I work for a theater in my hometown. It’s just a small one, seats just over 1300 people. We get some really interesting acts and some boring ones and some unintentionally funny ones and ones that are supposed to be funny but aren’t *cough*DrewCarey*cough*. But all in all I love my job. I love everything about it. I love the people I work with, I love helping the people who come in for the shows and I even love helping the cranky ones who can’t think of anything better to do but yell at you over every little thing. Yep, I love them. I love them all. I can’t think of one single thing I don’t like about it. Maybe if I had to think of something at gun point it would be that they won’t let me knit when there’s a lull in the action.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a job where you do nothing but knit? I’m sure it could get boring, just like any job…well, except mine. Mine is never boring. I love it. Have I said that before? But what if you could have a job where they paid you to sit and knit. Would you do it? What would it look like? What kinds of things would you knit? I’ve often thought about this. I’ve often wondered if I could convert my loving of knitting into some cold hard cash but I really don’t think there are many knitters who are getting rich off their craft. I don’t think there are even designers getting rich off their craft. Certainly there are designers who do well for themselves and probably make a comfortable living, and there are knitters who make a comfortable living, and there are knitters who also write books about knitting that make a comfortable living but rich? Probably not.
So what would my ideal knitting job be? I would love to be able to design something beautiful and sell it. But I’m not a designer. I don’t have a designers eye and even though I know about the elements of good clothing design, I just don’t have that kind of vision. I can see it in my mind’s eye, the perfect sweater, sock, mittens, but I just can’t come up with it on paper nevermind on the needles. So I sit in frustration with yarn in my lap, needles in my hands and something so abhorrent it could be a sci-fi movie staring me in the face, mocking me. My mind isn’t wired for design.
Pattern making is another thing I would probably suck at. I can write well, I can give clear instructions to the people who work for me, I can usually figure out errors in a pattern without consulting the errata but I can’t seem to manage putting my ideas into anything that resembles words. Chicken scratch, sure, got that covered but words that actually convey something that others can decipher and then make something from? Not bloody likely. What would end up happening is that they would end up sitting in front of the television with a knotted mess on their laps wondering where they went wrong. Then I would get the nasty emails and comments and somebody at some point will write in their blog about how inept I am at writing a pattern and I would end up on the street relying on my two cats to catch me dinner.
Which brings me to a sore point. Nothing can make me screw up my knitting faster than a chart. I know how to read them. I know they have their place especially in a complicated fairisle pattern but please tell me why I found a chart for a simple seed stitch pattern. Or why there was a chart, one of many actually, for a simple alternating colour pattern – one stitch in colour A and the next in colour B. It seems to be that if anything seems more complicated than garter stitch (knit every row) then it needs a chart.
I’m from old school knitting where everything was written down and that may cause me to be a bit biased. Lord knows I can be very close-minded about some things, like favourite songs (hate covers), movies made from books (Hollywood, please stop. No one needs to see 50 shades of anything on the big screen), tea (give me black tea please, hot. If I wanted fruit or flowers in my tea…well, I just wouldn’t), liquor (if I wanted something to sip, I’d drink tea) and baking (look, I’m already eating something that probably isn’t good for me so substituting margarine for butter and Sweet’n’low for sugar is like shouting “watch out” to your friend after the piano falls on him), so I would never write off the possibility of a small bias here. I mean, charts can be useful but does there have to be so many?
This is where the trouble comes in for me. I was looking at a sweater pattern the other day and it had six different charts. Six! It had a chart for every single pattern change even if all it was was a simple four stitch cable that ran the length of the sleeve. There was no complicated alternating cable, no celtic cable or knot, no travelling stitch, nothing. Just a simple four stitch cable. And it needed its own chart. I find all this confusing. I have to print out all these charts and then try to keep them organized so I’m not knitting from chart two when I should be knitting from chart six. It wasn’t a fairisle pattern, no confusing colourwork, just a bit of cabling, and bits of other pattern stitches here and there. But it needed six charts. Needless to say I chose not to do it and went for a pattern that had one chart. I just don’t have time for that kind of thing.
I’m not saying that charts are useless, all I’m saying is that sometimes they aren’t that helpful. It’s like me using a big word when a little one would do…er…um…nevermind. That’s a poor example. How about it’s like having a husband sometimes, you put them in a corner until you need them to open a jar or something. Ok, that wasn’t fair men are more than just jar openers. But I can’t think of anything better at the moment so it will just have to do. In any case, sometimes a chart isn’t necessarily the best thing to use when writing up a pattern. It would take you longer to chart that cable than it would to write it down.
As I’ve said, charts are useful and have their place. Definitely when there is a complicated cable pattern or colourwork or travelling stitch then a chart is the best way to keep things straight. I’m just not sure they are that relevant for simple designs. I really think that when a designer is writing up a pattern they need to think about how all these charts are being received by the potential knitter. Having six charts for one simple cardigan pattern is excessive. How many people, like myself, decided not to do that pattern because they felt intimidated by all those charts. How many decided it was too complicated based solely on the number of charts instead of looking at the pattern and seeing how easy it really was.
I think it would be nice to have both written instructions and charts but also realize that it isn’t very practical. Not everyone has the time to sit down and write detailed instructions for a sweater, sock or skirt pattern, and then do it all over again on a chart. That’s time-consuming to the max, I expect. And then there would be all the complaints, and typos needing to be changed, and proof reading. So written instructions are a lot of work too, I get that. But I’m selfish and think that everyone should cater to my every whim. So I keep hoping I will find a sweater with clear written instructions that isn’t 50 yrs. old. I would design it myself but I don’t think they need to remake Aliens just yet. Besides who ever heard of a horror movie called, “Attack of the 50 Foot Ball of Yarn”?