Thursday, June 4, 2009

A rant

I mentioned in my last post that I'm knitting a "Baby's First Tattoo" sweater (from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation).

Now, I'm not an inexperienced knitter. I don't need my hand held, particularly when it comes to the basics. But if I pay money for a pattern, I expect that pattern to be well-written, clear, thorough, and reasonably error-free. Free patterns are different. Frequently they're simply the designer's notes cleaned up a bit--in that case, I don't expect polish or even clarity. (You ought to look at MY design notes if you want obtuse.) Anyway, most of the time such patterns are easy to figure out, and I've always found the designers to be super-helpful if they're not.

But as I said before, if I pay for a pattern, I expect a little more. Particularly from a book. After all, books take months, even years, to put together. Someone has to test-knit the garments for the pictures, right? And I know there are technical editors whose very job it is to check accuracy.

And yet. The Stitch 'n Bitch books are particularly egregious offenders when it comes to poor editing and sloppy pattern-writing. Don't get me wrong; I like the books--they're fun to read and many of the patterns are cute and clever. This sweater, though, has me tearing out my hair.

I've finished the back and both fronts of the cardigan, and I definitely have complaints. First, there are a few errors. One is just grammar/typo type-stuff, irritating to the grammarian but of little account to the knitter. The other, however, is much more serious. There are no directions as to how to finish the fronts. If you do the decreases as written, you run into a problem for the last few stitches--it's logistically impossible to continue in the same way. So do you make up your own decreases and continue until you have only one stitch and bind that off? Or do you stop when you run into the logistical problem and bind off then? Or do you stop when you reach the suggested length for the piece, decreases be damned? I honestly have no idea--because the pattern doesn't say. (I ended up stopping the decreases and binding off when the length matched the back. We'll see how that goes.)

Which leads to my second problem--I hate lazy pattern writing. Yes, it may seem like overkill to write the directions out for each front when they're near-identical. But "near" is not the same as "exactly," and you know, the reason I plunked down my $15.95 plus tax is because I didn't want to figure these things out for myself. If I wanted to design my own baby sweater, I would. I don't want the people I'm paying to do it to cut corners.

I do understand there are occasionally legitimate reasons for not providing perfectly complete instructions. For example, for symmetrical lace pieces, it would probably increase pattern cost to print reverse charts, particularly if the work is big. But for a flippin' baby sweater (hint: baby = small), how hard can it be?

Finally, this is a problem I have with this series as a whole. They're putatively designed for beginners, and it's true many of the explanations (particularly in the first book) are wonderful. Yet the patterns sometimes assume that you know nothing and sometimes exclude details that would be of great help to the experienced knitter, let alone the novice. The inconsistency drives me nuts.

Okay, I lied, one more thing. And here this series is by far not the worst offender. Color pictures are expensive. Photography is expensive. But if you're going to have color photographs in your book already, why not put in a few very clear pictures of the garment from multiple angles? Yes, that baby is cute, but I bet his back is cute too, and I'd sure like to see how it looks. Please?

Anyway, while the sweater is shaping up to be adorable, I can't recommend it. Next time I'm going to make up my own.

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