Thursday, November 08, 2007

psst. It ain't the sweater, honey

Today I had an entire workday without household errands or catch-up activities. Nothing short of a miracle! Don't worry, probably won't happen again any time soon! Here's some of the fibery stuff 'round here.

Thermal, this undertaking in fingering weight Australian merino, is going along slowly but surely. It's a bit large now, so it sits on the coffee table and I do a few rows in the evening, or when I walk by.

I spun up the rolags I mentioned a while back, and here's a comparison photo of two kinds of Finn wool from the same lamb fleece. The skein on the left is two ply fingering weight, from carded wool, and it's pretty tightly spun. (mittens. I'm thinking selbuvotter mittens) The skein on the right is the handteased locks...probably a lofty sport or dk weight, lovely in texture but not quite right for color work.

The next image (see the brown and cream theme here?) is a slip stitch pattern, knitted out of bulky weight handspun on size 10.5 needles. The resulting fabric--cushy, soft, warm and rich deep brown-- will hopefully someday be a zip up v-neck sweater for me. I am debating whether I'll write a pattern from this. More on that in a minute.

All this is happening pretty slowly, but here's some fingering weight brown (what else?) Shetland that will hopefully become the contrasting color for my mittens. It's being spun on my Schacht wheel in the living room, with wool carefully boobytrapped so the dogs don't get involved. Mmmh. Wool--winter time. dog bed...'cause sleeping on the wood floors is cold now! (get the picture?)

Now, to the designing bit. I happened upon someone's blog and this person knit not one, but two sweaters from a pattern I designed. She proclaimed it poorly designed despite knitting it twice, and rushed around the 'net and the blogosphere, asking publicly for others to weigh in. I found her email and asked her, privately, why she didn't contact me for help and/or advice. (she did try the pattern publisher and didn't get satisfaction, they couldn't help her.)

Here's the weird part...I don't think anyone could help! She had no problem following the instructions, and her cardigan(s) looked remarkably like the pattern photos. What was wrong, apparently, was that she felt the sleeves were too big (dolman/loose) and that the v-neck was too wide for her body. Since the sweater was a quick knit out of fuzzy bulky yarns, I was careful not to create tight fitting sleeves (this can be distinctly unflattering!) and yes, the sweater definitely had a wide v-neck. The photo didn't lie about that. In the end, I think the conclusion might be:

I wrote an ok piece of technical writing. It worked, knitters could follow it and it's probably worth more than the $400 I was paid for it... (the company renewed the pattern copyright, so I earned slightly more over time, so they liked it, too.) However, no sweater design is going to flatter everyone. Plus, knitting patterns don't usually come with a manual that explains whose bodies it will flatter. Even more complicated? Knitwear designers can't control how people feel about their bodies. Sweaters don't change us--the ones that fit right may flatter, and others may --not-- flatter. (psst. It's not the sweater's fault, honey)
Now, the kicker...a sweater might look bad on you, but unless the pattern had lots of mistakes or was hard to follow, it's not a poorly written design. Maybe it's not the right pattern for the knitter, but there's a reason we knit. We knit to create one of a kind pieces that look good on us, because we've all got different body types, preferences, and style. So, will I write up a pattern for another bulky cardigan right now? I don't know, I found this experience pretty discouraging. I just can't control which patterns knitters might choose, or how they feel about their bodies! Instead, I might just enjoy knitting it, because if it doesn't fit me right? I'll rip it out, give it away, or redesign it--to fit me and my style. Why? Well, even with the shoulder ache, I like knitting. If it isn't flattering, that's my choice to make as a knitter. I can't hold a designer (even me) accountable for that part. That might be a body image issue, or a confusion about what actually suits me. No design can fix that.


Blogger Nancy said...

Please don't let one bad apple ruin the peck...

November 8, 2007 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

So by that logic, I can trash talk Land's End, because my butt looks big in their pants?

Kate in further west KY

November 8, 2007 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Too funny!!!! Not really funny, but aren't people strange? Does it take one to know one? Oh me!!!!!

November 8, 2007 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been caught by something that i thought was wonderful, knit it up and it turned out all wrong for me. it definitely wasn't the designer's fault, but my own, neglecting that tiny voice that said quite loudly, "what in the h*** are you thinking!" too often i think we try and put ourselves into a media made image. usually it doensn't work very well.

keep designing kiddo!

November 9, 2007 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Connie said...

That's pretty bad (about the knitter who blamed you for a sweater that looks bad on her). I'm sorry she's bad mouthing you on forums. This type of behavior makes me so mad! The designer has no way of knowing there's a problem (and in this case there actually wasn't) and has no way to defend herself while her/his name is being maligned all over cyberspace. Sorry for the drama in that last sentence!

November 9, 2007 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger KnitMensch said...

Too bad about the complaints, Joanne! I say, let's offer appreciation to the designers whose work we enjoy, to balance out the perhaps-inevitable, occasional whines. (Retailers assume one dissatisfied customer will talk as much as seven happy customers, I think.) Who designed the last thing you loved making? Do they know it yet? Have you told your friends? Maybe a little encouragement would give the designer the heart to forge ahead. Meanwhile, Joanne, thanks for blogging about something we who have not yet published a pattern may not have thought about!

November 9, 2007 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger June said...

I think we have all knit a sweater or two that is just, wrong, wrong, wrong for us . . . don't take it to heart, Joanne, take it from the source. Love the spinning your doing, can't wait to see the mittens!

November 9, 2007 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

It never occurred to me that my bad clothing choices are the designer's fault. I wonder if I can extend that to books I read but didn't enjoy? Mind you, I do hold parents responsible for their unpleasant child :-)

Don't take it to heart. The company wouldn't have renewed the copyright if the pattern wasn't working.

November 12, 2007 at 9:58 AM  

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