Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Musings on Ughs.

For the last couple weeks, to amuse myself, I've been cruising the Ugh section on Ravelry. (Found here. For those not on Ravelry, it's basically a gallery of projects gone horribly wrong.) With a thought toward design and pattern writing, I originally started off looking for what people hate about patterns. (Biggest complaint seems to be lack of detail on finishing. So noted.) But I learned a lot more. Here are a few of the more obvious things that leapt out at me:

-A lot of it is what I call 'user error'. Goofy gauge, bad yarn substitutions, too steep a learning curve, whatever. There's nothing much to be done about that, but for crying out loud, at least you can read the pattern through before you start knitting, so you're not shocked by anything. (I'm amazed at the number of people who don't.) My own thoughts on gauge can be read here and here, yarn substition here.

-Face reality. If you've got DDDD boobs, you've got no business knitting yourself a strapless tube top, so quit being shocked when it isn't flattering. Ditto on size. No matter how much you WANT to be a size small, quit knitting them unless you ARE. Get out a tape measure and actually measure yourself if you have to. On a related note, figure out what cuts are flattering on you and stick to those. Again, you may WANT to look like that willowy model in the Rowan magazine, but knitting the sweater isn't going to turn you into her. Sucks, but there it is.

-Awesome yarn does not equal awesome project. It sure as hell doesn't equal FLATTERING project. You know what colors flatter you. So no matter how much the orange and yellow self-striping yarn appeals to you, if you know you look like shit in yellow, STAY AWAY. Or knit socks with it. Or a gift for someone who does look good in yellow.

-Anything fitted is harder to knit than anything loose. Fitted that FITS is even harder. If you're doing something fitted, you can't just get gauge and happily knit away. You've got to measure as you go, keep track of relaxation and shrinkage and whatall when your swatch hits water, the works. Or at least you have to if you want it to fit. Did I mention that part is hard?

-I know how it is to get this major urge to cast on something new at three in the morning with nothing but kite string in the house. I've been there. (Okay, I've never knit kite string. But I have knit butcher's twine.) If you absolutely HAVE to do that (I suggest not), can you at least find something appropriate for whatever yarn you dug out of the back of your stash? (I knit a pot scrubber with the butcher's twine.) WHY are people casting on size XXXXL cable-knit sweaters with 300 yards of discontinued yarn?? (I know, we all run out of yarn sometimes. But often we KNOW we don't have enough. LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN.)

-Felting seems to go horribly wrong at least half the time. No matter how much experience the person has with felting. Beware. Very ware.

Ultimately, what a lot of this comes down to is thinking about it before you see a project, spend $200 on yarn, knit half of it, and decide you hate it. The yarn will still be there tomorrow. THINK ABOUT IT. My rule of thumb (unless I'm spending gift certificates which are mad money purely for fun), is that I have to want yarn, or to knit a project, for at least a week before I do it. If I still think it's a good idea at the end of a week, then I move on to the next step, buying yarn or knitting a swatch or whatever. That's why so many ideas get thrown around on this blog that never happen. But at least I'm never left saying "What in hell was I thinking?" (Well, okay, there was that Bohus-in-two-months deal, but it wasn't the sweater that was insane, it was the deadline.)

Food for thought.


Anonymous said...

i'm still trying to keep a top-down raglan from turning into an ugh -- too much fabric at the armpits. but i'm almost done with one "amended" sleeve, and it looks like decreasing it mercilessly for the first couple of inches and then tapering more slowly worked.

i've met the new editor of the magazine i got the pattern from, and am debating whether to tell her tactfully that her predecessor ran a pattern for a sweater that looked great on the model (who i bet had globs of sleeve tucked under the arms with which she was hugging herself so tightly) but had this problem, and whether to offer my solution to the problem.

ellen in indy

b said...

lmao I'm going to remember this commentary next time I look at the ughs!

Bells said...

I've never looked at this on Ravelry. Thanks for pointing it out.
I think you set some excellent ground rules.

Louiz said...

Yeah, what Bells said!

historicstitcher said...

I take it you found my red Nantucket Ugh? $235 in yarn....frogged halfway through.

I intend to try again - I love the yarn, and the pattern...and it should be fairly flattering to me, I hated the way she changed the side detail for the sizing. I'll be redesigning that part.

Roxie said...

There's a lot to be said for shawls. Easy to knit and impossible to screw the fit. On the other hand, who wears shawls these days? Except for knitters that is. And maybe square-dancers. But I knit what I enjoy and count on ribbing to help the fit.

Donna Lee said...

One of the first things I do is read the whole pattern. I knit for fun and relaxation and don't mind some complicated stitching but I don't want to be pulling my hair out because of a pattern. And the waiting a week is a good thing. I am ordering some roving for a Mother's Day gift from my husband and instead of just ordering everything that catches my eye, I am actually thinking and paying attention. New thing for me!

Amy Lane said...

VERY good rules of thumb! (and I'm laughing A LOT because the truth is funny!)

Amy Lane said...

And may I add "Never finish a sweater when you're in labor." It wasn't pretty. Just wasn't.

NeedleTart said...

Brenda Dayne said, "Don't knit the fantasy, knit the sweater that looks good on you." That seems like your comments in a nutshell. I love the look of that sweater in Venice but the farthest I get from home is about two states away. Thanks for the reinforcment.

Jilly Bean said...

It seems like people make the same knitting mistakes they make in buying clothes-- refusing to admit they gained weight and continuing to squeeze into ill-fitting clothes rather than go up a size, not choosing clothes to fit their shape, etc. Spending a month/year/way too long knitting the offending fashion mistake just makes it that much worse.

However, I totally admit to committing some of the knitting cardinal sins. Although I will swatch the hell out of something before I start, I rarely ever wash swatches and realize that I'm gambling by not doing so. I have also been known to play fast and loose when starting pattern-less projects, as evidenced by the couple of hat/bowls I made recently. Yet, other than my first sweater, an awful Vogue thing I made before I understood terms like "drape" or "appropriate yarn substitutions", I don't really have any ugh's. I guess it's because I know that most failed projects are my own fault and therefore I can't be too mad about them.

Caroline / purplish said...

"that willowy model in the Rowan magazine"

Lovely choice of words! The combined word and biology geek in me giggled at that. :)