Friday, September 4, 2009

Knit critics

I think the knit world needs more criticism. And by that, I mean more constructive criticism, not snark. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy a good snark, and I certainly think it has its place, however, it's not what I'm looking for. I like praise, as we all do, but I want it to be meaningful. Bells posted about viral knits recently, and it got me thinking. I agree with her that it's absurd to denigrate a knit because "everyone has made one." It's also silly to expect everyone to design their own knitwear, or to talk about how there are no good designers out there. I also can see the value in a cute, quick, 1 skein project that makes a thoughtful gift. What I wish we had more though, is serious discussion about what people liked about a pattern, what they wish was different, and suggestions from readers and bloggers, as to what they'd change next time.

I like socks a lot, and I'm really fascinated by what Cookie A designs. I don't love all her designs, nor do I want to knit some of them. A few I want to make because the construction is cool, or because I want to see how the charting fits the pattern. A few pairs I want to make because I want to wear them. Some, frankly, just don't do much for me. I think Monkey went viral because it was a very clever sock - a simple pattern, neither too big nor too small, that looked good with solids, semisolids, and wildly colored yarn. That was the sock that made me think about how diagonal lines are good for breaking up repeats in handpainted yarn, so that you get less striping. Yeah, it's not an earthshattering concept, but I hadn't quite internalized it until I knit the pattern.

Some designs are classic and universally flattering. I'm going to be a bit of a jerk and suggest that the most popular sweaters (as listed on Ravelry) don't fit that descriptor. Which makes me think that the reason they become popular is due to KALs - I assume people are still doing those. I also think a KAL can be very useful, if people are sharing information about how they are modifying a pattern or finding errors or ambiguous directions. I haven't participated in many of them, as I have commitment problems with my knitting. But the few I have tried, I haven't seen that kind of criticism taking place.

I suspect a lot of my attitude about this comes from my day job, and I know people sometimes interpret the critical eye as being overly negative. The truth is that all crafting isn't equal, yet we dole out praise as though it was. We should celebrate the act of creating something with sticks and strings, and encourage people who are just learning to keep trying. I wouldn't mind though, if could find a little more discussion of things like "Next time I'd consider angling the decreases in the opposite direction" or "Short rows in the bust would fix the pulling problem as the waist" or "I really like it - the only thing I might change would be to start the shaping 1/2 inch higher, but that's nitpicking." If I saw that more, I think I'd take the 5 star ratings on patterns and yarns more seriously, and perhaps the really good viral knits would get the respect they deserve.


Bells said...

I do agree with you that not all the most popular sweater patterns are universally flattering. But something about them captures the imagination because they're fun knits, I think. Like the Sunrise circle one - I don't know how many people that would actually suit but the craft of knitting it would be pretty cool. I think that shows there are either a lot more process knitters out there than we realise, or people just don't know what works on their body shape!

Julie said...

One thing about viral knits that I like: Usually it means the pattern is written right, or it will be corrected by the time I get to it. That counts for a lot. Rogue has almost a thousand projects listed on ravelry, and while people offer the nitpicking stuff like you mentioned, many also said "This is a great pattern, well-written and not confusing". That goes a long way with me. I can design my own stuff; if I buy a pattern, I want the darn thing to work as written and without fooling around from me. If I wanted to fool around, I'd design something similar.

As for honest criticism, that's one of the reasons I changed the VK reviews. If you've noticed I'm a lot more specific about what's wrong with a pattern (or what's right with it). I almost went through the last VK to check for pattern errors, but I don't have that kind of time.

Anyway. Yeah. I'm tired of the 'let's all be nice' attitude in the knitting world, but I think you know that. E-mail me. We'll talk. :) Or maybe I'll e-mail you.