Mistakes and the State of the Industry

I’ve been meaning to write for a while about a post from Pam MacKenzie about mistakes in knitting books and the state of the industry as more people self-publish and sell individual patterns rather than traditional print books.

I haven’t written because I’m not sure I know what I want to say. I see the issue from all sides, as a designer, and a knitter, and a person who’s been a book editor (though not in the craft industry).

The discussion started when MacKenzie wrote about mistakes in Nicky Epstein’s books, and Nicky got upset and shared the rigorous lengths they go to in an attempt to make her books as error free as possible.

But mistakes happen and things don’t get seen, even when multiple eyes are on a pattern. I know there were a few things in my last book that got caught at the last second, but there may be things that slipped through that I still don’t know about.

We are all human and we’re all doing our best. We don’t put mistakes in our patterns because we’re stupid or mean, and we’re embarrassed and upset when there are problems in our patterns. So I think step one is that everyone needs to treat everyone else like a person and treat them the way you would want to be treated in that situation.

MacKenzie also talks about self-published books and patterns, and how that puts pressure on publishers to do more with less. There may be a time when physical knitting books are rarer, more patterns are published digitally and singly or in smaller collections. But then there’s the issue of whether a self-published designer gets technical editing help at all and how that affects the industry.

I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out. But it’s an interesting time to be a knitter, a designer and a producer of books, that’s for sure.

What do you think? Have you seen more mistakes in patterns lately than you used to? How do you feel when a pattern has a mistake? What do you think is going to happen to craft book publishing in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. says

    Mistakes in patterns are very frustrating, not only for the pattern designer but the end user. I have written pattern instructions for the patterns I create. (Yes, I’ve had mistakes in some of my patterns.) Writing instructions for patterns is no easy task. People read and understand differently. Some patterns I’ve tried to follow I just can’t understand and I’m very experienced. Others are written in a way that I can easily understand.

  2. Jackie Monahan says

    I have been knitting for over 50 years and have encountered my fair share of either poorly written instructions or annoying errata in my patterns over that time.

    I think that the more inexperienced and new designers who start self-publishing their patterns, the more issues there will be with those patterns. And there are many inexperienced craft folks out there who work on a project and decide they must share their knowledge with everyone. It’s more than a little annoying to be working on a project and have to stop and spend precious time figuring out why the pattern isn’t working and where the error might be once I’ve figured out it’s not just my own mistake. Without the technical back-up and with more and more patterns being produced, it’s just going to happen more frequently.

    Even with books written by experienced craft authors often have mistakes in the written pattern, but at least one can contact the publisher for a list of errata. People should be polite about it, but it can be frazzling sometimes. And, if the authors are offended by someone being unhappy about mistakes in their books, perhaps there needs to be a better method of checking for errors.

  3. Sylvia says

    I have found a few mistakes in various pattern books but not many. Luckily, I have found corrections to some in errata sections of some sites which are wonderful. Sorry I can’t think of a site right now but I am sure they can be Googled. Red Heart has their own errata section.
    I have many knitting and crochet pattern books and sometimes there was already a correction on a slip of paper inside the books.
    Designers are a godsend to people like me who do not have enough imagination to create a pattern and I would never criticize any of you. The patterns could be correct when they are sent in and the error may occur in the publishing.
    It doesn’t matter who made the error. We should accept that designers and publishers are human and mistakes are made. If you get a correction, great, if not, try to figure it out. Be polite and let the publisher or designer know about the error.
    Yes, the books are not cheap, but these people work hard to produce these patterns, I for one truly appreciate that.

  4. Patti says

    I had a problem with a pattern and wrote the designer who wrote a most unsavory email back. Just because it makes sense to you (the designer) does not mean it is clear to your audience. I have run into this a lot in the sewing world and on self-published tutorials. Hope that most designers will have knitters of all skill levels test their patterns and proof the instructions. On the other hand, last week a designer followed up with several emails to be sure I was confident in the process she described. Guess which designer I will buy from in the future?

  5. OHSue says

    I shared Patti’s experience. I had a book by a famous designer who has published a few books and has a Yahoo group. When I had a question she kept saying the answer was in the book, I asked repeatedly and got the same answer. And yet a lesser known designer admitted the error I found and sent me follow up e-mails to make sure the project had worked out for me in the end.

  6. GillDevon says

    I used to own a Wool Shop some 15 – 20 years ago and found that back then patterns from long established well known companies often had errors.As an experienced knitter I was able to work out the correction and guide my customers who had problems. Errors happen! Yes patterns should be tested on all skill levels before publication if possible and sometimes things are not written as clearly as they might be. I also used to work in a manufacturing company and would frequently be given a piece of equipment about which I knew nothing and the manual to go with it on the grounds that if I could understand it so could the customer.It used to be known as idiot proofing. Any type of teacher or writer of patterns or manuals should at least consider that if someone has a problem with the instructions then the instructions might not be as clear as they could be.
    Typographical errors occur. How many of us have read a novel or biography with wrongly spelt words . (There is another case in point the word spelt in not recognized by spell checker although perfectly acceptable in the English Oxford Dictionary).
    What it comes down to is mistakes happen. Publishers and designers should not be defensive and should look at how to help their customers, but on the other hand customers should be understanding and realize that with the best will in the world errors happen. A little old fashioned courtesy on both sides goes a long way.

  7. Patti Panuccio says

    This is your fault you asked for thoughts.
    I probably will never write a book but I create things all the time. I would probably make sure that an honest peer made the object from the pattern. Two things would happen you could see the object made by someone else and that someone could tell you of any problems.
    I have always openly shared my knowledge, usually whether some one wanted it or not.

  8. Patti Panuccio says

    I forgot to mention that I am knot a knitter, I tried it once when I was carrying my daughter many years ago, my muse went nuts, so I went back to crochet.

  9. says

    I don’t have experience with knitting books, but doing an online SAL for a sewing book, we found tons of errors. In the end, the designer got in touch and apologised and told us that the patterns weren’t tested before being printed! She says she will do in future, which is good, but doesn’t give me much confidence in this publisher…

  10. says

    One of the instructors at my LYS has been published. She not only has a couple of people test the pattern, she asks different people to make swatches using the suggested yarn and needles. I suppose errors in printing could still happen but I am impressed with how much effort she puts into seeing that patterns are correct.

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