Pattern Writing Examples: Strong & Weak

Teague_pic2I recently finished a summer cardigan by Ysolda Teague called “Liesl.” I have always liked Teague’s finished projects; they seem so clean and uncomplicated. I thought “Liesl” (the pattern for which is Old Shale pattern – see Waterman’s Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, p. 54) would be a nice summer cardigan – not to mention a quick and easy knit.

Yes and no. I was surprised to find some rather vague or missing instructions in a pattern that also had some strong features.

First, Teague’s pattern contains excellent pattern writing examples, including:

  • Several pictures of different styles of the sweater worn by different people in different sizes.
  • Both line-by-line instructions and graphed instructions.
  • In one portion, a partial table-and-column format (with alternately colored lines of text, which made it easier to read/follow) in her line-by-line instructions.
  • Key to abbreviations used.
  • Key to chart instructions.
  • Two “optional” techniques (photographed in closeup) in boxes: making a picot edging and a buttonhole.
  • A link to a useful resource for more information, including video tutorials, on many of the techniques used in this pattern.
  • An email address to free pattern support.

Given this, I was startled to find omissions of information that should be basic to any pattern:

Teague recommends using: Worsted to Chunky weight yarn. Any yarn with a recommended gauge of 18-14 sts per 10cm / 4″ can be used to give different effects.

  • “Different effects” … curious. Ummm, yes, but, more importantly is the effect of the size (diameter relative to weight) of the yarn on the gauge and the finished garment size. This essentially means, of course, that you find yourself needing to do several gauge swatches and quite a bit of adjustment to the pattern depending on the yarn you use.
  • Chunky/bulky weight yarns and worsted weight yarns are not substitutable without significant pattern adjustment.  Of course you may indeed be able to knit your bulky weight down to 18-20 stitches per 4 in./10 cm, but your finished product will be much different than promised by the pattern.  (Just because you might be able to get the same gauge does not mean the yarn is a good substitute for that called for in the pattern.)

Teague noted: Green sample was knit in Artesano Aran in Dawn, red sample in Araucania Nature Cotton in Red 17 and pink / grey sample in Malabrigo Worsted in Pearl.

  • Teague failed to give skein/hank weights and yardage/meterage. This means knitters must look up the weights and yardage/meterage of each yarn before calculating substitution compatibility.
  • For knitters who are color challenged, it is better to refer to a particular sweater as “the sweater worn by the model on the far left” or number the sweaters.

While Teague provides instructions in various formats (line-by-line instruction, table & column and graph), they are broken up.  There is no single page or section of graphs or single page or section of written instructions nor single page or section of table & column instructions.  It thus lacks logical continuity; it is choppy to read/follow.

The raglan cardigan is knit top down. When it came to the point where the knitter would need allow for the armpit, Teague writes: The yoke should end level with your armpit, try it on to check the length.

  • As there is no schematic on the pattern, the knitter needs to put the live stitches on a length of yarn and try on the sweater to check for the armpit setting. I did that – multiple times.

Teague notes: If the neck edge is too loose it can be stabilised and drawn in slightly by working a single crochet or crab stitch edging around it. This is most likely to be an issue with heavier yarns in the larger sizes because the weight of the garment will cause the neck to stretch out.

  • But the weight of the finished sweater will not only stretch out this neck edge; it will lower the position of the armholes. I knit a standard large (perhaps mid-way in the selection of sizes), but I did not want a cropped sweater. Nor was my yarn particularly heavy; I used a worsted weight (50g=92y), Valley Yarn’s 4-ply Goshen (48% Cotton, 46% Modal, 6% Silk at 50g=92y), and my gauge was spot on. Yet the weight of the finished sweater created a deep and very wide neckline and pulled down the armholes.  This restricted my arm movement, making me feel a bit like a seal. I stabilized the neck edge and closed it up significantly, but now it looks a little less “summery.”  Since wearing the sweater a few more times, the armholes have stretched down farther.
  • Yarn stretch is related to multiple factors: fiber, quality of fiber, twist of the spin, and gauge.

Teague_pic1I couldn’t decide on sleeve length and ended up knitting several different lengths and trying the sweater with different sleeves. Eventually I decided on a below-the-elbow length and made the sleeves into a bell shape.

My daughter loves the sweater, and I love the color and Old Shale stitch pattern.  (I like the buttons a lot too.)  I remain very displeased with the lowered positions of the armholes.  They bother me; I am conscious of them every time I wear the sweater.

As this was knit from the top down and all in one piece, I may ultimately unravel the whole garment and use the nice yarn for something else.  😦

Here’s the question:  Now that I have worked out these kinks, do I knit up another one of these cardigans – perhaps in wool for a colder season?  Probably not.  It is also questionable whether I would purchase another Teague pattern. That said, I have one more of her patterns, so eventually I will give her pattern design skills another go. 🙂

In the interim, Granddaughter F may find herself with a summer dress out of what used to be my cardigan.

What do you think?

  • Should I unravel the whole cardigan and knit up a dress for Granddaughter F?
  • Should I unravel the cardigan only up to the armpits, fix their positioning, and knit back down – keeping it for myself?

About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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37 Responses to Pattern Writing Examples: Strong & Weak

  1. Pingback: Ravelry Mondays July Edition | Whipped-Stitch Witchery

  2. 1marylou says:

    Good choice…you have the power, not the pattern. Good luck!


  3. I just ripped everything out, reskeined, and washed the yarn. It’s in the yard drying right now!


  4. 1marylou says:

    If a pattern causes that much discomfort…pitch it! I would try something new with the yarn. I appreciate your honesty and courage.


  5. Thank you for reading – as well as telling me “Liesl” was one of Teague’s early patterns. While I am not in a hurry to try another of her patterns anytime soon, I will take a peek at one of her recent patterns and read for comparison. I have one other Teague pattern; I will have to check its date!


  6. Firstly I would like to say how delightful it is to read a critical pattern review. I mean critical in its true sense here…an engagement with what has worked and not worked within the pattern. Secondly, although I have not knitted from any patterns by that designer, I do know that Liesl is one of her earliest patterns and perhaps is not representative of her current pattern writing skills. I will be interested in your thoughts on the next pattern you knit from her.


  7. I assume the designer worked hard and had the best intentions … 🙂

    Sent from my iPad


  8. I think user shape and style preferences may contribute as well. For my finished project, the armholes are WAY too low and the whole cardigan looks saggy. If I knit, sew, or weave clothes, the end project must fit well and meet my expectations. Otherwise, it gets undone. I am almost done unraveling the cardigan … But a phoenix will rise from those ashes. 🙂


  9. jengolightly says:

    You are so generous! I love to curse a bad pattern!


  10. I am sure this pattern works fine with a different combination of both fiber, sizing and style option. 🙂 But it failed miserably with my project, which I have started unraveling!


  11. I agree, I would want clearer instructions and I guess a lot of knitters are fond of the stitch pattern and maybe not too fussed with the fit hence there are no revisions to the pattern?


  12. jengolightly says:

    So frustrating isn’t it! It bugs me when you knit a pattern and 9067 people have knit it and its bafflingly wrong. Xx


  13. Thank you for an ever so interesting post! I would definitively unravel it but I would not bare to work even more on the same pattern. But like you, I think the stitch pattern is divine as well as the color + buttons. You could keep the sleeves, if you are happy with those and find a better pattern for the body or challenge yourself to make the perfect fit body for the cardigan! Please keep us posted and good luck!


  14. starproms says:

    Yes me too. The last one I made, I left all the ends. I didn’t sew them in, just in case I didn’t like it when it was finished. I reckoned I could unpick it much easier then. Turned out I did like it so that is when I sewed the ends in.


  15. Thanks … at least the unraveling process is easy as it’s basically a one-piece garment. 🙂


  16. Yes, I have to be happy with. While the sweater looks fine to the average viewer, the armholes drive me nuts! I am moving inexorably to unraveling and using for a new project … I like the yarn though (and the buttons!).


  17. First off, bummer for the pattern being so wonky, it’s unfortunate that those issues exist. In terms of what to do I suppose I would lean more towards frogging and making a dress for your granddaughter.Even though you like the pattern and the yarn and it might be nice to be able to actually have it fit well, already having had as much frustration already associated with the item, might make it difficult to fully enjoy the garment. Whatever you decide good luck!


  18. It really depends on the amount of work that you are willing to do in order to get the results that you want and are expected. If you buy another pattern, you know what you are in for. Unraveling and correcting it so that you have a peace of mind is always a good idea. In the end though, it is the happiness of the person that really matters!


  19. I am glad to hear that other people unravel sweaters! My family runs and hide when I start unraveling; they can’t bare to watch that process. 🙂


  20. Or maybe unraveling it and making it into a DIFFERENT summer cardigan for me?!


  21. GarageKnits says:

    You didn’t give that as an option, but it would raise your satisfaction level. That’s a better choice.

    Are you ready for the heat this weekend?


  22. I think unraveling is in its future …


  23. Oh, I know the problem with the sleeves … The weight of the sweater pulls at them. My options are to reinforce the armholes (which b/c it is a top down knit raglan is itself limited) , feel like a seal every time I wear it, or start unraveling. …


  24. Yup, it is most definitely not always user error. :). I do like the color – as well as the old fashioned stitch. I am SO happy to know you too are an unraveler of finished sweaters. Thor always cringes when I start unraveling!


  25. Well, I won’t start unraveling until I decide. … What I love about knitting is I can knit exactly what I want, changing anything to suit my fancy, including unraveling a finished garment!


  26. When I use a pattern and then have to wrestle with it, I end up not feeling kindly to the finished garment. If I don,t turn into a summer dress for the granddaughter, I could knit into something else for me!


  27. I am leaning that way!


  28. Teague said worsted to chunky weight, and I easily got the suggested gauge. Perhaps I should have taken time time to research and compare the yarns used in knitting the sample (as tha info was not included) but I simply didn’t feel like doing the designer’s work for her. My finished cardigan looks good, but I don’t like it – because of the low armholes! I have not yet decided what to do. 😦


  29. cleo14 says:

    Wow. You’ve done your homework… Hm. This is a toughy I would try fixing it and them decide whether to keep it or not.


  30. GarageKnits says:

    Beautiful yarn deserves to be shown correctly. It’s a very pretty pattern. How much more time are you willing to spend fixing it vs. putting the past behind you? Is it worth the aggravation of undoing it all the way back up? I’d put the sweater in the past and make a pretty little dress. (I have a pretty little dress for my niece, on the needles. I may be a little partial).


  31. Granddaughter all the way!


  32. starproms says:

    I just checked the original pattern and it is nothing like yours. I think you have used a much thinner (and prettier) yarn and the result is outstanding. Do not abandon it.


  33. starproms says:

    I would choose option two because you are not satisfied with the garment as it is and yet you like it very much. Do please choose that option. It is very pretty and worth the effort.


  34. lionsdaughter says:

    This post makes me feel better about knitting garments that don’t fit. As in, it’s not just me or my skill level messing up the FO. Looks like you definitely plan to unravel either way, and the pattern and color is lovely, so if you like the feel of the yarn on your skin or the drape of the pattern/fabric, I might recommend redoing it for yourself.

    You do pose an excellent question about making another now that you’ve worked out the kinks. I’ve become much less impulsive about buying patterns due to costs and frustration levels. And I have three sweaters myself to be unraveled, and one of them was the second go at a Pam Allen pattern in the recommended yarn. I’m definitely not trying it a third time!!


  35. linda says:

    I can feel your frustration. I would probably unravel and use the yarn elsewhere but I also would be curious to try to figure out the problem with the sleeves so perhaps tempted to keep for my self. If I were you, I’d contact the designer too….I mean these types of issues should not be in a purchased pattern.


  36. I vote for summer frock for granddaughter F but either choice would be good. 🙂


  37. textileshed says:

    That was, again (!), a very thorough post, thank you so much. I think the answer of what to do will come to you before long whilst you are emerging yourself in other projects. This ‘advice’ comes from an experienced unraveller! And don’t rush into it, the day will come that you will just WANT to unravel the cardigan and do something else.


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