August 26, 2013


Over the weekend, I received one of those occasional email messages from a stranger that just pushes all of my knitterly buttons.  I haven't gotten one in about a year, so I guess I'm due. This, of course, compels me to address her general concerns in this public forum, just in case others of you find yourself in a similar situation. This is not written to offend.  I'm just sayin' ...

Let me begin by saying that when I, or for that matter any independent designer, write a pattern, it's not simply a bunch of random directions that are thrown down on a page with a picture of a finished (and therefore, tested) product that I found somewhere on the Internet.  Countless hours go into writing, test-knitting every size, frogging, re-writing, re-knitting, measuring, formatting, researching, photographing, and getting it all down on paper.  If I am writing a pattern for a company to publish, then there are the additional hours of others test-knitting, suggesting changes as necessary, re-wording, re-formatting, re-photographing, and publishing the pattern, too.  Sometimes, with all of that attention a mistake is overlooked, and errata is needed in a public forum like Ravelry.  With that said, at the bottom of my patterns is my real email address and a statement that says to contact me with questions or concerns.  You can also contact me via this blog or any of my online venues or social networking sites.  I make no secret of my contact information. I'm usually very nice and try to help you through your sticking point.  But if we've never met or had a conversation and you email me to tell me that you think I'm a terrible designer, I have no business being a knitwear designer, and you are far superior to me over a disagreement about three knit stitches , then don't expect to get sugary sweet Glinda from Oz in your inbox.

So that brings me to issue #1:  If you purchase a pattern from me or by me through a company that carries my pattern, you are NOT going to receive a series of focus group-like email from me asking you why you purchased the pattern, for whom you are making it, if the instructions were easy to understand for you, if you would like me to make any changes to my pattern to better accommodate YOUR personal knitting style, or how your project turned out.  These are not questions that I will ask you.  Why? Because it's none of my business why, how, or for whom you purchased the pattern, though I am always glad to find pictures of your finished products in my inbox. If you purchase one of my patterns through a second or third-party vendor and that vendor allows an automatic message from me to be sent with your receipt, you will get a "thank you!" from me.  You will not get privacy invading or harassing email from me (and mostly I find that online vendors consider this type of follow-up to be borderline spamming). Pattern designers are required to follow specific rules for communication with customers that vary from site to site.  If you consider this to be poor customer service, then I am sorry.  I try to treat my customers as I would like to be treated, myself, and respect their privacy and anonymity. Besides, I can't remember the last time I purchased an online pattern and the pattern designer hunted me down to say thank you. (Neither Interweave nor Vogue contacted me last week to ask me what I thought of their latest issue, or if I wanted them to make changes to a particular pattern to better suit my personal knitting preferences, either.) My feelings have never been hurt by this absence of abject gratitude. I hope yours haven't been hurt, either. I am, however, sincerely grateful for your purchases and your continuing faith in me!

Issue #2:  If you purchase a pattern that is written FOR USE WITH A SPECIFIC YARN, and you want to use a different yarn, then one of two things should follow.  Either you should look at your yarn label to see if the yarn weight, the recommended needle size, and the yardage are nearly identical to what is called for in the pattern OR you should (dare I say it?), practice basic Knitting 101 behavior and knit a swatch.  That's right.  I said it.  Knit a swatch and compare your gauge to the pattern gauge.  If they are the same, then there you have it.  If not, then knit another swatch with a different needle size, measure the gauge, and so on.  That's how you know whether your project will result in a comparable finished size to what the pattern proposes. It's not a question of whether you want to swatch in this case.  It's kind of a necessity. You might even go so far as to read through the ENTIRE intro. to the pattern to see if there are notes about yarn substitutions. I'm going to go out on a limb and also suggest that the reality is that most patterns written by independent designers that are available on the Internet are not going to have Walmart yarn listed as an alternative, though a few might and you should be able to do a search for patterns via your yarn brand. What you should not do, mostly because it's just bad form, is email the pattern designer to complain about the yarn that you want to use not being listed among the other suggested yarns in the pattern, demand to know how you are supposed to determine if your yarn is an appropriate alternative if the pattern designer didn't have the foresight to write the pattern for the yarn you want to use, not knit a swatch, and then claim to be a superior knitter to the designer.  No you shouldn't do this. You should especially not send this email and then admit in the same email that you hadn't actually read through the pattern notes to discover that there are notes about use of comparable yarns. You are wasting someone's valuable knitting time.

Issue #3: If you purchase a pattern, whether online or not, and the pattern doesn't make sense to you (of course you should read through ALL of the instructions and notes before beginning), and you have the option to ask the designer for help, you should do so BEFORE you make your own modifications and knit your own modified version of the pattern. It's also bad form to email the designer to complain that the math didn't quite work out for you so the designer should drop everything, re-write the pattern according to your personal specifications, re-publish the pattern so that everyone can benefit from your alterations, and send you a new copy ASAP. Let's face it.  At the point where you've altered the pattern and knit it your way, it's no longer the original designer's pattern.  It's your pattern now.  Don't expect the designer to thank you for altering the pattern or for your unsolicited advice, especially after haranguing her about what a poor pattern writer she is unless you are, say, Lily Chin or Anna Zilboorg or Gwen Bortner (two of the three I have met and discussed knitting techniques and patterns with, by the way).

On Saturday morning, because I didn't read through ALL of the instructions about end-row increases before knitting the yoke of my new sweater, and because some of the instructions, due to their wording, didn't make complete sense after my few cursory glances at the pattern's increasing stitch count, I had to tear down my 64-row yoke to row 2.  ROW 2, folks.  I will not, however, be emailing Ann Budd because her numbers didn't quite work for me and, thus, extrapolate upon how my faux pas was completely her fault. I just started over.

When I knit 1/2 of the sweater body (in the round) for an XL men's sweater and discovered that the math for a pattern translated into English from a Scandinavian DROPS pattern was pretty darned wonky when I got to the sleeves/yoke, I did not contact them, or Ravelry, and demand a re-write.  I frogged a little, made corrections, and moved on with my life. So should you if you don't stop and ask for help in the first place. 

Issue #4:  If you are unsatisfied with a pattern that you have purchased, downloaded, printed, admittedly altered, and admittedly knit, don't email the designer to tell her how you think she's unprofessional because you didn't like the pattern and it shouldn't be for sale in the first place. Contact the seller and ask for a refund.  Unfortunately, if you've already admitted to having downloaded, printed, altered, used the pattern, and generated a finished product in writing, I'm not sure you would have much luck getting that refund since most second and third-party sellers are going to also contact the designer to ask them what the deal is with this purchase if they allow refunds on pdf sales at all. Just contact the seller and skip the incriminating evidence. No seller can please every customer.  That's a fact.

can understand the frustration of not being able to knit a pattern.  I get it.  Sometimes you aren't ready for the pattern because you need to get some help or need to practice some new skill first. Sometimes you need to complain about the pattern to your knitting group before you can get through it.  Sometimes you are so excited about casting on a new project or you are under a deadline because you want to make a gift and you didn't give yourself enough time to get it done. You want to do it so badly that you dive in with both eyes shut. Sometimes I'm not ready to knit something without first getting a little help. Sometimes I'm not  as skilled at a method of knitting as I think I am. Sometimes the wording of a pattern doesn't jive with what I'm used to working and I still don't get it after reading it over and over--a fresh pair of eyes and a re-phrasing can do wonders in this situation. Ask for help at the cast on from someone, even if you can't get in touch with the designer, there are online forums you can visit and there's Youtube, of course.  Don't wait until you have knit and frogged yourself into complete misery. 

There's a lace sweater that I wanted to knit in a published book by a French designer that would not, no matter what I tried, knit correctly.  The book was expensive, probably cost-prohibitively expensive for only wanting to knit one pattern out of the book, and after purchasing a sweater's worth of expensive high-end merino/silk fingering weight yarn because that's what the pattern called for, a gazillion attempts and consequent froggings, and finally a frustrated resolution that the problem couldn't be me  (though I am quite sure now, 18 years and a few knitting projects later, that it was all me). I gave up.  I gave the book to a library (regret, regret!!).  I moved on.  I did not contact the designer or the publisher to demand a re-write or to tell her that she was unprofessional for publishing the pattern in the first place because I couldn't get the stitch count right.  I knit other things that didn't make me crazy.  It's like this: if you bought a pair of Jimmy Chu shoes, and they pinched your feet every time you wore them, you would change shoes (and then put the Chus under glass with laser alarms because they are Jimmy Chu $951.28 hand-studded stilhettos for Heaven's sake!! And aren't they spectacular!?!).
(picture courtesy of

It's just knitting.  It's not worth being nasty over.  You catch more flies with honey, they say.  So, go knit something that doesn't make you crazy and be nice to pattern designers.       We are only human.  I'm just sayin' ...


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