I can’t say I really knew what to expect when I hit publish on my first blog ten years ago. I didn’t really say, I think I just wanted to break the ice and my first few steps were tentative indeed. 10 years on I’m still here, typing away, and although my current stats don’t quite reach the heady heights of 2015, I’m probably enjoying it more than ever. In particular, the level of direct interactions with the blog has increased in the last year and it’s great to hear when posts have resonated with readers.
This anniversary, coming in this year, has made me a little reflective and when I started this post I wanted to both celebrate this milestone and I also wanted to look back at the nature of the form itself, of blogging and how the knitting ‘community’ has changed over that 10 years. However, as I thought about those things I found my energy and enthusiasm drifting away somewhat, so, I stopped and stepped away from the computer.
Then this morning, I was pondering a pattern writing issue and a tension I was experiencing between:
a.) writing the pattern in the usual prescriptive way, i.e. the instructions to directly reproduce the sample, and
b.) the desire to give prompts and ideas for modifications, ways the knitters could play with the form of the design and produce something even more uniquely theirs.
It struck me that this is an issue I often encounter and feel my self torn over.
I know many very successful knitwear designer and yarn companies who have learnt and re-learnt the lesson that knitters fall in love with the sample and all that the styling promises that this exact item will deliver, and as a result the buy the pattern, the same yarn in the same colour, and knit the sample just like the one in the pictures. This is one of the key drivers of the knitting industry and many a business model.
I also know that this isn’t really me. I’ve never been that good at following the rules so closely. The most aspirational styling will never make me knit anything yellow for myself, or pink for that matter…
What’s more, I think it’s that rebellious streak that also makes me want to put multiple options for modification in my patterns. I want people to feel they have the ‘permission’, encouragement, and support to go their own way with a pattern to follow their own creative process and colour outside the lines.
One of the reasons I found designing with regularity a challenge is that I start with an idea, explore it, witness it mutate in all sorts of directions and then find myself unable to narrow back down for the pattern. As such I often find myself with multiple samples and prototypes, but no pattern.
So this morning it occurred to me that if I structure my patterns the right way I can do 2 things:
- Write the standard pattern, and,
- Provide additional notes and suggestions for modification and customisation based on my own experimentation. These can be organised so knitters who print, a decreasing number these days, don’t have to print all the pages…
Why it took me so longer to get to this point I really don’t know. I’ve been kind of doing this with some of my patterns anyway, but I’ve been sneaking it in rather than speaking openly about it or celebrating it.
Clarifying in my own mind what and why I want to do this as a snappy tagline, always a good discipline for the anarchic mind, I came up with:
‘Empowering knitters through process and product’.
This is what I love to do. This is why I ran a knitting group for vulnerable women for years; because nothing is more special than seeing someone with every last ounce of self-esteem battered out of them, bloom as they complete their first row of knitting, having said they ‘can’t do it’ with every stitch, while the simple repetition of making stitches proves to themselves, otherwise.
I’ve long believed in the empowerment that learning a craft brings. It is good for the soul, it calms the mind and it helps get us through those periods where everything else seems so out of control. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t need a pandemic to teach me that, although I may have needed one to feel more comfortable talking about it!
That said, many people who come to my patterns are very accomplished knitters, and that’s fabulous. They bring their skills to the process and often without realising, present the very special gift that is the thrill of seeing one’s pattern knitted up beautifully by a joyful and satisfied knitter.
Knitters cover this whole spectrum from doubtful beginner to skilled expert. Surely our patterns should speak to all those knitters across this spectrum. Some people already do this wonderfully, include options for modification, and encourage knitters of their patterns to make them their own. So why I’ve been so slow and so wary to give myself permission to do so and embrace this I don’t know. I do know that I’m really excited that the penny has finally dropped.
Today as a thank you for being here I’m offering my Kingston Lacy shawl pattern free for readers.
From now, through to the end of February 2021 you can download it from here on the blog alone. It will be added to my usual pattern outlets after that.
Kingston Lacy is one of those patterns that grew out of another. It uses the lace repeat I used in my Badbury shawl, which I loved for both its simplicity and its complete reversibility. The shawl is a simple all over lace shawl knitted from the tip upwards, with pattern instructions for 3 gauges/yarn weights. So you can make a light airy laceweight version, a 4 ply single skein version, or a snuggly DK version, and its completely modifiable for whatever yarn you have and whatever size you want…
Until next time,
Enjoy your knitting and embrace your superpower,