Why I hate knitting books

First, I must say that I don't really hate them. They are filled with great ideas and fabulous photographs, which can be very inspiring. However, I do have some issues with most books and patterns.

1- They assume that I will seek out and use the same name-brand yarn that the designer used, or when that is not possible I will consult an equivalence chart and substitute another name-brand yarn. In my world, knitting projects are usually undertaken with nameless yarn I already have in my closet or something that catches my eye in a shop or at a show or something that I bought inexpensively on the internet. It's quite rare that I will purchase a specific yarn because it is mentioned in the pattern.

2- They ask me to make multiple swatches using different size needles until I can match the designer's stitch and row gauge. Honestly, this never really happens. First, I'm not willing to make swatch after swatch when I just want to get on with it. I also don't own needles in every size and may need to make do with what I have. Besides, I'm sure I don't knit like the designer does and will probably never match her tension exactly.

3- All the directions are written in terms of stitches rather than measurements. I must basically rewrite the pattern if I can't comply with the 'match my gauge' instruction. I'd be much happier if it said "cast on X millimeters worth of stitches" or "decrease until width equals X millimeters". Lots of old patterns were written that way, assuming that the knitter will figure out what to do, whereas modern ones try to spell out the process stitch by stitch.

Well, that's my rant. Obviously there are ways around these problems, but I'd like to see knitting instructions written in a more generic way that allows me to easily use the tools and materials that I have at hand. I'm not a knitting robot that requires a step-by-step program; in fact I enjoy thinking about what I'm doing and customizing my projects to fit the intended user. Does anyone else feel the same way?


Celowin's picture

My attitude is pretty much a polar opposite from yours. I adore knitting books, as I am basically a self taught knitter. I tend to read and study book after book, learning new tricks and better ways to do things.

For your (1), after my first couple of projects, I never felt the need to be slavish to the suggested yarn. I just look at the gauge, and find a yarn that I like that can be knit to that gauge. I don't usually worry about the row gauge... I figure that if I match the stitches per inch, I can add more rows if necessary.

Maybe it is because I learned from books, but I always thought that (2) was just good practice. Swatches don't take that long to make, and I'd rather know how dense my stitching is up front than find out later that my garment is not going to fit. I recently passed up doing a swatch (couldn't figure out a good way for stranded knitting), and ended up throwing away several hours worth of work because it was *way* too large.

I don't have much of an opinion on (3). It doesn't seem to me to be too much trouble to change things either way. The more complicated the pattern, though, the more that I want things done stitch by stitch... a fair isle design over 19 stitches is not going to be able to be modified to fit evenly to 204 stitches.

I don't consider myself a knitting robot, either... but I figure if I want to do those modifications, I can figure out the reasons behind the modern style of patterns, and make my own modifications from there. Just a different way of looking at things, I guess...

MMario's picture

I'd like to see knitting instructions written in a more generic way that allows me to easily use the tools and materials that I have at hand

Amen, Amen, amen!

But there are a lot of people who cannot function that way; or really struggle when they don't have step by step instructions.

MMario - ambiguity is cultivated, it doesn't happen in a vacuum!

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

kylewilliam's picture

take a look at Elizabeth Zimmerman - who I know you have heard of... she is great at they type of knitting you're talking about - the kind where you don't have specific direction but end up with beautiful pieces...

swatching will be something you learn to love - the more complicated your knitting gets, it appears, the more necessary the swatch knitting is.... for me at least, it's not just about getting things done anymore (although sometimes it seems that way) - it's also about the process and learning the craft...





My preference is to make *one* swatch with the needles and yarn I intend to use. I then know that X sts = Y mm and can proceed accordingly.

I really do not like doing swatches at all. I'd agree with what you said too, about wanting to know how many inches or centimetres long something ought to be; so much more practical for me!