Deconstructing the Very Reductionist Pattern

This post is a follow-up discussion on the “reductionist” pattern format used by Junghans-Wolle for women’s cardigan Modell 434/2, free on its website.  (I reduced its size below.)

German_Pattern_anleitung1German_Pattern_anleitung2I think the schematics are very well done.  They include all the information I need if I want to make any adjustments (and I always do).

I like the way the patterns change for the back and front pieces for the larger sizes rather than simply making the smaller sizes bigger.  Kudos!  (I worked in a yarn school when I was in grad school and saw far too many larger women who were disappointed with finished unflattering garments clearly designed for smaller women.)

I like the abbreviated instructions.  Combined with the schematics, the user would have to carry with her (or read electronically) only 2 pages!  (I’ve used U.S. patterns that were 8 pages long, and the rambling narrative serves only to, at best, frustrate me, and, at worst, annoy me.  I also find it difficult to commit to memory patterns written in rambling narrative.)

It took me a bit to “get” the German instructions – especially when they were abbreviated.  I went among DROP’s on-line knitting translation site, Heathman’s Knitting Languages, and people experienced with German knitting terminology until it “clicked” in my head.

I think there are serious drawbacks, however, that could discourage many knitters from using a pattern like this.

The instructions appear overly complex.

  • The use of abbreviations and characters (such as “x” meaning “times”) could intimidate newer knitters or someone knitting without a more experienced knitter by her side.
  • The user could get lost “in the numbers.”  As I saw too often when I was teaching, many people are intimidated by numbers.  I regularly heard protests of “I don’t do math.”  (One student said, “I didn’t think this was a calculus class!”   Hmmm.  If he thought if the math knowledge I expected in my classes was calculus, he had no business being in college.)

One person – an experienced knitter and designer – told me she thought the Junghans-Wolle pattern daunting and the instructions overly complex, especially for a simple garment.  She commented that it looked as though Junghans-Wolle was trying out the Japanese way of writing patterns.  (I hadn’t thought of that!)

So, in sum, while I really like this very reductionist style of pattern construction, I don’t think this is a good pattern format for …

  • for those who want/need step-by-step instructions;
  • beginners and, perhaps, many intermediate knitters;
  • people who have not read and knit from pattern instructions written in German (and are unwilling or unable to put in the time to figure it out).

What do YOU think? 

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15 Responses to Deconstructing the Very Reductionist Pattern

  1. Pingback: Three Examples of Excellent Narrative Pattern Writing | The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts

  2. Yet there are people who insist on detailed line by line instructions. A friend of mind cooks that way, so my recipes drive her batty – “toss in a handful of” or “mix until it feels right.” 🙂


  3. The schematics are the most comprehensive I have seen. I feel I could build a rocket ship with specs like this! Whilst I can appreciate the tightness and clarity of the pattern, my favourite patterns are recipes: those explanations and proportional formulas that enable you to understand the principles behind how a garment is made. I like to understand the relationships and mathematics of a garment. That is what gives me true knitting pleasure.


  4. I heartily agree!


  5. The reductionist format might take a bit of getting used to. But for me, less is more… Wading through “wordy” knitting patterns can be so tiresome. As long as the pertinent info is there, it’s more efficient to be able to skim it, like reading a book ❤


  6. monsteryarns says:

    We are so NORMAL : )


  7. There are lots of long, narrative-style patterns that work – but only if the knitter is willing and able to wade her way through the prose. 🙂


  8. I think you’re right; it’s probably more of a matter of what people are used to – perhaps how they first learned. Because I learned to read patterns some 10 years after I learned to knit, I prefer the more schematic-centered patterns. I think J-W’s pattern construction is, in many ways, brilliant. Once the German abbreviations “clicked,” it wasn’t difficult to follow. Yesterday I rewrote a DROPS pattern – from narrative into the old Norwegian way (tables & columns). Now I will try knitting from my rewrite. 🙂


  9. I like it too. The only pattern format I won’t knit from is narrative style.


  10. Me too! I just rewrote a DROPS pattern, changing it from narrative style into tables & columns. I just knit the gauge swatch for it and am about to start the garment.


  11. monsteryarns says:

    I’ve got to admit to rewriting some knitting/crochet patterns. Having a short pattern will mean that I won’t feel that I’ve wasted my time doing that. I like this!


  12. Everybody has their own pattern format preferences. I like pictorials that highlight difficult techniques within a pattern, patterns that are succinct (no pictures needed) and patterns that have stitch diagrams. It depends on the pattern really and somewhat the mood I’m in. I do think that this style is great. They take all the guess work out of it.


  13. streepie says:

    Hi Karen,
    thanks for deconstructing the pattern, and providing a critical review of this.
    I thought that having a pattern schematics and numbers would actually make it easier for someone who does not speak the language to knit the garment.
    And I’ve heard a few people (ok, most of them were German) that they were able to wade through a Japanese pattern, which are presented in a very similar way.

    It seems to boil down to what one is used to – I find 8 page long row-by-row instructions more daunting than a pattern and a chart. But I also tackle a format that I am not familiar with when I like the garment. It just a matter of getting out of your comfort zone once in a while. Tina (, a well-known German knitting blogger, had a discussion on her blog a few days ago of charts vs. writting instructions. Most of her (German) readers preferred charts and schematics, the (mostly) American knitters in the ravelry group, where the discussion started, preferred row-by-row, and fairly long instructions.


    P.S. So far, I had the most difficulties in “reading” DROPS pattern instructions….


  14. jengolightly says:

    As long as the pattern works, I have no problem at all. I think this style is very clear!


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