What to do when you have a problem with a knitting pattern

c Meg Kelly 2010

c Meg Kelly 2010

I’ve been contacted twice this week by knitters who were struggling with some aspect of one of my patterns. In both cases, the knitters explained to me very clearly what problem they were having and were extremely pleasant and helpful in their communication with me. As it turned out, in one case the knitter was having problems because her gauge was wildly off, and in the other case the knitter found some legitimate errors in the pattern that I am now working with the yarn company to correct. Both knitters are now on the path to projects they’ll be happy with.

These positive interactions got me thinking that it might be a good idea to post, from a knitting designer’s point of view, some of the ideal ways to get in touch with a designer about a problem you’re having with one of their patterns.

Before you contact the designer, double-check that you’ve not just made a simple error. It happens to all of us (me included!): you’re knitting away happily on a pattern, suddenly the stitch count is off, or the lace pattern isn’t matching up, and you think, “there’s something wrong with this pattern.”

Sure, maybe there is. But before you head off to the computer to email the designer, do double-check your math and look carefully at your knitting and the pattern—it could well be that you just made a mistake in a previous row or missed something in a previous paragraph.

Try to contact the designer directly by email. A good pattern, in my opinion, lists an email address that you can use for pattern support. Barring that, many designers have web pages that list their email address or have contact forms. This is the surest way to reach your target directly. Some designers don’t check their Ravelry messages every day, though this is a good second option if you cannot find an email address.

You can even write a post on the designer’s Ravelry forum (or any relevant forum if they don’t have one). One of my favorite new features on Ravelry is that if you hot-link to a pattern name in a forum post, Ravelry will ask you if you have a question about that pattern. If you say yes, a note pops up in the designer’s user activity feed that someone has a question about one of their patterns.

Start from a position of respect. When you compose your message to the designer, write from the assumption that the designer is neither dumb nor evil. Start from the position that you may have found an error … or, at least, that you’re having a hard time getting the result you’re supposed to get when you follow the instructions as written. Personally, I answer every request for pattern support that I receive, but if you come at me swinging with both fists, my instinct is to go into defensive, not helpful, mode.

Give as many relevant details as you can. Tell the designer what yarn you’re using, where the problem started happening, whether the technique you’re having trouble with is new to you, at what exact point the stitch count went off, or anything else that might help the designer figure out where the problem is. Include a photo of your project if that would help clarify things.

Please share your own advice or responses on this topic in the comments!

Pictured above is one of my favorite patterns that I’ve designed, the Modern Tartan. To date, no errata have been found. 🙂