Monday, October 31, 2011

Written vs diagram patterns

It seems a curious aspect to British knitting (and crochet) patterns that they are nearly always written out long-hand. I once spent a year working on a Debbie Bliss pattern (her patchwork cable cardigan, which was a selection of four different cable patterns in various positions) – and the first thing I did was to chart out the cables. Bearing in mind, the simplest cable was a 4 row repeat, and the most complex one was 16 or 20 rows. I don’t quite understand why British publishers have such an aversion to using a method that is (a) universal, regardless of language and (b) takes up much less space. The same goes for complex lace patterns – a chart is so much easier to follow.

I much prefer American crochet patterns where diagrams are used – T for a UK half treble, T with a slashed trunk for a UK treble etc. It means I can forget mentally converting from US to English crochet terms in my head and just get on with it.

It also helps no end to have a dimensioned diagram of the finished item. Machine knitting patterns always have dimensioned diagrams, so that those of us with a knitleader can use the same pattern with a different yarn (or even a different machine). Rowan patterns usually have a basic schematic – it’s useful to have something to refer to when blocking the garment to size.

Two favourite machine knitting publications (both now defunct) used pattern diagrams as the main means of communicating a pattern. I’m referring to Modern Machine Knitting and the Passap model books. In both cases, I imagine it was partly to save space, and partly so that the publications could be communicated to a wider audience, not all of whom would be native English speakers.

The first thing I do, having calculated a new pattern in Knitware? I sketch the pattern out as a schematic, and transfer the shaping details to it. Takes up a lot less space and is much easier to follow, especially if you get interrupted part way through. MMK had a similar schematic - except on the right, they'd put row and stitch measurements, and on the left, measurements in cm. So you had the best of both worlds on the same diagram.

This was my design for a waterfall cardigan. As discussed in the previous post, I didn't think the front was very successful so it got frogged. This is the kind of thing I draw up to work from. I guess I'm just a visual person. I also add row counts after each batch of decreasing/increasing - it's useful to have a check figure.


Assembly diagrams are also a good idea - the Rebecca cardigan being a case in point. It took me much longer to sew it up (aprox. six hours) than it actually did to knit it!

What do you prefer - written instructions, or a diagram pattern?


Anonymous said...

I prefer written instructions as I'm not very good at following diagram patterns. Knit Radar sheets are OK as the machine reads them for me.

KnitBot said...

Hands down -- diagrams, please! Yeah, lace can get a little hard to wrap your head around, because number of stitches may vary from one row to the next, but I'm not a computer, and I don't just carry out one instruction after another -- I need some sense of the whole.

I'm with you on the crochet diagrams, too. If a crochet pattern doesn't have a diagram, I make one.

lzbthmcmullen said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you on the need for diagrams. Otherwise it's like trying to assemble a model airplane with only words to guide you: it's possible, but it's not pretty!

sharonwue said...

Even before I met a knitting machine (1970) I made diagrams for my hand knitting projects. I had seen a japanese pattern (directions) and was able to follow it without translation!

O! Jolly! said...

I prefer a diagram and agree with KnitBot on needing "some sense of the whole."

Riaknits said...

I love charts. Love, love, love them. They're so much easier to follow than written patterns. Clearer & concise. Diagrams are always helpful, particularly when the garment contains some asymmetrical aspect.

Michaela said...

Definitely diagrams! I want to have an overview over the whole. I hate word-for-word instructions which doesn't give me a glance of what is coming out. It's like cooking an unknown receipe without the slightest idea what sort of meal will show up.
Besides that: I often noticed that patterns had errors by drawing a sketch to transform the instructions into visuability . My experiences with Japanese patterns were the same as sharonwue's