When talking to designers, teachers, tech editors, about knitting techniques in patterns, the first thing most of them will say is “they should know that” or “they can look it up” which is true, but may not be the best way to make for happy users of your pattern or handouts.
Techniques: What Should You Know
I am all in agreement that knitters need to know the basics, or know where to get the information (unless you are doing projects geared to new knitters, in which case it is your job to inform them). I turned to the CYC website for basic abbreviations. But, you have to know that site exists, and the list and website don’t give explanations of techniques, just provides a list of “most commonly used abbreviations“. The list is not downloadable, but I’ve created a spreadsheet you can download–it copies their list and I’ve linked to technique explanations on Jill Wolcott Knits where they exist. Of course you can look for YouTube videos and other explanations. You may have reference books you like to turn to, and I am all for that. Learning new things is part of mastering something like knitting. But there doesn’t always seem to be a clear path between what you should know–and my first thought is, “who decides what we need to learn?” So let’s agree that you should know the basics, and you can use my table of techniques to do so.
Well, you look it up, right? If you are using a book or magazines they should have all the techniques spelled out somewhere, so that isn’t a problem. But what if you are knitting from a single pattern, which I think many, many knitters are? In my patterns I state where to find the technique explanations within the pattern or on my web site. I have techniques specific to that pattern on a specified page, and I list other abbreviations and techniques (on the same page) that are used and suggest you go to my website for further explanation. This is the compromise I made because I cannot take the time and space to include every technique in every pattern.
Once I sit down to knit I really don’t want to get up to figure something out, I see this as a place where things can begin to go wrong for the knitter.
Techniques: What’s In the Pattern?
Let’s look at the three patterns I used last week. Pattern 1 is the “foreign” shawl pattern, Pattern 2 is the crochet mittens, and the Jill Wolcott Knits pattern is a shawl.
Pattern 1 has a list of abbreviations, but no techniques explained separately. There is a pattern note that there is no wrap and turn in the short row section, but there was no explanation of how the short rows were to be executed, so I just had to feel my way through it. There is a nice explanation of how to do the I-cord bind off as part of the finishing, but it wasn’t specific about whether I was to end with a right side row or a wrong side row. From the directions I figured I was to end with a WS row, so I just assumed I worked the bind off from the right side.
Pattern 2 has the abbreviations listed and all the techniques fully explained, with photos! Since I’m not a regular crocheter, this was excellent and I sat with the photos and words and figured out how to execute each technique. I will report that instead of the 30 minutes I anticipated, it took more like 90 minutes to get comfortable with them. I could not have used the pattern had the techniques not been there–which was one of the reasons I bought it.
Pattern 3 has a list of abbreviations and techniques in addition to having five techniques fully described in the pattern. I swear I didn’t choose this pattern because I’d been so thoughtful about providing techniques! This pattern is labeled as being of moderate difficulty, and that it has lace and short rows.
Techniques: How They Matter
While I could be smug about the amount of information I provided, let’s look at my use of these three patterns, because that is what matters–how the user interacts with the pattern. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, we all take in information differently. From experience I know that few people actually read the information I provide. The most frequently asked questions I field are how to do a technique, and very few times has the knitter actually read the description I provide. I know the same is true for the general notes I provide on the information page, and sometimes even notes provided within sections of the pattern. Of course, I only know about those who contact me.
Pattern 1 would have completely stymied me if I had not recently learned about German short rows. The two other methods of short rows that I know how to do, the slip-wrap-slip and Japanese short rows, wouldn’t have worked as the pattern is written. When I Googled (short rows without wrap and turn) it I didn’t come up with a technique that seemed to be what she meant me to do, so I just used the German short row method, which worked.
Pattern 2 I couldn’t have begun to understand this pattern without the techniques provided. I have several crochet books, but they don’t have enough technique information to have gotten me through the techniques as clearly as the photos and technique descriptions did. Note: I have not actually made these mittens yet because I need to make a chart to follow as I find the written instructions too confusing (we can safely assume that this is due to how I perceive information). I also have an ongoing bit of confusion about how some of the terms are used but I think this is a crochet thing generally.
Pattern 3 is a little unfair since I wrote it and I understand the techniques I provided. I have had questions on this pattern, but they are the result of how I wrote the instructions, so I have reworked them into a format I believe will be clearer. I think the fault of this pattern is in my failure to reveal the process (which I discussed here). I could provide pictures with my techniques, but honestly, it isn’t likely. I do have plans to add more videos to my website techniques.
Every week I look at what people searched for on my website. It is often techniques, but mostly techniques that I don’t recognize, so they are using terms I haven’t used.