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.
The 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…”
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:
Due 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.)