In my previous post I shared a form of pattern writing that I have not seen much in the last couple of decades. In email conversations about this style, blogger cbkrug at home called it the “reductionist” style. While a bit post-modernist sounding, I could think of no better term!
So how did those old patterns keep their instructions on a single page folded into a two page booklet? They utilized a tablet format – from the materials to the pattern. Here is the part of a pattern that, reading across, indicates the pattern is written for six (6) sizes, which I have highlighted in yellow. The first row (below the sizes) indicates how grams (gr.) of each of the Peer Gynt yarn two colors (nr. 10 and nr. 17) you need for each size.
Below is one section of the pattern, the arms (ermer). (By the way, some of the terms are also given in Danish; those terms are in ≪italics≫.) I underlined in green or highlighted in yellow examples of the instructions that apply to the numbers across. The instructions are in the far left-hand column, and when you see the ellipses (…), that is your signal to move your eyes horizontally across the table until you find the number for the size you are knitting. For instance, for the 16 year old size …
- The green highlighted instructions tell the knitter to, using a size 2.5 needle and yarn number 10, cast on 50 stitches and knit 1 knit stitch, 1 purl (so a 1/1 ribbing) for 8 cm.
- The yellow highlighted instructions tell the knitter to change to a size 3 needle and increase until she has 60 stitches (evenly spaced). (So the knitter increases 10 stitches on the needle.)
I recently used Numbers – the iOS spreadsheet software (similar to MS Office’s spreadsheet software Excel) – to rewrite a pattern. I can only post an unusable portion because of copyright considerations, but I think you will get the gist. The numbers 10 through 17 in the far left column are row numbers. The “notes” are my deciphering of the pattern’s unclear instructions or its assumptions.
I once asked the owner of an excellent art and craft store and a lifelong fiber artist why U.S. knitters don’t use the table/column pattern format I saw growing up. It was her experience that American knitters want more instructions – preferably line by line. More recently I talked to (well, corresponded via email with) a Norwegian designer about this and was surprised to learn that more and more Norwegian knitters also want the line-by-line instruction format.
In email conversation earlier this week with blogger cbkrug at home, I learned that patterns from Regia/Coats/Schachenmayr and Junghans-Wolle (both German companies), utilize reductionist pattern instructions – “usually 1 page, with a schematic of the garment, and the construction instructions contained within the schematic.”
I have two theories as to why, increasingly, knitters want line-by-line instructions – one less flattering than the other:
(1) Because knitting simply is not as ubiquitous as it once was. This means you might be the only knitter on your block or in your office and just feel more comfortable with having more instructions rather than less – a sort of safety net (whether or not illusory).
(2) It seems “easier” to many knitters to be walked through every step of the pattern. There is scant adjustment; just pick the size, get the gauge and start knitting.
There are benefits to having patterns in the table-column format: There are far fewer words to read, which means the written instructions have to be tight. The overall pattern is much smaller; for those who like to use printouts of patterns, this takes care of the problem of carrying around 8-10 paged instructions.
My favorite benefit, however, has to do with language: It is far easier to decipher knitting instructions written this way in a language you do not speak. Why? There are fewer words. That’s where this book has been invaluable – 132 pages of knitting terms translated into American English from British English, Danish, French, German, Icelandic, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. Sadly, Margaret Heathman’s book is out of print.
You may want try out DROPS Design’s Dictionaries for knitting terms to/from (1) English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish; (2) English, Finnish, German and Dutch; (3) English, French, Spanish and Portugese; (4) English, Estonian, Czech and Icelandic; and (5) English and Italian. (Thanks to Linda Marveng for this suggestion.)
I would encourage pattern writers (knitters and crocheters) to try the table and column approach and see what they think!