Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Knitting Tips - Pattern Length

One of the fun things about Knit nights with friends and in yarn shops is that I get to hear what other knitters are thinking. I've heard some very funny comments about pattern length in relationship to how knitters choose what to knit. We tend to have mental short cuts which are often referred to as cognitive biases. I love this stuff, it plays to my interest in psychology and why people make the decisions they do. 

There's an explanation and a gigantic list of examples here on Wikipedia.

One of the ones I've heard often, especially with newer knitters is "length of pattern equals complexity". 

As a pattern writer I know this shortcut has the kernel of truth which starts the bias but unfortunately it just doesn't hold up with the changing world.

The example above falls into the category of a simple one page pattern. It's one size, hasn't got a schematic and the stitch pattern is charted. However, for a knitter who doesn't use charts there would still be a learning curve. No text instructions for a stitch pattern makes the pattern length much shorter. 

Most yarn company patterns are brief as well because there are printing costs for those freebies. They are brief for some other reasons as well. Size ranges are often very limited, there is no technique support and often the pattern is in stocking stitch or garter.

The pattern world has changed with consumer demand and the availability of PDF downloads. Knitters want patterns to write out mirror image shaping, so we do. They want techniques to be explained in the pattern, so we write them out or supply a link to more detailed information. Size ranges of less than six are considered to be substandard. In my own case I have done several patterns where grading meant I wrote separate sections by size to assist the knitter in establishing a stitch pattern. Many of my patterns have both text and charted stitch patterns. 

Here's another simple pattern which is five pages in length.

Look at what you get with this one. Seven sizes, written instructions, and two construction methods. The pattern is five times as long but the complexity appears to be roughly equal.

1 comment:

  1. I used to be scared of "long" patterns because, to my new knitter mind, it meant that there were either lots of sizes that I'd have to muck through or complex directions.

    Now that I've been knitting for 8 years or so and I do design work, I think I've got a better handle on things. My only "for sale" pattern on Ravelry is a 3 page pattern and it's a hat. But, it has photos, color coding for seven sizes, a chart and written directions. Exciting. But, I need to update the PDF anyway.