Tackling the Poorly Written Pattern

KnittingCollectionThe pattern I tried to follow for the garment my granddaughter F wants (the gilet pictured to the right) drove me batty.

F_ButtonMy friend Naomi – the queen of color -gave me this button. The yarn is Verde Collection Seedling Hand Paint organic cotton in Aloha, 50g/1.75 oz = 110 y/100.5m.

On the first day, I had to rip out my knitting, deconstruct the instructions for the first section and type them out in row-by-row instructions. Then back to the needles

The second day, accompanied by teeth gnashing and, shall we say, colorful exclamations, I again unraveled my knitting. This time I went farther and drew out the pattern for the first couple of sets of instructions. This allowed me to see where the pattern instructions were missing an instruction or two (or more).

Ultimately, I realized the whole pattern was a mess. In order to avoid the frustration associated with continually ripping out sections, I created the triumvirate of patterns:  (1) I graphed out the whole garment; (2) I wrote new line-by-line instructions; and (3) I set out the pattern in the sort of table-column format of the old Norwegian patterns my grandmother used.  (Yes, this is probably a bit of overkill.)

gilet_finalHere it is.  You can probably see that the garment – all garter stitch – is shaped by a series of short rows.  It should have been a quick knit, but, because of the instructions with the pattern instructions, this little garter stitch gilet took me about two weeks.

I added a buttonhole.  Oddly the pattern – perhaps the designers thought it would be easier – has no buttonhole but calls for some sort of silly press-on button/snap device.

I knew the size 6 would be too wide for granddaughter F.  (The children in our family tend to be long and thin.)  I employed some of the tricks of our knitting foremothers so the garment can be worn longer.  In this case, after I finished the gilet, I “took it in” by making a double seam at the sides and by adding a false seam down the back.  Next year I will simply take out the false and secondary seams.

Fia_skirtI had enough yarn to knit (top down) a skirt knit to match (with in an enclosed 3/4 inch elastic in the waistband).  I still had almost a full 50 grams of yarn leftover.  When the time comes that granddaughter F needs more length, I only have to remove the cast off row at the bottom one inch row of garter stitch, pick up the loops and knit several more rows.

I wrote Bergère de France (listed as pattern designer), both to inform the company the pattern was poorly written and ask if I had permission to post my re-writes.  l knew, of course, that the answer to the posting question would be no – and I wasn’t wrong.  Here’s the rest of its response:  I’m sorry to read your feelings about our instructions. However, please be assured that we take great care when writing the instructions, and they are translated and rewritten by English-speaking knitters. 

Bergère de France missed the point: Being a bilingual knitter does not mean the person can construct good pattern instructions – as the gilet pattern so amply proves. Sadly.

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8 Responses to Tackling the Poorly Written Pattern

  1. I have always been flummoxed that it’s RARELY used – at least in the U.S. I asked an acquaintence of mine from long ago – a knit and weaving designer and the owner of a successful and excellent yarn store – why that is. Her response was basically “Americans want everything written out.” Well, it’s NOT only Americans. 🙂 I think it’s vastly easier and really simplifies it for multiple sizing and languages.


  2. streepie says:

    I’m a “tri-lingual” knitter, i.e. I use pattern written in German, English and French. The style of writing pattern instructions differs considerably between these languages – and this makes it even more difficult to provide an adequate translation.
    A table-column format sounds like a great way of providing concise instructions!


  3. Exactly!!! 🙂


  4. ethgran says:

    Adorable Set. I never considered allowing for growth – clever ways to go about it. I would think that the interpretation would be tested as much as the original script. Just because the interpreter is bilingual doesn’t mean can write a good pattern.


  5. I wanted them to listen to my comments. If I wrote angrily, they’d hear just my anger. That makes it easier for the reader to dismiss the comments!

    I’m not THAT nice. 🙂


  6. handstitch says:

    Man…you know what I would say to that reply! You sure are much nicer knitter/person than I am. Congratulation on your perseverance. I’m sure it would make a very happy girl and bring her a lot of smiles 😀


  7. I am sure that their response was pretty canned. Given its long and respected presence in the fiber and textile world, I am more apt to believe Bergere de France had to conform with the instruction-writing requirements of the company that published the magazine. As other bloggers have noted, the magazine publisher does not exactly have a sterling reputation. 😦


  8. textileshed says:

    Wow, what a palaver! You are amazing that you persevered AND wrote a kind note to the author/ publisher! (Shame they were not open to some constructive feedback!) I am not familiar with ‘Norwegian table column format’ patterns – but that is what I currently am developing… and have been using lately to ‘translate’ commercial patterns, like the ones I used for my baby jumpsuits written in the 40,s. I love to know at one glance what is going on where and why and I am not interested in reading a novel of a knitting pattern. Thanks for sharing this!


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