Thinking of the ponchos so in vogue in the late ’60s and early ’70s (what my parents called “hippie garb”), I wasn’t particularly excited to learn that ponchos were again “in.” (This picture [source] may bring back memories for some of you; it certainly did for me!)
Knit and crochet patterns for shawlettes and ponchos kept appearing, and I see ponchos in clothing stores all the time. So, succumbing to peer pressure, I thought maybe I would knit one.
This pattern – the Back Bay Poncho by Leslie Scanlon – caught my attention. I have no intention of wearing it as a fashionable or trendy piece of clothing. Between my age, my long white hair and my penchant for wearing Birkenstocks through three seasons, I’d completely miss looking fashionable in any and every sense!
However, I thought, if I knit it densely, it would be the perfect cold weather clothing item to pull over my head as I wheel my bike out to go riding. I paid for and downloaded the pattern.
The pattern calls for extra bulky wool. I immediately thought of Bulky Lopi (I love Lopi), but in addition to the fact that I already have a Bulky Lopi pullover I knit 20 years ago, I decided instead to go with a U.S. grown and spun wool: Burly Spun (226g/8oz, 132y/121m), by Brown Sheep Company in Mitchell, Nebraska. I chose the colorway “Tormented Teal.”
The pattern as written, leaves a lot to be desired. I immediate emailed the authors of the pattern. I also scanned through comments on Ravelry. Other knitters have some of the same – dare I say it?! – gripes as I. Now, a couple of weeks later, I have yet to hear from the pattern’s authors, I will discuss the problems (some of which were noted by Ravelry folks a couple of years ago), with this pattern and offer suggestions on how to address the problems.
First: The instructions are printed in all capital letters. When writing pattern instructions, always use standard English writing forms: Capitalize the first letter of each sentence and each proper noun.
Why? Writing in all caps makes it difficult for readers who are (a) forced to search for periods or semicolons marking the end of sentences or phrases, and (b) pained (or pissed) because there is no shape contrast between words. (Click here to read more about this problem.)
Resolution: Pulling up Excel, I quickly rewrote the pattern into my Neo-Norsk style. (Click here for explanation of rewriting narrative instructions into this format.) If you prefer narrative form of instructions, retype the instructions using standard English writing rules. (Next week’s post will look at narrative form pattern instructions.)
Second: Many Ravelry knitters noted that following the instructions as written left them with a poncho that was too short, no matter size (given in XS-L). Knitters could have known this in advance if there had been a schematic on the pattern.
Why should there be a schematic? Because not every knitter is the same height or width, nor are they proportioned the same (e.g., I am very tall with a very long torso, long arms and a very low waist). Many knitters (such as I), will revise a pattern for a better fit. It is far easier (and less frustrating) to make necessary pattern revisions before starting to knit. (Several Ravelry folks noted they ripped out or added many inches to make the pattern fit better.)
Resolution: I first sketched out a schematic based on the pattern instructions. Using the author’s row gauge and as written for a size large, I then calculated the distance between where the collar meets the body to the end of the increase rounds (and thus the beginning of the shaping of the front and back parts). It came to 11 inches – far too short for my arms and, given Ravelry comments, far too short for many other knitters’ arms. I adjusted the increases and penciled notes onto my Neo-Norsk rewrite.
Third: The pattern calls for short row shaping to give the poncho the curve so that the poncho is shorter over the arms and longer in the front and back. I needed to ensure the front and backs would be long enough for me, but there there was no schematic.
Resolution: Using the pattern’s stated row gauge, I calculated the lengths if instructions were followed. As I suspected, it was too short for me. So adjusted the spread of short rows and penciled notes onto my rewrite.
Fourth: The short row shaping as instructed is sloppy. Following the instructions as they are, you may find those dreaded short row holes. (Given comments from Ravelry folks, many knitters had problems with the short rows.)
In conclusion: It is one thing to come up with a knit or crochet pattern and another to write it for purchase (!) by others. Some advice:
- Firstly, don’t fall victim to hubris and assume you can do both.
- Second, when you learn about the shortcomings of your pattern instructions, respond, revise and update the pattern.