Monday, July 23, 2007

An Apology to My Sister

I must apologize to my sister. Some time ago, I presented her with a gift of a skein of Mountain Colors sock yarn in the Northern Lights colorway, a pack of bamboo DPNs and a sock pattern designed by a somewhat local knitting expert. My sister, Karen, has never knit socks before. Many hats and scarves, but no socks. I thought this would be a good starter pattern that would get her hooked. The pattern is interesting enough to prevent stockinette burn out, yet the stitch repeat is simple and easy to remember. I can picture the Karen picking up her new new bamboo DPNs and wondering if she should knit with them or skewer some shrimp for the barbie.

Taking a deep breath, Karen casts on the recommended 72 stitches, being careful not to twist the stitches at the join. (She knows about twisted stitches, you see, there was this hat...) She breezes through the first inch of 1x1 rib. The hand painted yarn is looking good, but she's anxious to get to the meat of the pattern. As she knits the ankle of the slip stitch sock, she marvels at how the little bits of golden yellow miraculously show up just as she's slipping a stitch, making the pattern pop with life. When she gets to the heel flap, she hesitates for a moment until she realizes that the instep stitches just "hang out" while the heel flap is worked back and forth in a twisted slip stitch pattern. That makes perfect sense, and she finishes the flap fearing that the worst is yet to come.

(Why is it that turning a heel has a reputation for being a very difficult knitting maneuver? It's quite simple really, if you trust the pattern and do what it says.)

Karen admires her work thus far. It really is quite beautiful and not nearly as difficult as she supposed. She bravely dives into the heel turn only to have her confidence shattered by knitting abbreviation she has never seen before. The pattern reads as follows:

Turn Heel --
SL1, P ?/20, P2TOG, P1, turn work

She ponders the "P ?/20" instruction. It doesn't make sense to her because the next row instructs her to K5. So what the heck does P ?/20 mean? She consults her knitting books and finds no reference to question marks in knitting patterns. She knows WTF? but P ?/20...not a clue. Karen breaks down and calls her sister, but she knows that big sis will only tell her to "trust the pattern". Frustrating advice, yet it has always proven true.

Well, Karen, this time I apologize because this three-page pattern is riddled with typos and vague instructions. I hope you didn't get to the heel flap and rip everything out in total frustration. I owe you a better pattern for that beautiful yarn and your first foray into sock knitting.

To the pattern designers: Please proof your patterns and have them test knit by someone else, preferably someone who knits.

To those giving yarn and patterns as gifts to fledgling knitters: Please read the pattern to make sure there aren't any bungled up instructions like "P ?/20".

P ?/20


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