Like a Grocery List


A knitting pattern is like a grocery shopping list written for someone else. When you are making notes for yourself as a knitter, you only need to write reminders.  There is much you can assume. The same with a grocery list for yourself. But when you are writing for someone else’s action, success requires knowing what is shared knowledge and what needs to be specified.

This came to me after my Darling Daughter and Adventure Guy went grocery shopping with a list I wrote originally for myself.

First, let me be clear. My Darling Daughter and Adventure Guy are brilliant and insightful people and most of their purchases were exactly right. Even when they weren’t, we all lived. Quite happily. Yet, the result of the shopping trip was illuminating. Here’s how it part of it went:

Grocery List

I wrote “0%” and they brought home the non-fat milk I wanted. This highly encoded instruction communicated clearly because we all had a shared understanding of what it meant. Just as most experienced knitters can decode “K2b”.

When I wrote “Hot Italian Sausage” I knew I meant turkey sausage because that is what was in the recipe. No way the shoppers could have known that. The pork sausage they bought worked fine, I just drained it well so the fat content was closer to what I intended. This seems similar to increasing with the wrong “make one”. Not exactly what the designer intended but  difficult to discern the difference.


There is no explanation for why my favorite shoppers brought home broccoli when I requested Brussel Sprouts. No explanation at all. Just one of those things. I think we have all have made an error in knitting or other pursuits and when we noticed it later thought, “That was dumb, I knew it was supposed to be done another way.” Enough said. Nothing a knitting pattern can do about that.

Cucumber Chips

And then there is the most interesting discrepancy (notice how I avoided the term “error”). I asked for Cucumber Chips with the belief that the shoppers would know this meant Cucumber Chip pickles, since I have pulled such pickles out of the refrigerator to put on hamburgers and sandwiches for 30 years.  But I was wrong, they thought of cucumber slices in vinegar and bought a fresh, whole cucumber.

This is the miscommunication that a pattern writer wants most to avoid; leading the knitter astray in a big way. Perhaps with a result like this from You Knit What?:

knitting gone bad bala_mund

Or even this from Busy Being Fabulous

knitting gone bad fashion sweater

And that’s where the similarity between grocery lists and knitting patterns ends.  Fixing the pickles error meant a trip to the grocery store a mile away.  Making and fixing a knitting error can mean hours of wasted effort. Pattern writers really want to avoid that.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’m off to more KnitKnot Adventures.



One thought on “Like a Grocery List

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s