Tuesday, August 14, 2007

some thoughts on knitting patterns

i wonder sometimes how easy it is to get a crafty book deal. not because i have any desire whatsoever to write a pattern book or any book (besides that future-bestseller on how to behave) but because i seriously question sometimes the pattern writers themselves. it appears that sometimes a writer can get a book deal because his or her blog or podcast or whatever is popular, but being a good blog writer and having crafting expertise are two very different things. i guess one successful example of this is the Mason-Dixon Knitting book, which is one of my favorites. in this book, the writers are able to retain the familiar style of their blog (i think--i actually don't read their blog regularly) and the purpose of the book seems to be to compile a collection of patterns that fit their style. i could be wrong on this, but i don't think that the writers themselves created very many of the patterns that appear in the book.

but sometimes i hear about Such-and-Such, who puts out a book solely because he/she has a popular blog or podcast. and S&S's book will contain X number of sock patterns, or lace patterns, or whatever, because S&S is known for primarily knitting these items. and then i will read S&S's blog where he/she will tell a story of having some crafty disaster because he/she is unable to properly fit a pattern that S&S is knitting, or otherwise shows evidence of being a "slave to the pattern."

this scares me. should S&S really be writing a book of patterns, expecting others to purchase and follow it when he/she can't even knit someone else's pattern without some fatal error? shouldn't we expect all pattern writers to at least be at highly advanced levels, if not experts? i'm not advocating formal training or master's knitting guild certification or whatever, but i am saying that we should expect pattern writers to whom we pay good money to be able to modify existing patterns to suit their needs or have experience in all the basics. Nancy Bush has put out a shit-ton of sock pattern books, and i have bought almost every one of them, because Nancy Bush has clearly done her research and she can teach me a shit-ton about knitting socks. When I read S&S's blog and it says something like, "oh i never knit cables because i don't know how...Buy my book!" i feel it is valid cause for concern.

i just worry that the market is becoming diluted by patterns whose writers may enjoy knitting (and may even be pretty good at it) but are lacking in proper expertise to really instruct others. basically, i feel i should try to avoid buying books from authors who have skill levels in my range or below--that is to say, barely competent :-) --, and i fear that there are already too many of those on the market. and although i might know enough to avoid these titles, others may not.


  1. I'd never stopped to think about it, but that is scary.

  2. hm, not sure what the answer is here, but i do agree with you; i think the market is totally over-saturated with mediocre knitting literature right now, which makes it even harder for the really good ones to stand out.

  3. Hear, hear. I could not agree with you more. Being able to write an entertaining blog does not mean you can design things worth publishing, and even more importantly, being a good designer does not mean you can write patterns in a way that gets your point across clearly. My personal pet peeve is when a designer touts one way of doing things as being "better" than all other ways for the sole reason that it's easier. Yes, easy is good, but if you're publishing patterns, you should understand the choices that you're making on a deeper level than "easy" and "hard." Sigh, I should probably stop before I go into full-on rant mode...

  4. Well now I'm just darn curious as to who S&S is or are? I've never encountered this myself. But then again, I think it's pretty well known I don't ride a majority of the popular blogger/podcaster trains. But hey, I guess those people have to feed their cats/children/husbands/wives/significant others/dogs/selves too and if they can't think beyond the pattern themselves, but can score a pattern book deal that the masses will slurp up with a straw causing them to roll in the dough if even for 15 minutes...more power to them.
    I enjoy the "undiscovered" knit bloggers with true talent more anyway.

  5. I feel like such a hater sometimes, but I am so. tired. of knitting blogs that turn into, "My Big Fat Knitting Book Blog."

    Well, unless the person is actually good at knitting and writing and only mentions the book once in a great while. Then my narrow parameters for what is okay are satisfied.

  6. Yeah, the gossip in me wants to know if you're talking about someone specific, but I'll be good.

    I think it's important to know one's limitations. If you haven't attained a certain level of expertise, how can you even explain something clearly enough for others to understand?

    The sad thing is that the way the market is going right now, with the popular bloggers/podcasters getting so much attention and possible book deals, I think it makes it harder for the more qualified but less popular people who want to get knitting books published. It seems to make getting published even more difficult for these unknowns.

  7. I'm inclined to agree with you, but on the other hand what if those book authors have always been out there being published, only now you know what their knitting skill is because of their blogs? If you think of it that way it's good because at least now we can avoid these books!

  8. It seems like you are talking about someone specific, or at least someone specific came to my mind when I read this. I think one of the biggest problems, and I don't even know if this can really be rectified, is that most of the people in publishing aren't knitters, and don't read blogs, so it seems like they really don't know the temperature of the discussion, nor what is going to be 'hot' in 1 1/2 or 2 years, which seems about as long as it takes to get a book turned around. I think because of the success of Debbie Stoller's SnB book, a lot of imprints are looking to cash in on the regular how to knit book instead of honing in on people who have a more distinct point of view (which I think SnB and the follow-ups do) and possibly a narrower interest base.

    I think that was about 3 1/2 cents worth- sorry to go on and on.

  9. If a publisher approached me based on my blog, I'd leave skid marks!

    I'm dying to know who you are talking about; however, I enjoy reading your blog and don't want you to get sued!

  10. ^__^ I've noticed this kind of book deal, too. My take on it is that publishers are more likely to choose a successful blogger over a technically proficient knitter because of the built-in sales. A blogger brings a fan-base to the table, and we can assume that a certain number of these fans will buy the book reflexively because they consider the blogger almost a friend. Plus, the blog's readership is almost proof that its author is marketable.

    I don't like it, but I think the trend will continue.

  11. I've noticed this myself. It irks, but the market is rich for knitting 'anything' and therefore glutted with crapola. Caveat emptor.

    I also cannot bear it when a certain popular knit blogger posts about a discovery or rather an invention of theirs that is nothing new at all. It's only new to them and all their fans/commenters. A couple of years knitting experience does not make you the 'go to' professor of knitting. (Hey YH! I'm writing criticism in public about someone! I think they can take it, they're big people.)

    But then, I am easily 'irked' by blowhards, know it alls and incompetents who think they are the shit.



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