Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Deconstructing The Pattern (Part 1)

If you look at the side bar, over on the right, you'll notice that I'm keeping all of our KAL posts in one handy place. This is a good time to hop on over to the post called "Two Socks, One Week: Download The Pattern" and, um, download the pattern.

That's cuz, over the next couple of posts, I'm going to talk about how I manage patterns in general (my process, as it were) and how I developed the Simple Sock pattern to assist me (and hopefully you) in creating simple socks in the simplest way possible.

How Kristin Approaches The Knitting Pattern for Efficiency:

1. The first thing I do is read the whole pattern through. Inevitably, it's all doublespeak and I have a moment of intense anxiety, throw my hands up in the air, and decide I'm never knitting anything again.*

I don't recommend that part of my process.

2. Mind you, soon afterwards, I move into mindset B, wherein, since everything is so miserable anyway, I decide I might as well have another look at things. Just for kicks. Inevitably, at this point, I start to speak "knitting", if rustily.

Here's what I hate about written knitting language: Could these people not use a complete sentence occasionally? Or even a complete word???

Alas, it is what it is. And even if I don't particularly like the conventions of the written language, I'm kind of at its mercy. But here's where it's not so bad...

3. Type any knitting gobbledy-gook into Google (17 letters with no reasonable meaning) and, I swear, a minimum of 5 resources (in a variety of formats) will pop up in an instant. Do not fear the lingo. As long as you have a couple of knitting books and a web browser.

If I don't understand what I'm reading, I search the pattern for some explanations (usually on the back page), then I hit the 'net.

Now, I do love the kind of pattern that answers all of the questions in the way that one of those "slim" patterns overlooks. I love the ones where they explain why you're doing something, that show pictures, that spend some time giving you the extra deets which an experienced knitter won't require, but which I probably will. And, though I've rarely if ever seen it, I love patterns that facilitate your note-taking within the instructions themselves.

4. This is key: I urge you to take "good" notes in order to stay on track with any kind of efficiency. You may keep those notes in the vault of your mind, but I don't recommend it. Which is why, every time I begin a project, I keep a book beside me and clearly indicate the project I'm working on, the part of the pattern I'm documenting info about, and the clear results of my work. The strong likelihood is that you will need this information again, if only to complete the second half of that particular project. It is not a waste of time. It's a serious time-saver.

5. If you intend to swatch, now's the time.

Let's turn this general concept to my sock pattern for a second. I've said elsewhere that you might choose to swatch or, with experience, to use a needle size you're comfortable with. My goal is to emphasize the simple in this project. Not the fitting. But your goal may be to explore both of these. In which case, swatch.

But, if you're on the simple track, recall my recent post about how I knit loosely. Note that my pattern, unaltered, is recommended for a certain size of foot (happily within a broad range). And, if you know you are a tight knitter (kind of like I'm a loose knitter), consider one of these three suggestions:

  • Go up a needle size or 2 (before swatching - or in lieu of it). 
  • Of course, you could also just add a few stitches to the pattern without having any meaningful impact on the directions or how to work the socks (as long as you do so in batches of 2). 
  • If you have knit many a simple sock, then I suggest you use your standard needle size - UNLESS your standard simple sock pattern uses a vastly different stitch number at cast on.
But this is the main thing: You can make your alterations on the fly, as I've done in the past. The sock is a little tube, the dimensions of which will be quite clear with only an hour of work. The time it would take to swatch, if you think about it. (Of course, this sock won't be blocked when you're making your sizing assessments, but the yarn I've suggested is the sort that doesn't vary after blocking in any meaningful way...)

One more word about sizing and then I'll simply leave it to KALers to ask questions, as they arise: I truly don't think sizing is going to be the slightest issue for the majority. For what it's worth,  next time I make socks I intend to go down a needle size - without changing any other element of my pattern. I'm sure it will only produce a snugger sock, which I would prefer, in all honesty. So if you knit somewhat more tightly than me, and ankle and foot circumference dimensions are similar to mine (see page 1 of the pattern), I don't think it's problematic. Of course, if you're my polar opposite, carefully consider the bullets above or, better yet, just bite the bullet and swatch.

Next up, Deconstructing the Pattern (Part 2), wherein we'll refer to my actual pattern and its various sections, in more detail.

In the meanwhile: How do you approach your new knitting projects and their patterns? Are you a planner? Do you rush right in with the spirit of adventure? Let's talk!

*Quick side bar: The reason I emphasize 1., above, is because you will potentially be sidelined by concepts you don't get (or notions that you need) if you don't have some sort of concept of what you're about to do. I would far prefer to know what I have to figure out before I get 6 hours into a project. I mean, if I don't want to deal with it, I don't want to have wasted my time...


  1. Too funny - our approach to patterns is diametrically different! I read through the pattern and take notes to distill it down to FEWER words, LOL! I have my own kind of knitting shorthand. I hate having to sift through tons of information for my instructions. I just want to get on with the knitting :-)

    1. Gail - it's like we do everything in the most opposite way possible! What is it about us?? I do think, in addition to natural style, your experience with knitting and reading patterns predisposes you to make things even less wordy (or letter-y, as the case may be).

    2. Ha! Wish that would spread to the rest of my life!

  2. Oh #4 is SO important in sock knitting because to the second sock! There's nothing worse than not being able to remember what you decided on the first sock when you get around to the same point in the second one!

    1. Oh, I know! I've had that horror (when I can't seem to decipher my previous notes and it's almost as bad as having no notes at all!)