Monday, January 27, 2014

Do Mistakes Matter?

Last week I read a blog post that really struck me, and I've been thinking about it off and on for several days.  Sharon Silverman, a crochet designer and instructor, highlighted several mistakes she found in crochet patterns and publications.  Then she recounted the reactions she got when she brought those mistakes to the attention of the designers.  The responses were varied - everything from posting errata on Ravelry to no public acknowledgement at all.  Sharon seemed puzzled by the lack of action to correct the errors once they were spotted.

I share that same frustration on a couple levels.  I buy a lot of patterns for kits and to have on hand in my booth.  Within the past year I discovered that a pattern I stocked contained several glaring errors. First, I pointed them out to the designer.  While the designer acknowledged the errors, she seemed to think the problem lay with the distributor.  I followed up with the distributor, all to no avail.

When I felt I'd hit a dead end, I made the decision to remove the pattern from my lineup.  The bottom line is I felt the response was inadequate, and I could no longer offer the error-filled pattern to my customers.  Months later a page of errata finally appeared online, and I trust the current copies in print have been corrected.  

By contrast I've pointed out errors to a handful of other designers. More often than not, they've graciously accepted my comments and corrected the mistakes.  In this day and age of electronic files, it's very easy to correct patterns.  In fact some designers will alert customers that there have been updates / corrections to patterns they've previously purchased.  How nice is that?

I teach knitting classes, and I'm always up-front with my students.  I warn them that patterns can have mistakes, but I also suggest they check online for errata.  There's nothing more frustrating than creating a knitting nightmare because you followed the pattern as written or puzzling out a pattern that doesn't make sense because it has errors. I know from firsthand experience that checking online for errata doesn't guarantee you'll find all the errors, but sometimes it can save a lot of knitting time and headaches.

Patterns are being produced at an incredible rate, and it's inevitable that some will have errors.  Maybe my standards are unrealistic.  I do expect that when mistakes come to light, steps are taken to get the word out with the correct information.  On a more practical level, I tend to invest in patterns from designers who have well-written, thorough instructions without a lot of errors.

But I'm curious.  What are your expectations from a pattern?

Moving along to something a little more fun . . . I donate a fair amount of yarn over the course of a year to various giveaways and fundraisers.  I've decided to shift some of those resources to the blog and share them with my readers.  Every month I'm going to run a contest, and this week marks the first one.

The Olympics are right around the corner, and I know some of you are probably setting knitting challenges to be completed during the games. What's your challenge?  Leave a comment and tell me what you plan to work on during the Olympics or any project that's captivated your attention in the new year.  The winner, chosen at random, will receive a skein of yarn from Dirty Water DyeWorks - winner's choice. The contest closes on Sunday, February 2, 2014.

38 comments:

Kris said...

I'm going to knit a pair of mittens with some Icelandic yarn I've been holding on to. I only have one functional pair of mittens OR gloves right now, so I need more!

Pat's here said...

I'm with you on the errata-I think patterns should be correct.

I'm going to be making some Latvian fingerless mittens this weekend.

'M' said...

I want to knit a lap blanket for my niece. I was gifted some orange yarn and orange is her favorite color! She has the "middle child" blues lately so I know it will be the perfect gift to make her feel better :)

Janelle Wertzberger said...

Patterns released electronically are super easy to correct, and designers should. I don't expect perfection but I do expect a response.

I once had a bad experience with a designer never responding to multiple messages in Ravelry or Twitter about errors... so now I'm not knitting her patterns or recommending them to others.

glongley said...

I'm trying to make hats for my family. With Christmas knitting I'm behind with my grand kids knits. So hat, mittens and so on.

beth jillette said...

I am about to start my first cardigan
Wish me luck. It's from knitbot so the pattern is ( or seems) easy to follow.
Thanks

Dee said...

I am hoping within the next week to cast on my very first cardigan.

Mme la Professeure said...

I also have a big problem with mistakes. I understand that they happen, but when they are pointed out, the creators should (in my opinion) appreciate it that readers are taking the time to let them know there's a problem. And it is much easier to take care of typos/errata electronically than in earlier days.

I plan to work on some baby socks! A couple of colleagues just had babies, and my niece is due to have her first baby in June. :-)

Karen said...

I am thinking about starting some socks. I have knit them before, and know I can do it, but the challenge would be to finish them while I would still want to wear them (like before June or so). If I don't make it, there is always next fall/winter.

Or I could start one of those sweaters i am always talking about. Or finish assembling the Mitered Crosses blanket.

The choices are nearly endless...

Kim Berman said...

My goal will be to finish the sweater that I started just after Christmas. A cozy cardigan is just what I need here in upstate NY!

Debbie said...

My goal is to knit baby things. I just found out that I'm going to be a Grandma for the first time!

Elisabeth Marino said...

You are soooo right about the errors! My rule is to never publish a pattern until my sample knitter/tech editor has knit the pattern from the directions. She has a wonderful knack for finding anything that might be ambiguous and making me fix it! It's a blessing. She's very good.

For the Olympics, I'm knitting the first shawl I've knitted in ages. It's a modified pattern of someone else's, and the process is very Zen. :)

jjphotoFTW said...

I'm going to knit some fair isle mittens that have music on them. I haven't done too much with fair isle even though I've been knitting for a while. I thought knitting them up for the Ravellenic Games would be a nice challenge and get my stranded tension to something akin to reasonable at the same time :)

Christine Lima said...

I'm knitting a pair of socks for ME. Did you catch that??? They're for ME. No matter who else happens to like them, I'm not giving them away!

Karen said...

I've got a cardigan on the needles that I'd like to finish before Spring!!

cathie Goettsche said...

I have two sweaters that I have been working on forever That I want to finish before the weather turns warm!

Anonymous said...

Enjoying a vintage pattern, error free, for a chevron afghan. Working with my out of control stash yarn, I am at the half way mark of a wonderful throw!!!!!

Phyllis said...

Thank you for the discussion re errors. I used to always blame myself for misreading a pattern. I've learned better and contact designers through email (almost always easy to obtain through Ravelry or elsewhere). For the most part I've found designers to be nice and helpful in giving a better explanation or correcting a blatant error. I do buy patterns from designers that I think have well written patterns. On that subject, I'm knitting INTERVAL which is a wonderful shawl pattern by Star Athena originally done as a MKAL. I made the mistake of wearing mine to a family gathering; now everyone wants one - a lot of knitting before holidays 2014.

Kate/Massachusetts said...

I am crocheting a ripple afghan for my son using the free pattern on Attic 24 blog for Lucy's easy ripple. It is lovely and fast! I'm also knitting watchcap hats for friends and family who need a warm woolen hat in this miserable cold. The pattern is from Churchmouse Yarns and is their classic watch cap. Thanks for the chance to enter your contest!

Marianne said...

Marianne/MA....finish my 1st attempt at Thrummed mittens ...give to niece. Get going on a Lopi vest that is actually for me. Try the 9" circulars I ordered and I want to try Norwegian mittens. Thank you!

Kathy in Alaska said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you about the correction of errors, and I don't think we are being unrealistic to have that expectation of a pattern that we've paid for!

I've just finished my first commissioned piece of knitting, and now it's all about ME-time! I'm thinking the immediate future holds a shawl, a vest, and a hat, all for MOI! Thanks for the chance to win. :) - Ravelry's akbooklady

Sarah Dun said...

Admitting an error seems to be a problem many people, not just designers, have. Alas.

I'm excited to finish-up a couple sweaters and other projects that have been languishing with just a little left to go. Hopefully by the end of the Olympics I'll have two new sweaters and a new shawl.

Elena said...

My roommate's grandmother unexpectedly gifted me a fantastic Christmas present, so I will be knitting her a cowl. I am seeing her two days after the Olympics end so perfect timing!

Kathy said...

I have been knitting hats for charity and have decided that from now on there will always be a hat-in-progress on a set of needles. It's a win win, keeping a child warn AND enjoying my favorite activity!

Connie LaPorta said...

I'm going to knit socks from the op-art socks book for my son,

Sheila said...

I'm not a huge Olympics fan and have generally skipped the Ravellenic games. This time though, I'm seeing a lot of talk about knitting using rainbow yarn to support equality and I happen to have a skein of worsted rainbow yarn that I think may have to become a hat during the Olympics.

ikkinlala said...

I expect blatant errors to be corrected, although I don't expect every clarification to result in an update.

I haven't chosen a pattern for during the Olympics yet, but I've narrowed it down to a couple of yarn choices so I'll likely be knitting either socks or a shawl.

Sharon Silverman said...

Thank you for reading my blog post about errors, and for sharing your experience. I wondered the same thing, about whether our expectations are too high. I'd like to think they're not. We understand that mistakes happen, but I think it's reasonable to expect a helpful response. Keep up the good work! (If anyone wants to read the original post, it's at www.SharonSilverman.com, with comments on FB at Sharon Silverman Crochet)

Judy11 said...

I, too, have contacted designers when I have found errors. Some of the patterns I have do not show a designer in which case I always make notes on my project page in Ravelry describing the error and my suggestions at corrections. At least that way the knitter can be alerted to an issue to watch out for.

As for Olympic knitting - I am about to embark on a design it myself project. I have 2 skeins in different colors of a Yak combo yarn and am going to attempt a scarf with sections of solid of each color offset with a houndstooth or slip stitch 2 color work area. I will be somewhat making it up as I go. Wish me luck.

Would love to win some of your yarn :)

Cate said...

I try to temper my frustration depending upon where the pattern comes from. If it is a new designer and I get the pattern free, then I figure I'm in for what I get - and a little figuring out of things is good brain exercise. But, if I pay for it, and especially if it comes through and established designer, I expect the errors to have been worked out in the test knitter process.

I just finished "Hibernate" - a bulky sweater from a designer with just a dozen patterns on Ravelry. There were a couple of things I had to figure out, but nothing that came close to making me want to rip it out. I'm just waiting for the buttons to arrive, but I love it already!

Jennifer Cummings said...

I'm planning on Olympic Hege Mitts, to match a 3/4 sleeve sweater that I finished in the fall.

schwip said...

I have 2 projects that I desperately need to finish before I allow myself to try something fun and new. I have a cashmere scarf for my daughter 3/4 done and a leather belt for my hubby. I need to go to my LYS to get help on joining a new spool of leather. Then onto something for ME!

schwipknits@gmail.com
schwip on rav

Anonymous said...

My Olympic knitting plan is to push myself to knit and crochet as many premie hats as I can during that time frame. I haven't set a goal yet...I'm a slow knitter, but I want to make the goal somewhat challenging!

adagecat@gmail.com sapphirestitch on Ravelry

Jill L said...

Well I don't have any plans, just whatever I am in the mood for...
Jill L

Nicole said...

In terms of pattern errors, I appreciate it when a designer makes an effort to fix a printed pattern or posts errata to fix it. And when it comes to magazines or books, I'm more lenient to errors because they aren't necessarily the fault of the designer - in the editing process, sometimes things get cut or condensed and sometimes not all that well :-)

As for the games, I'm going to knit, crochet, and spin in rainbow colors and finish in 2 weeks time.

your future rebbetzin said...

I'm making a skirt which has TONS of seed stitch. It's really challenging just to have the patience to continue.

Barb said...

My daughter is getting married in September and I'm working on shawls for her five bridesmaids.

Nancy said...

My husband and I have a neighbor who has been so kind to us over the years. I am starting a Willow Cowl for her in her favorite colors - light pink, purple and green. She suffers a lot from the cold. While the daylight hours are increasing, certainly more cold weather is still ahead. This cowl is a way we can thank her for her many thoughts, help and kindness for so many years.