Front. Back. Sideways. Close-ups of lace or cables. I NEVER buy a pattern that doesn't show me at least front and back shots.

kushami said...

Kate, thanks for asking an excellent question!

Lots of great comments so far. As a copy editor and occasional desktop publisher, it annoys me to see typos, instructions that don't make sense or contradict themselves, and curly quotes used instead of inch marks.

And I really dislike it when the designer writes a blurb calling their own pattern "beautiful" or "exquisite" - I'll be the judge of that, thank you! I want practical details in the description, like whether it is intricate or simple, how it is constructed, what techniques are used, and, for shawls, what shape it is (yes I'm looking at you, editor of the blurb for Veronik Avery's Travel Shawl!).

Oh and not too many photos of yourself, Mr/Ms Designer, especially ones that are all about you, not the pattern.

What I very much like is clear fonts, easy b&w printing, charts, schematics, and photos that show the item clearly by itself and being worn.

Oh and a final thought - if you are selling the pattern, formatting in Word is not acceptable. If you don't have a lot of money, get together with a desktop publishing student. If you have some money, hire a pro to set you up a template in InDesign.

kushami said...

Ooh, one more thing: yarn guidance. All kinds of people are going to be using a pattern - maybe they don't have access to the yarn used in the design because they live in another country, are knitting from stash, or have a small budget.

So I would like to see help for yarn substitutions in the form of:

1. A standard yarn weight (e.g. Craft Yarn Council Yarn Standards).

2. Recommendation on the type of yarn if important to the execution of the pattern (e.g. does it require the elasticity of wool, the bloom of Shetland, the strength of nylon, or the drape of silk to be successful).

3. Additional gauge information, such as the yarn being used at an unusual gauge to achieve an effect in the garment.

Anonymous said...

A knitter sees a beautiful pattern, has to have it, runs to purchase it along with yarn, ready, set, begin....oh guess what ERRORS IN THE PUBLISHED PATTERN. How about letting your future customers know if the pattern has been test knit from the publication?