When pattern instructions are brief, finding out what was left out can be crucial to understanding what is set out. All too often the nuance and details that aren’t included are what really matters.
In Defense of Length
Every page costs money. Every word written adds its own cost on top of the cost of printing. This takes time, costs money, and can result in a wonderful juicy thing, or it can be lengthy without being relevant and useful. The same is true of any kind of instruction, in particular, or any exchange of information.
Rattling on and on without purpose isn’t what I want to do; rather, I am in favor of providing information that the user/reader might like to have. Adding words and explanations, charts, shaping charts, detailed instructions for shaping (and reverse directions) into patterns allows someone to see into how the process works, what I am thinking as I go through the process, and how I got there. Information added in for a purpose, can be precisely where the knitter will find clarity, learning, and personal discovery take place.
In Defense of Leaving Out
We like things to happen quickly. It takes more time to digest length. Just what you need can be just what you want if you are working on familiar territory. All the things left out mean cost savings to the end purchaser and to the creator. TL;DR?
What We Don’t Know We Don’t Miss
Jamie and I talk frequently about what I know and whether or not it is still relevant. I think it is, so I try to pass it on. In our chat I was explaining how everything costs money, and how choices are made depending on point of view.
I grew up making my own clothes. There was home-made or store-bought. We could not afford much in the way of store-bought. My mom was pretty much a quick and dirty sewer. Everything looked great on the outside, but looked a bit disheveled on the inside. I liked my things to look great inside and out, so I learned fancy finishes and different things to make my garments look great. By the time I was in late middle school my fashions were definitely hand made because my skills had taken me past home-made. I spent hours laying out patterns to match plaids and patterns, while being as frugal as possible with my materials.
I had the good fortune of learning both custom and manufacturing methods when I was getting my design education, both for construction and pattern making. What I have focused on since beginning to do knitwear in the mid-1990s is how to translate those skills into clever knitting.
Left Out Doesn’t Mean Not Needed
Yesterday I went through a pattern I had purchased to figure out what that designer had done to make a very pretty design. The purpose was strictly to assess methodology, and I am not being critical. The bare essentials were there, and you could totally make the sweater without more.
- 4″ gauge given (I can figure out 1″)
- Gauge only in stockinette (color work yoke?)
- No gauge for smaller needles (trim) so cannot tell actual neck size
- Had to divide stitches by 1″ gauge (not given) to determine neck after band (a measurement is on the schematic, but is it the neckband or the yoke?)
- Some of the increases are in the color chart, and I missed that at first. There are two increase rounds in the written instructions; the three increase rounds in the color chart double the stitch count.
- The color chart begins as a multiple of 5 and ends as a multiple of 10.
- The total yoke depth from the front neck is determined by measuring to the stitches on the needle. This makes my eyes twitch as the knitting hasn’t been blocked yet and gauge will undoubtedly change.
- It was not intuitive (when reading the pattern) that “work even” was stockinette on the body. Doh.
- Underarm stitches are a reference point, but not specifically called out as such. (I can comb further to figure it out)
Left Out Doesn’t Mean Not Needed, part 2
- What if I need to make the yoke longer or shorter?
- What is the real neckline circumference?
- Why are all the sleeve lengths the same?
- How do I work the decreases on the underarm if I don’t make the sleeve that length?
- Why is the neck trim rolled when the cuff and bottom trim are ribbed? [A lot of knitters changed the neckline.]
I have looked at all the projects posted on Ravelry. Almost all comments are positive, although some fit issues exist. What I was most struck by (except how lovely they all were) was the different lengths of the yoke–which means the sleeves can start either quite high or quite low! Row gauge is so important in a stitch pattern.
Added In Doesn’t Mean It is Harder
I’ve always figured that I have to be able to account for all the stitches, what they do, when, where, how, and why, in all the sizes I present, so I might as well share some of that information. It may not be necessary, but it may make a big difference to someone working the pattern. Patterns in my world started getting long when I began adding shaping charts and moving into shapes that needed different directions for the range of sizes given. As I added more into what I presented it became necessary to add in more explanation. I consider each pattern to be a mini-tutorial, so if you need to know something, it is there. If you don’t need to know, skip it!
Each pattern I write has very complete finishing instructions. I know that everything comes together in the finishing stage. Since I prefer to do as much as I can as a knitter, not as a finisher, I always take that into consideration when writing the finishing.