We all know the frustration of choosing a pattern carefully, imagining yourself knitting it and then falling down because even when you concentrate, you feel that the problem is not YOU but the pattern itself.
Sometimes the pattern is poorly written, sometimes crucial informations are missing, sometimes the number of sizes is insufficient or the measurements are not given. And sometimes counting errors are too frequent!
So how can you tell a well-designed pattern from a poorly written one?
1. You will find pictures or a drawing of the finished project.
A well-written and effective knitting pattern is one that shows you the finished product worn by a model or a dummy and shows you enough details so that you have an idea of its ease, length and shape.
In the age of social medias and digital pattern sales, photos are no longer necessarily found on the written pattern itself but can be found on the product’s sales page, and the size of the finished project can sometimes be mentioned as well.
With Ravelry, you will also have the possibility to see the finished project worn by knitters of different sizes and morphology.
2. Gauge is specified
In any well-designed pattern, you will find mention of a swatch either knitted flat or knitted in the round determining the number of stitches and the number of rows you will need to knit a 10cm by 10cm square.
The gauge is essential because it’s what assures you that your project will be as close as possible to the sample presented in the pattern.
If you want to know more about the importance of swatching, I wrote an article about it here a few months ago.
3. The yarn’s name and its composition are mentioned
In a well written pattern, you will find the specifications of the yarn used by the knitwear designer.
Indeed how to obtain a result close to the sample if the yarn’s composition is not mentioned.
Without this information, you won’t be able to choose the adequate yarn, to know its weight nor its composition and it will prevent you from being able to substitute this yarn by another of equivalent quality.
Therefore, in an ideal pattern, you should find mentioned :
- the name of the yarn brand
- the name of the yarn range
- the composition of this yarn (for example: 100% merino or 75% wool / 25% silk)
- the weight (fingering, DK)
- the yardage of each skein or ball
- the number of balls or skeins
- the yardage needed to make the desired size (for example: 1100 m for size S and 1250 m for size M)
4. Format of the pattern
Ideally, a pattern should offer two formats: a written version and a charted version to meet the needs of all knitters.
Indeed, some knitters cannot understand the charts and for others, the written explanations are very confusing so it is important that you have the possibility to alternate between charts and written explanations depending on how you read the pattern.
Sometimes some patterns are only available as chartedor as written. This does not necessarily mean that they are badly written patterns, but that the designer has decided to offer only one of the two formats because either one would not add anything to the pattern except length (and therefore more pages to print) or confusion.
For example, it is rarely interesting to put mosaic knitting or stranded colorwork charts into words because it is a drawing and it is much easier to follow a color legend than to follow color changes in a compact text.
Measurements must be mentioned in a knitting pattern.
Sometimes in a very succinct way, for example for a shawl where only the length, width or span are mentioned or for a pair of mittens where only the palm circumference and the length of the mittens are mentioned.
Sometimes in a much more detailed way in the form of a schematic for a sweater or a cardigan where can be mentioned the chest, waist, neck, hip, arm length, shoulder width etc.
This will allow you to make an informed choice about the size you want to knit.
Indeed, measurements are rarely codified and regulated and an American size M is not equivalent to a French, Italian or European size M.
If the construction of the knitted piece is not classical, it is also important to find schematics explaining the direction of the construction or a mention of where to start the pattern.
For example, in the case of a top down, we will briefly explain that we start with the neckling and work to the armholes to then separate the body and the sleeves.
7. Stitch count
The instructions of a well written pattern will mention not only the number of stitches to decrease or increase but also the total number of stitches you get after decreasing or increasing.
So for example in the case of a circular yoke, it should be mentioned the number of increases per round but also the result after each round of increase for each size.
8. The techniques used and their explanations
In a well written pattern, you will find mention of the different techniques used.
For example, such and such a cast-on was used, such and such a bind-off was used. And these techniques are detailed precisely either in the pattern, or refer to a website or an explanatory video.
Obviously, these few points are not all that makes a well written pattern. The style of the knitting designer is also important, the airiness of the text, its layout.
You can also find different things that make the designer’s touch: drawings, a much more detailed technique than elsewhere, stitches mentioned in table form etc.
And finally, an essential thing, what characterizes a good knitting pattern, is also the possibility to interact with the designer to ask him/her questions, either directly when he/she mentions his/her email address or through the customer service of the pattern supplier or the publisher.
I hope that these little details will help you choose your patterns wisely or will allow you to say to yourself that no, it is not you who do not understand what is written but rather the pattern which is not written in a very readable way.
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See you soon,