Pattern Monstrosity

I saw on The Purl Bee’s blog site a sweater she knit from a pattern titled, “The Wonderful Wallaby: A Hooded Sweater for All Ages” (1984, Carol Anderson and Kirsti Williams).  The sweater was cute (a hooded pullover with a kangaroo pouch), and Purl Bee liked the pattern.  Perfect, I thought, and a quick knit for practical sweater for Grandson O’s birthday.

That was the start of what turned out to be a harrowing journey.

erase_wallabyThe pattern (by Cottage Creations) is not available electronically, and it seemed to be a rarity at yarn stores.  After being told by several yarn store clerks, “Hmmm, I think I’ve heard of it,” I finally secured a copy through Paradise Fibers.  (Yes, it is sitting on a pile of cucumbers waiting to be pickled.)

The book(let) is 25 (that’s right, twenty-five!) pages in a tiny font and jammed full with discussions, instructions, encouragements, thoughts, and hints for the same sweater sized from a child’s 2 years to 48″ adult.  It’s written in a cutsie, folksy style.  (I am puzzled why so many knitters claim to like this style of pattern writing.  Hey, outhouses are folksy but no one waxes on lyrically about their virtues!)

The wandering narrative is interspersed with many drawings and sketches of kangaroos doing things like reading, knitting, etc.  Depending on size (and as explained on a whole page), the sweaters have different names:  Wanda Wallaby, Willie Wallaby, Wilhelmina Wallaby, Warren Wallaby, Washington Wallaby, Waylon Wallaby, Wilma Wallaby, Winifred Wallaby, Waverly Wallaby, Wilbur Wallaby, Wyatt Wallaby and Wisconsin Wallaby.

Really?!  If I’d wanted to read a child’s book, I would have borrowed one from the grandchildren.  Make up your mind … is it a children’s book or a knitting pattern?  (Note:  A professional editor could have guided the authors to make it one or the other – or at least streamlined the tortuous narrative.)

It seems that the authors attempted to write this pattern for the inexperienced knitter – and one who had no knitting friends of whom to ask questions.  That might explain why it is peppered with “helpful” information that, to anyone who has knit at least one garment from a pattern, shouldn’t need or find useful (e.g., reasons to knit the Wallaby sweater, half to full-page discussions on double points versus circular needles, etc.).

Again, pointing to its intended audience (the beginner knitter), the pattern is spotted with little paragraphs of encouragement:  For instance, “TREAT YOURSELF [sic] Take time to try on your Wonderful Wallaby, [sic] it feels so GOOD!  Your Wallaby won’t mind if tried on with needles remaining in the yarn!”  and “This is it!  Let’s hear a drum roll, cymbals clash and burst of trumpets as you begin–“The Placket…”

Erase_HumphreyThe instructions had me skipping ahead several pages, then back again, then forward, etc.  (What were authors thinking?!)

What made it a teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling frustrating read is that I felt I was laboriously pushing through the words, determined to read the instructions to their conclusion … all for a sweater pattern!  (At least Humphrey, after pulling the African Queen through a bug-infested swamp, gets Kate at the end!)

As I was already in $6.95 for the pattern and had already suffered through a first reading, I decided to rewrite it in my Neo-Norsk style.  That meant, of course, I had to read through the pattern multiple times to untangle the words and instructions – arghghgh.

After three days I finished the rewriting, taking far more time than I would had I simply designed my own pattern.  I admit I did much more than required for my own use.  For instance, I rewrote the instructions for all 12 sizes, added metric measurements, untangled and streamlined the tortured sentences, deleted unnecessary instructions, and repaired sloppy punctuation.

Here’s a glimpse at my rewrite – a total of 3 (three!) pages – all the “folksy” and “cutsie” removed:

Linda_Wallaby_cropDue to my respect for copyright, I cannot post my rewrite for other knitters.  But at least I won’t need to curse and tear at my hair while I knit up this pattern.  (And I will never again even look at another pattern by Cottage Creations.)


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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28 Responses to Pattern Monstrosity

  1. Dee says:

    I feel this post will continue to garner comments as we let our fingers travel over the keyboards in search of answers to our questions regarding the Wallaby pattern. EVERYONE asks “have you made one” and says “you simply MUST.” I, too, would prefer a more straightforward pattern. I’m all about getting to the point. While I’m making mine (just have the hood left to do) I find myself answering questions of others on how to work the start of the pouch, how to attach it at the top, how to add the sleeves. Also, I’m the kind of knitter that likes concise directions when it comes to increases and decreases too – I want the pattern to clearly state which method should be used. I found myself increasing after the ribbing with the K1 through front and back, and its fine, but is it “right?”

    Anyhow, this is apparently a beloved project and easily customizable. What I think bugged me the most is not having an actual photo of the garment in the pattern booklet.


  2. Amy says:

    you could share your rewrite with folks who prove they’ve bought it maybe! 🙂


  3. I’d suggest rewriting it for yourself BEFORE picking up the needles. The pattern is a real headache.


  4. Leigh says:

    I just bought this pattern – recommended by a customer ( I work in a knitting shop). It has not come in yet and after reading your comments I wish I had done more research. However, looking at your rewrite – maybe I will try the same! Too bad your rewrite is considered a copywrite issue!!! 🙃Leigh


  5. Some people like verbose pattern instructions. I have one or two of EZ’s books. EZ’s patterns almost terse compared to the Wallaby and her projects better-constructed.


  6. Kathy says:

    The wonderful thing about knitting is the various ways we can do things. Carol Anderson, the author of the Wonderful Wallaby was a follower of Elizabeth Zimmermann. And, if you have read any of EZ’s patterns, you will also find them to be chatty. I enjoy reading and knitting t he Wallaby and am starting a new one this week. I am wanting to give mine a shawl collar, but may just go with a turtleneck.


  7. Sure. Contact me via email.


  8. Sharon says:

    Would you mind sharing your rewrite? I can forward you a picture of the pattern and my receipt. Just don’t want to reinvent the wheel. I’m more analytical than the way the pattern is written.

    I purchased the pattern at Purl Soho on the weekend and have read it through. I will reWrite it before beginning. Don’t like flipping pages



  9. I would STRONGLY advise you select another pattern. Over and above the poor writing, rewriting this monstrosity would be a daunting task. I have 50 years’ knitting experience and went through several rewrites before I go through the rambling narrative instructions to the point where I figured out what the author should have said. (Also, the sleeve shaping is very sloppy, especially for any pattern larger than a toddler.)


  10. Sharon says:

    I am looking to purchase the pattern itself as yes, the sweater on PurlSoho was “darn cute”. I’ve heard what you are saying previously, which scares me. I likely will rewrite it also and hope I don’t miss something while doing so. I am a beginner knitter but don’t like wordy and unnecessary information in the patter. Keep us posted how you knitting goes!


  11. It made me gnash my teeth and mutter naughty words … 🙂



  12. 25 pages and small print?!? That would certainly frustrate me… 😦 ❤ ❤


  13. All true. I think the difficulty with using such information-laden patterns is that the average knitter can be afraid to knit without it. It brought to mind my childhood (I grew up with salt water and sailboats in my back yard), when visiting friends claimed to know how to swim but could only “swim” while wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket. (That’s not swimming; that’s floating.) Or thinking you’re an artist when you use paint-by-number kits. There’s nothing inherently wrong (of course!) with relying on life jackets, paint-by-number kits and patterns like the Wallaby, but it either creates a false sense of ability or fails to encourage a person to learn more (and spread their proverbial wings!).


  14. There does seem to be a trend toward really wordy, painfully detailed patterns for timid newbies in recent years. I don’t care for it, personally. I know how to knit, and I know how to read patterns. If I come across something I don’t know, I know how to look it up on the internet or ask a friend. All the extra stuff seems like a waste of time and resources to me. I hate having to read through all the irrelevant talking to find the knitting, because it makes it harder to keep my place in the actual pattern. Still, there’s definitely a big ol’ market for patterns like your “monster”. It’s just not me – or you, apparently!


  15. It was a bit like hiking a trail … you might as well finish what you started! And I have low blood pressure, which helps. 🙂


  16. Yes, the instructions were yarn were especially useless! (Found on pp. 5 & 6: “3 or 4 oz. skeins” at “240 yards of yarn per skein.” Per which skein?! The 4 or 3 oz?) I haven’t started knitting the sweater yet … I think I need a break from the Wallaby! 🙂 (And I have to finish up another sweater that’s just about complete – but it’s been way too hot to knit a big wool & mohair sweater!)


  17. I agree – a standard would be great! This pattern seemed to have no standards, which, perhaps, is why it was self-published. Ravelry allows self-publishing as well, albeit electronic. Thus anyone with access to a PC can post or sell a pattern. As your experience so well captures, not all patterns are worth paying for! As for your author’s “the repeat is 17 stitches” response, she doesn’t knit well, isn’t a designer and can’t teach – or any combination thereof. 😦


  18. Well, the sweater was pretty darn cute, and after the first painful read through, I think it became a challenge to rewrite and order the pattern! 🙂


  19. Nicky says:

    Your account is hysterical, but I feel your pain. I think it was most excellent of you to rewrite the instructions in a way that’s more succinct. I probably would have chucked it.


  20. Your story is enjoyable to read – for me – but reading, reading and reading and rewriting the pattern must have done something with your bloodpressure. You did it and therefore my compliments 🙂


  21. jengolightly says:

    I empathise. Recently I perused the pattern database and spent £4 on a pattern that had been enthusiastically knitted by over 30 other Ravellers, and downloaded the pdf.

    When I opened the file, it said “this is for size small, if you need a larger size increase the number of repeats”. There was no indication of how to calculate the repeats, so I had to count the stitches in the pattern to work it out via the k2togs and yarnovers. No details either of what to do to decrease additional stitches etc. I was really angry. I emailed the author and all I got was “the repeat is 17 stitches”.

    I ended up writing my own pattern, but have gone off the idea of the whole project to be honest . There needs to be some standard for charged for patterns!


  22. Jennifer says:

    I love this post!

    I remember knitting my first sweater from this pattern. I did become annoyed at the flipping back and forth of the pages for my size. I was also confused as to why I needed 7 skeins of Cascade 220 (which has 220 yards, of course). I was the smallest I’d ever been at a 36″ bust, and had 2 extra skeins by the end of it.

    I do like the hoodie appeal, but I’d definitely make alterations and modifications to the pattern before I knit it again.


  23. I thought the sweater knit by The Purl Bee was darn cute – which is why I ordered the pattern. Of course, by the time I finished reading the pattern I was frustrated by its chaotic presentation. But, because the sweater seemed simply and fast to make (not to mention the 3-day rewrite of mine), I’m planning on making two (and using up some of the worsted wool languishing in my stash). I’m hoping my grandchildren will like the sweater as much as yours did!


  24. Betty Eliassen says:

    Hope you like the finished product. I did, several times over, when I got repeated requests for it from grandchildren.


  25. Well, at least not in its format as originally written! 🙂 >


  26. How true! 🙂 LOL


  27. jenyjenny says:

    Go Neo-Norsk! A synonym for No-Nonsense! 🙂


  28. Deb says:

    Yikes! Not a pattern for me.


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