Since I decided to branch out into writing knitting patterns to share with others, I've been paying more careful attention to what I like and don't like in the patterns I knit. Specifically, I've been thinking a lot about how much detail I want the designer to include and how much direction I want them to provide in the pattern. It seems like this topic has some currency in the knitting community. The Yarn Harlot just wrote a post about it and I've seen discussions in the Designers and Budding Designers groups on Ravelry.
Looking back at the patterns I've knit, the amount of instruction hasn't always correlated to the execution difficulty of the actual knitting. For example, the Little Mermaid Bolero, an intermediate pattern, included some of the most detailed instructions I've seen. The pattern is 24 pages long.* Every technique was explained or linked and full written instructions and charts were provided.
Not every pattern is going to be like that and not every one has to be.
On the other hand, #06 Lace Cardigan from the Early Fall '10 Vogue Knitting had pretty bare bones instructions regarding the short row shaping to raise the back of the neck. The pattern didn’t say to make the short rows in pattern. The picture seemed to, but the counts given for where to start and end the short rows didn’t work with the lace repeat. I had to figure out how to do the short rows in pattern myself. There also wasn’t an ending stitch count for the sweater, so I didn’t know initially whether I had the correct number of stitches left when I finished the short rows. It was really tricky, and I felt a bit at sea even though I technically knew how to do the knitting required.
I don't really need a designer to give me instructions for decreasing at the side of a lace pattern in pattern, but I was definitely lost when I was supposed to be increasing only part of the lace in pattern in the middle of the row. I like it when a designer tells me their preferred cast-on, even though I often use my method of choice instead. As I've been complaining about recently, I like it when patterns include blindingly obvious instructions like "join sides to back, being careful not to join sides together" even if I don't mind if much more complicated things are left for me to look up on the internet. I don't need a pattern to include my size, but when it does, I want to know exactly what I'm supposed to do on every row to get to that size.
For me, I think I like a pattern to include all of the detail relevant to making every pattern size. I want to know exactly where the designer thinks the increases and decreases should go and to give me the math so I don't have to do it for myself. I want to know how many stitches I'm supposed to have when the number changes even though I could add for myself. I'd also like to be told at the beginning what techniques are needed so that I can have my internet sites queued when I'm on an airplane and get to that part of the pattern, but I don't need the techniques actually spelled out if I can get the information elsewhere.
I read a great Ben Franklin quote on this: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” I think that's the intent of some of the less detailed patterns -- if the knitter needs to decide how to do something, the knitter is more likely to remember how to do it and why that technique was chosen. But I'm not always in the mood to learn when I'm knitting. Sometimes (usually) I'm in the mood to zone out and end up with something pretty in my hands. That doesn't work when I need to constantly worry about whether I'm getting the numbers right and doing the math right and made the right bind-off choice so that my finished object will be usable.
What about you?
* I really liked that 24-page pattern, even though I didn't use most of the pages, but I just saw that the designer has released a new simplified version. I haven't opened it yet, but maybe no one actually wants that much detail?
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