Sunday, June 2, 2013

Patterns vs concepts


So many patterns!  It is easy to spend a lot of time looking at patterns, at what other folks have done, and choosing from there.  It works for a lot of folks, but I keep running into bumps.

Probably the silliest bump is the whole matter of gauge.  For example:  I measure my bust.  The tape measure says 40 inches, good and snug.  I make a top that measures 20 inches across (40 inches around).  I put the top on, and it is very generously sized.  How did that happen?  One of the mysteries of life.

That is not to say that gauge information does not matter.  Gauge lets me know the proportion of stitch to row, especially when there will be stitching along the row ends, like in a log-cabin-style construction.

Also useful: figure what gauge I got on the body of a sweater, to figure out how to decrease for the sleeves (working from the shoulder down to the wrist).  Over time, the answer has pretty regularly turned out to be to decrease 1 stitch each end of every 4th row - but I got there by measuring.

Also, figuring gauge gives me a ballpark estimate of what kinds of numbers I’m working with.  That lets me know where I stand with my pattern instructions - mine or someone else's.

The second bump is that interesting patterns are for fancy things, and plain things work best in my life.  Patterns are a way people demonstrate their creativity to share an idea.  Patterns are also marketing tools for yarn companies to sell yarn.  Both tend toward fanciness.

The third bump is that even patterns for very basic things have me dependent on the numbers they give me.  In reality, the numbers are much less important than simply understanding the shape of what I am making.  Focusing on the numbers means I pay more attention to where the pattern instructions are than to what my fabric actually looks like, which is what really matters.

It is great to see so many patterns out there.  Lots of folks are doing lots of creative things with knitting and crocheting.  Each pattern is a description of some concept, or even better, a few different concepts pulled together.  Starting with the concepts and my yarn, I can jump in and end up with something that works, which is really cool.