Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why knitting books should require a technical writer's help

Country weekend socks: 25 Classic Patterns to Knit by Madeline Weston

This book came home with me before the holidays in anticipation of welcomed knitting time. I grabbed it on a whim from a bookstore, simply because the patterns looked simple enough to learn and yet seemed to produce beautiful, finished items. 

Sure enough, I have already found my favorite easy patterns from the book, and the socks are absolutely beautiful. I'm loving this!

The only problem with the book is the inconsistency and vagueness in  some of the instructions, which I did not notice when I simply browsed through it in the store. This means that for a novice or a near-novice as myself, this book is going to give some head-scratching moments. 
Sanquhar Pattern Socks
(work in progress)

As an example, when making a heel, the instructions read, "K10, pick up loop lying below next st and k it tog with next st, turn." (For non-knitters, this means that you should knit 10, pick up the loop lying below the next stitch and knit it together with the next stitch, turn).

Now. What do you interpret as "below?" There are quite many loops "below" the stitch. Is it a loop from the stitch that the "next stitch" was knitted with in the previous round, or is it a loop from the side of the stitch but still below, or is "below" actually a term used to describe the loop between the next stitch and the stitch after that?

I attempted to knit this part with two different interpretations of the word "below," and the outcome was still ugly and gap-py as hell. At that point I just gave up and decided that whenever there are instructions for a heel in this book, I'll just use my own, tried and true heel pattern.
Wellington Boot Socks

Also, the suggested sizes were often confusing. Instead of using typical sock-related instructions for the length of the instep or the leg, such as "knit until the work covers your little toe, then begin the decrease rounds," the author used inches and centimeters. That would not be a problem if our legs and feet were all the same size. Using the centimeters guide, though, my knee-length socks would have become thigh-high socks, and I had to skip a lot of rounds to keep them knee-length. At first I thought, Shoot, I should have measured my gauge before I began, but then I realized that if I have been given a certain length to match, my gauge does not matter at all. My ruler will be the same length as the author's. 

Gansey Stitch Socks with
(made without buttons)
One more gripe: instead of saying "continue in knit stitches" or by using any other, unambiguous vocabulary, she writes, "continue even." I found this out by comparing the picture in the book to the instructions and sure enough, "even" seemed to imply "knit." Except in some instructions, where the author tells you to continue even and then start decreasing at the beginning of every knit panel that is separated by purled stitches. Which means that you cannot have been using just knit stitches for "even" but instead, you should have been following the established pattern. Evenly, I suppose. 

Maybe someone with more experience with knitting is not bothered by these terms, but for me they caused a lot of frogging and time spent trying to figure out what exactly I should be doing. Luckily, the patterns are so beautiful and the yarns that are used in the book so easily replaceable by other options that I will keep on plowing through! 

Apologies for the quality of photos in this entry: even with all the lights on in the house, there's just not enough light. Will need to come up with a plan to get better-lit pictures.

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