Knitting Errata

11 September 2008

At our knitting group last weekend, we were talking about the extraordinary number of mistakes that can be found in commercially published patterns, as we watched Jenny re-writing a pattern so that it bore some resemblance to the photograph.  The pattern was Calvert by Norah Gaughan – not a designer to be sniffed at.  One of the problems was that the front has a panel of feature stitches, 9 pattern repeats wide but the written instructions would produce only a 7 pattern repeat wide panel.

My first attempt at knitting a pattern from Victorian Lace Today was a complete disaster.  After 4 rows, my stitch count was completely wrong.  I thought I was being stupid.  I tried again, and again, and again.  I then worked out the maths and realised that it wasn’t ME – it was the pattern.  I’ve always assumed that the patterns would be correct.  Some of my knitting friends expressed surprise that I’d started to knit from a pattern without checking the internet for possible errata.  And yes, the pattern was wrong (there are 3 pages of errors listed for this book) – it wasn’t me after all.

I don’t remember this being a problem until relatively recently.  In my youth, I had a temporary job typing knitting patterns for a large wool manufacturer.  The designer wrote the pattern and knitted the garment.  I typed up the instructions which were then sent out to a number of knitters so that every size would be knitted from the pattern as written.  I’ve just discovered that it isn’t always the norm for a magazine to test knit at all.  They just take the garment and the pattern from the designer and publish it.  In effect, we’ve all become test knitters.  When we let them know where they’ve gone wrong, they publish all the corrections.

I don’t knit very often from patterns, so I can only blame myself for any errors.  But when I do, I expect to just follow the instructions and get a garment that looks like the photograph.  And, on the subject of photographs, it’s often nearly impossible to tell what the garment should look like anyway.  Going back to Calvert, you wouldn’t know until you get the pattern that the back isn’t just straight stocking stitch.  Both the photos are of the front only. 

New knitters must get very despondent when they’ve followed the instructions to the letter and ended up with a different looking garment, or just given up in frustration thinking they’re too thick to understand the pattern.   

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  1. Many knitters haven’t the skill to figure out that the pattern is in error and they simply assume they are making the mistake(s). Sadly, many haven’t yet developed the ability to figure out where the pattern deviates from what it should be and then to correct those kinds of errors.

    We now have errata pages and Ravelry, but quality work should be in the magazine or book, right under the designer’s name. Maybe new works should be published in “Beta” versions, so the buyer knows that it’s a bit of a gamble whether it’ll work or not, before they make the purchase.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been knitting for well over 50 years and I only remember coming across one error in all that time, until the last 3-4 years. For instance, I was knitting a teddy bear for our local hospital recently, from a magazine pattern they’d provided, and there were two glaring mistakes. Glaring to me, as Petunia says, but they more than likely would not have been so to a novice.

  3. We had this discussion at our lace knitting workshop yesterday! Meg Swanson, in an interview with David Reidy, said that knitters should learn to read their knitting as much or more than the pattern. I think she’s right but it takes experience to do that.

    I own VLT but have not knitted from it yet. Thanks for letting me know about the errata pages on the ‘Net. Having paid quite a bit for a beautifully presented book, Id have thought someone would have proof-read/knitted the items!

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